May 23, 2017
Sarah Cornwell reacts to winning the Vivere ex Missione Award.

Sarah Cornwell holding up her trophy with Dr. Garibaldi.Sarah Cornwell heard her named called when Detroit Mercy President Antoine M. Garibaldi announced the graduate winner of the Vivere ex Missione Award, but it took a minute for her to take it all in.

“I looked to one of my classmates sitting next to me, and my eyes were really big and I said, ‘Did they just say Sarah Cornwell?’ ” Cornwell said. “She started laughing, and said, ‘Yeah.’ I said, ‘Oh, my God.’ Then I just kind of sat there and my classmates told me, ‘You have to go up there.’

“It really moved me a lot,” Cornwell added. “I wasn’t expecting it. I didn’t know I was nominated for it, so it was a big surprise. I just felt very humbled by it. Actually, when President Garibaldi handed it to me, I had tears in my eyes because I was just so humbled and so touched I was chosen for it. I’m really excited. My family and friends have been really happy and excited for me as well. It’s been pretty awesome.”

Cornwell shouldn’t have been too surprised. The award is presented annually to a student who best exemplifies the mission of Detroit Mercy and Cornwell has been living the mission of Detroit Mercy during her entire five years at the University. In fact, Cornwell was doing service work with Detroit Mercy before she even started classes.

“She has done just about everything there is to do with Ministry over her five years here,” said Assistant Director of University Ministry Beth Ann Finster, SSJ, who nominated Cornwell for the award. “She’s been an incredible representative of the (University) Ministry office. She understands and lives the mission of the University.”

During her time at Detroit Mercy, Cornwell worked in the University Ministry office, worked as a resident advisor, went on five Alternative Spring Break trips, served on the executive board and one year as president of Alpha Phi Omega, was president of Titans for Life, worked as a photographer for the Varsity News, went on retreats both as a participant and retreat leader, went on service and immersion trips both as a participant and trip leader, and spent six weeks studying abroad in El Salvador.

“I have felt very blessed to go to Detroit Mercy, all the different relationships I’ve formed and different communities I’ve been a part of,” Cornwell said. “It’s really been a transformation over the past five years. I always try to put my all in everything I’m doing, trying to be a part of different organizations and part of the University.”

Studying in El Salvador allowed Cornwell to serve others and also practice Spanish, which she considers another passion of hers.

“It was a study abroad program, but a non-traditional one,” Cornwell said of El Salvador. “I studied at the University of Central America. I took Spanish and Public Health. Then we had proxy sites, so I would go to the poor communities up in the mountains of El Salvador. The town I was in was called San Bartolo. I would go there once a week, and then I worked in a health clinic. People would come and it was a dollar or two dollars to see a physician and get medical care. I accompanied the people in San Bartolo. That was kind of adjunct to the classes at the University. It was an emergence study abroad. I lived in community with the other students.”

The trip to El Salvador inspired Cornwell to continue to serve. She will begin a year of service later this year with the Sisters of St. Joseph in Orange County, California.

“Sister Beth encouraged me a lot because she’s a sister of St. Joseph. I was really encouraged by the people in ministry and the Jesuits on campus,” Cornwell said. “I’ll be living in community with other women, focusing on spirituality, social justice, leadership and simple community living. You live in community with the other people in the house. You live simply, so you have a stipend of $100 per month. You live like the people you are serving. I will be working at Hurtt Family Health Clinic, which is a federally qualified health center that serves underinsured and uninsured. I’ll be working in the pediatric part, so with all the cute little kiddos.”

Cornwell will be putting her skills as a Physician Assistant to use at the Hurtt Family Health Clinic.

“She wanted to do it using her training, which is pretty cool,” Sr. Beth said. “And the fact the Sisters of St. Joseph were able to find her a position not only as a PA, but as a pediatric PA, which is ultimately what she wants to be. It’s a win-win proposition for all of us. She’s going to be a great representative for the University out in California.”

Cornwell earned her Master of Science in Physician Assistant studies as part of the five-year master’s program at Detroit Mercy.

“I love the five-year program, I discovered it as a senior in high school and was accepted into it,” Cornwell said. “As I went along during the three years of undergrad, we took different classes with the professors so you could learn more about the profession and see if it’s really for us. So I learned a lot about it and felt that’s what God was calling me to do.

“I went through it and the last two years in the graduate portion of the program have been a rollercoaster, but it’s been really awesome.”

This is the first year Vivere ex Missione Awards were given to both undergraduate and graduate students at the McNichols Commencement. Nara Gonczigsuren was the undergraduate winner.

— By Dave Pemberton. Follow Detroit Mercy on FacebookTwitter and Instagram. Have a story idea? Let us know by submitting your idea.

Sarah Cornwell