Sallie Small’s three sons are avid Hilltoppers. Michael ’14 is in law school, Aaron ’17 is preparing for medical school and Spencer ’20 is majoring in Accounting. We caught up with Sallie and Michael during our Welcome Week this fall to get their take on St. Edward’s and what brought their family to the hilltop. (Aaron and Spencer were busy that day with Orientation — Aaron as a program leader and Spencer as an incoming freshman.)

What inspired the Small brothers to leave your home state of California to attend St. Edward’s in Texas?

Sallie: To be honest, it began with Michael’s college search. He was determined to go to school out of state, and he was looking for a place with a strong program in criminal justice. He also wanted to play on a competitive lacrosse team and be in an energetic, fun city. St. Edward’s showed up in our Internet research as a nationally ranked school that met all of his requirements and more.

Michael: We have relatives near Austin, so on a trip to visit them, I made a point of seeing the campus. I liked the size and feel of St. Edward’s — and Austin is a really cool city. So I applied and was really excited when I got accepted.

Sallie: As a mom, you have a gut feeling about what’s best for your kids. After learning about St. Edward’s, it felt right for Michael. And I had that same feeling about St. Edward’s for Aaron and Spencer when they were making their final decisions. The school’s high academic standards, emphasis on personal attention and student outcomes were important draws. And the financial aid support was a big factor as well. 

Michael: When Aaron and Spencer began considering colleges, they were impressed by my experience here. I talked about it a lot with them. Even though Aaron had been accepted to a larger pre-med program — and Spencer had committed with an NCAA Division I school to play lacrosse — the advantages that St. Edward’s offers won them over. I was so happy when they told me they were going to St. Ed’s. I think it’s one of the best decisions they could’ve made.

What things stand out for you about the St. Edward’s experience?

Michael: My freshman year I had to work hard to adapt to the demands of college. One of my teammates on the club lacrosse team — who became my roommate and a good friend — took me under his wing and helped me improve my study habits and time management. That kind of mentoring is common at St. Edward’s. It’s small enough that most students know each other, and they take an active interest in each other’s success.

The same is true of the professors. They get to know their students and go the extra mile to make you accountable for doing your best work.

I’ll never forget, I was tweeting a friend really late one night, and I didn’t remember that one of my professors followed me on Twitter. I got a tweet from him saying, “Hey Michael, we have an exam tomorrow. I hope you're studying. Go to bed. It's two a.m.” I laugh about it now, but it had a big impact on me, knowing how he and my other professors really cared.

My sophomore through senior years, I got more excited about my courses and made high grades. It gave me confidence in my potential. I also took advantage of the academic support services St. Ed’s offers. I used the Writing Center heavily for help with papers and my senior Capstone project. And the career services staff worked with me to shape a professional résumé that helped me get an internship at the District Attorney’s Office in Austin. I’ve used that same résumé to land internships during law school.

I think the opportunities and resources at St. Ed’s are tremendous, and it’s the students who make the most of those that are the most successful coming out of college. I would not be where I am today — in my third year of law school and about to take the bar — without St. Edward’s.

Sallie: I’ve seen Michael and Aaron — and I know it will be the same for Spencer — grow and develop as confident, mature individuals, which is a testament to St. Edward’s. It’s not a cookie cutter, one-size-fits-all education. St. Ed’s allows students to find and become who they are while preparing them for success after college. That’s important to me as a parent.

(Top Photo, L–R: Michael ’14, Spencer ’20, Aaron ’17 and Sallie Small)

By Camille Saad