Student Achievement

Adult Undergraduate Kathleen Monahan ’20 Receives Award for Academic Distinction

Julia Fishman

Monahan balanced a full-time job with her coursework.


May 21, 2020—Kathleen Monahan’s life and education have taken some interesting turns.

The Highland, New York resident was recently named the recipient of the Award for Academic Distinction, which is presented to the graduating student who has completed less than 60 credits at Marist and has achieved the highest grade point index within that group. Monahan has the highest GPA of the graduating adult students—a feat all the more impressive because she was balancing a full-time job as a police officer while completing her studies as a digital media major.

Monahan earned a degree in art history from SUNY New Paltz in 2003. At the time, she intended to go on to graduate school, but life intervened. “I was a little burned out on school so I decided to take a year off but the break I took turned into two years and then three. I got to a point where I felt I was too far out from school to go back and I decided to take another path,” she recalled. “I had always been interested in law enforcement and after speaking with friends and family members in the field, I decided to begin the process. I went on to complete the Police Academy at SUNY Ulster and was the president of the class.”

An officer since 2007, Monahan currently works for the Town of Wallkill Police Department in Orange County, as crime scene and evidence technician. But her passion for art remained strong.  “I always wanted to get back into creating art and learning more about technique and form,” she explained. “After getting married in 2016, my wife Alyssa Gates, Director of Student-Athlete Enhancement at Marist, let me know that I could enroll in classes at the college under the employee benefit program. After doing some research I decided to apply.”

Initially Monahan planned to just take a class or two, but when she saw how much the College’s Art and Digital Media Program had to offer, she decided to go for a full degree. In spring 2017, she began, taking two courses per semester. Monahan is a photographer, working with 35mm film and digital technology. “Over the last year and a half I have been working with an alternative form of photography, scanography, the process of using a flatbed photo scanner to create large scale, high resolution images. For my senior thesis project I used acrylic ink and panes of glass to create a series large scale abstract images,” she said. “For my capping project I used the scanner to document the decay of a set of roses over the course of 10 days.  The images were then individually edited in Photoshop and used in a digital collage to tell a story of transformation.”

Monahan notes Adjunct Instructor Courtney Wrenn as a major influence—and the admiration is mutual. “Kathleen was always working to meticulously develop and refine her technical skills toward producing idea driven explorations or art and culture,” said Wrenn. “Her serious and devoted approach to her studies and art making as an adult student was consistently an inspiration—and high-standard meeting challenge—to her classmates, largely of conventional study age.”

Monahan readily admits that balancing a 40-hour work week with coursework and a commute was challenging, but she has no regrets. “I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. Being able to go back to school and finishing what I started so many years ago was worth all the early mornings and late nights,” she said. “It also would not have been possible without the support of my wife and family.  I missed several family events and functions over the last three years due to my schedule and the workload but they gave me nothing but endless encouragement and support.” 

What’s next for Monahan? “I still have about 8 years before I can retire from my current job. In the meantime, I plan on using the skills I have learned at Marist in a part-time capacity. I will continue to create art and work towards exhibiting my pieces in local galleries and beyond.”


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