SMWC student wins scholarship to fund international service project

April 28th, 2011 | SMWC

Cathleen Flynn

Cathleen Flynn

Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College is singing the praises of one young music therapy undergraduate. Cathleen Flynn, a sophomore from Mitchell, S.D., will use the healing power of music to help tackle the challenges of poverty, illness and disability on the Caribbean island of Jamaica this summer.

“The more experience, especially with other cultures, a music therapy student has, the more compassion they can have,” said Flynn, who will spend June 9-19, 2011, on the island as part of the Jamaica Field Service Project (JFSP).

JFSP provides much needed music therapy at infirmaries, homeless centers and special needs schools in rural areas. By exploring the world of music, these patients can learn to communicate their feelings, relieve stress, reduce pain and enhance their emotional well-being. During her internship, Flynn will learn new styles of music during evening workshops, while counseling homeless, geriatric and developmentally disabled populations during the day. This is a great opportunity for personal and professional growth, but it will also be a demanding experience. Flynn, however, is up for the challenge.

“It will be a new musical exposure, but I am going into it with a good foundation,” said Flynn, who attributes her confidence, flexibility and open-mindedness to her professors and the music therapy program at The Woods.

The program receives a plethora of applicants, who often find themselves wait-listed. At least two Woods students have been accepted in the past. “It is a big honor to be chosen for this experience,” said Sharon R. Boyle, M.M., MT-BC, coordinator of the undergraduate music therapy program at SMWC. “Cathleen is one of those music therapy students who encompasses the ‘whole package’ in terms of intelligence, diligence, integrity, genuineness, empathy, musicianship and desire for service above and beyond the norm.”

For these qualities, and many more, Flynn was also awarded the one-time $1500 Laverne Jackson Memorial Music Therapy Scholarship from the Mu Phi Epsilon Foundation, which will help fund her internship. Qualified students must be enrolled in an accredited music therapy program, be recommended by faculty and intend on completing an internship with a special population, said Marilyn Sandness, scholarship chairman for the Mu Phi Epsilon Foundation.

“I was really excited to be awarded the scholarship,” said Flynn, who would not have been able to accept the internship in Jamaica without this aid. Because of the client diversity in music therapy, Flynn believes that cultural awareness is essential to her future.

SMWC’s graduate and undergraduate music therapy programs provide students with individualized attention combined with extensive clinical experience in the tradition of the liberal arts. For more information about these programs, visit

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