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MMC Announces 2023 Senior Class Speaker

MMC has selected Charlie Keirnan, a BFA musical theatre major, as the senior class speaker for its 2023 commencement ceremony.

Class speaker is one of the most esteemed honors the College can bestow upon a graduating senior; those awarded the role represent their peers before an audience of family, friends, faculty, and staff. For Keirnan, an international student, it’s also the culmination of a nearly 10,000-mile journey.

Growing up in Brisbane, Australia’s third most populous city, she was drawn to the spotlight early; by age 7, she’d enrolled in singing lessons and soon began starring in school musicals.

“As a child, I was always performing in some way, whether people were watching or not,” she said. “My teachers always described me as a loud chatterbox destined for the stage.”

However, for as long as she could remember, her ultimate dream was to live and perform in New York City, the creative capital of the world.

In her senior year of high school, Keirnan traveled with her father to New York and toured several colleges, including MMC. The trip was pivotal: “I had to find a school because I was either going to study in New York or stay in Australia,” she said. “I wasn’t interested in going to school anywhere else in the U.S.”

What’s more, she wasn’t just an international student but a first-generation one; as the first in her family to attend college, she and her parents were learning how to navigate the college selection process in real time.

But as soon as she stepped onto Carson Hall’s black-and-white marble floors, she knew she was in the right place. The energy at MMC felt different from other schools, she said, and the idea of having a small, tight-knit community in the city appealed to her. She committed to attending—even though there was one catch.

“Prior to moving here, the longest I had been away from home was one night,” she said. “I was never good at sleepovers and always struggled with homesickness, so many people back home didn’t believe me when I said I was going to move to the other side of the world.”

As an MMC student, she found that the College’s reputation for integrating city life and city institutions into its curriculum was well-earned. “The school always says that it utilizes the city as its campus, and let me tell you, they aren’t lying!” Keirnan said. She also notched enough city-dweller milestones, such as mastering the subway and inhabiting a tiny sixth-floor apartment in an Upper East Side walkup, to qualify as what she calls “a proper New Yorker.”

Still, she experienced some challenges. With the COVID pandemic hitting in the second half of her freshman year, Keirnan found herself heading home to Australia and attending classes remotely. But the 14-hour time difference proved difficult to manage, and she returned to the states, staying briefly with a friend in L.A. before moving back to New York.

With no family nearby, she leaned on MMC faculty and staff mentors, such as Emmalyn Yamrick, Associate Vice President for Student Success and Engagement, who lent a listening ear, made sure she had campus jobs when student visa restrictions wouldn’t allow her to work otherwise, and welcomed her to their homes for the holidays.

In the end, Keirnan said she is proud of herself for finishing despite the obstacles. She plans to continue her life as a New Yorker well after graduation, working and auditioning for shows and serving as mom to a ginger cat named Moishe. “Since moving to NYC four years ago, I have fallen even more in love with the city than I could ever have imagined,” she said.

And she wouldn’t trade her time at MMC for anything. “Studying at Marymount Manhattan College has been a ride like no other,” Keirnan said. “I feel so bloody lucky to have experienced such an incredible college experience on the other side of the world, even during the strangest and toughest times, such as a worldwide pandemic. Marymount will hold a special place in my heart forever, and I can’t wait to see what happens next!”

Published: May 02, 2023