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Saints Off the Hill: Two Words Open Up Countless Possibilities

Saints Off the Hill: Two Words Open Up Countless Possibilities

“It is all about the ‘yes and.’”

That was the main message Canterbury alumna Dr. Katie Daily ’96 delivered to current students during her “Saints Off the Hill” presentation at School Meeting, and she has lived by those two words throughout her life as a student and educator. 

Katie shared her experience from high school to college to the workforce as a prime example of how one’s path can take many directions and how that can be a good thing. “Your journey, your education path, does not need to be straight and narrow,” she said. “I am hoping some of you will see yourselves in my journey, connect to it, and take something from it.”

Katie, who currently serves as a member of the Doctoral Research Faculty at American College of Education and as a Professor at Southern New Hampshire University, has embraced the "yes and" approach throughout her life. This mindset began to take shape during her freshman year at Walnut Hill School for the Arts, just outside of Boston. It was then that she started to question if she wanted more than just an arts-focused career, considering other possible paths for her future.

It just so happened that Katie, who grew up in Connecticut, had worked at a local movie theater with long-time Canterbury English Teacher and Theater Director Madeline Dreeke, who suggested she look into becoming a Saint. Katie visited the campus and fell in love.

“That was the beginnings of the ‘yes and’ for me,” she said. “Yes, I could still go up on stage with my peers and be involved with the arts…and explore who I was, learn about theology and philosophy, and find my ethical core…and become a well-rounded human being.” 

She did all of those things and more on the hilltop, with help from numerous people along the way. Math Teacher Francis Foley, Jr. ’64, P ’91, ’93, ’95, ’99, GP ’27 guided Katie through a subject she found most challenging. “He tried so hard to instill a love of mathematics in me, but it did not work,” she recalled. “What I did gain from Mr. Foley was another ‘yes and’—yes, you could not like a subject, and yes, you can still learn about it and learn something from the person teaching you.” She also credited the Omañas—Director of International Travel Programs, Language Teacher, and Form Dean Julio P ’19, ’20 and Theology Department Chair Amy ’86, P ’19, ’20—with pushing her to think about the world in different terms through languages, exploration, and theology.

After graduation, Katie took her “yes and” philosophy to college, starting with Emerson College in Boston to continue studying not only the arts but the business of the arts. She ended up doing an internship working on a miniseries for TNT called Nuremberg, which led to her taking a semester off to see the project through and turned into four years of working on films such as Pearl Harbor. These experiences inspired Katie to want to tell stories—and to teach people how to tell stories. With that goal in mind, she realized she had to leave the film world and finish college.

Katie earned her B.A. at Columbia University, where she stayed for her master’s degree in developmental psychology and education. She then went on to receive a doctorate in English literature from Boston College. “While I was getting my Ph.D., I realized that I love stories at the intersection of culture and social justice, and that is what has informed me as a scholar,” she said. “My dissertation was on 21st century American immigration narratives, which became my first book.” Those experiences led her to faculty and staff positions at the United States Military Academy and Harvard University before taking on her current roles.

The reason for sharing all this? Katie was empowering her student audience to take her story to heart and carry the “yes and” philosophy over into their own lives, especially as they plan for and head off to college. “Just because you go somewhere does not mean you have to stay there,” she explained. “I am not recommending that you ‘college bounce,’ but I am saying that if you go to a college, and it does not feel right to you, transfer. I did. I transferred in high school and transferred in college, and everything worked out fine—because I went to the places that inspired me and felt true to me.”

The timing of her talk could not have been better for Morgan Lau ’24, who is just a few short weeks from her Canterbury graduation. “As a senior, I am still figuring out what college I would like to attend in the fall, which is stressful,” she said. “Dr. Daily provided me with a unique perspective on the path of education, and I am grateful for her positive outlook and advice to look for the unexpected.” 

Katie left students with one final piece of advice. “I want you to listen, ask questions, and be curious,” she told them. “Your education journey is not predetermined, and it is not a series of ‘either-ors.’ If you are open to it, and if you allow the possibilities, it is absolutely a series of ‘yes ands.’”