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Michaela Scanlon ’16

If you haven’t heard of her, maybe you’ve seen her around campus, handing out homemade baked goods to friends and strangers alike, or hustling to Benson for an ASG meeting. Michaela Scanlon is the girl on fire. Really. She does everything and loves everyone with a fervor that can only be compared to flame. This week, we sat down with one of the most passionate and active members of the Santa Clara community for a peek into her crazy world.

“My spirit animal is a golden retriever. Usually, I’m a puppy. Really hyper. I love people and I also love food. But I can have more serious conversations, and I definitely have calmer days. So I can be like a puppy or like an older dog.”

Michaela Scanlon is a senior history and sociology double major. She hails from beautiful Monterey, where her parents operate a cozy and thriving Italian restaurant called La Mia Cucina. “They bought it when I was a sophomore. I’m an only child, so I think they wanted their own thing. Honestly, I’m really proud of them. Their business is booming and growing so much.” She attributes her love of food in part to her family and how she was raised. “Food has always been a part of my life. Coming from a big Italian family, food is a tangible form of love.” She started baking banana bread in high school, and its popularity surprised her. By the time she was a sophomore at SCU, Michaela was handing out her baked goods all over campus, because her roommates insisted they couldn’t continue to keep all the deliciousness to themselves. “I’m a huge believer in random acts of kindness. I think we should all really strive to be kind humans, because that’s what we’re here for.” She’s well known across campus for her cookies, breads, and unique treats of all sorts. But food is just the start. Michaela’s love for people stretches into all corners of her life. 

Her passion for connection and service is evident. In her second year on ASG, she currently holds positions as Senior Senator and Communications Committee Chair. “I’m surrounded by people who really love Santa Clara and who want to enact change in the community, which I think is important,” she says of ASG. “The work we do can be slow-moving, but it’s impactful, so it’s taught me a lot about patience. But working hard to see our ideas through is awesome.”

This isn’t all, though. In the summer of 2014, before her junior year, Michaela worked as an Orientation Leader, which she found deeply rewarding. “It was a really special summer. Welcoming people home to Santa Clara was honestly the greatest thing,” she gushes. “It was such a privilege to connect with first-year students. A lot of them were confiding in me. The fact that they had so much trust in me and saw me as a role model was an honor.”

This past summer, Michaela took her passion for connection and social justice to a new level. As a participant in the Global Fellows program, Michaela was placed in Bangalore, India, at a center where she taught yoga to children with special needs. “I’ve learned that guilt is an unproductive emotion,” she says confidently. “The first few weeks in India were really hard for me, seeing the desperate poverty in the city and feeling helpless. You kind of take this weight on your shoulders and ask yourself, ‘How can I fix this? How can I help these people?’ They don’t have the things that I do. I was feeling guilt,” she says. “But when you’re grateful for something instead, you’re able to be productive and affect change because you’re turning outward rather than inward. Although these children didn’t have their health like I did, when I chose to be grateful for my health, I realized that I had the ability to help them. A huge part of who I am is practicing gratitude.”

The girl on fire is interested in faith, too. She describes herself as a “cradle Catholic,” but admits she didn’t spend much time thinking about the implications of her faith until coming to Santa Clara. Since then, she has helped lead Campus Ministry’s annual Search retreat twice. “I’ve learned I don’t have to fit a cookie-cutter mold of faith or just blindly follow the Catechism. Being in community is a great way that I practice spirituality. On a retreat, you get to know people for who they are, not what they do. I wanted to participate and give back to the Search community. I’ve been a leader and a coordinator.”

Michaela is in awe at how quickly her four years at SCU have flown by. She currently works in the Alumni Office, and she’s making post-graduation plans. Michaela is hoping to join the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. Her top choice is a placement in Phoenix, AZ, where she would have the opportunity to work with refugees. “I’m passionate about having an opportunity that challenges me,” she glows. “I want to spend some time just living for other people.”

She cherishes the intimate connections and friendships she has made in her four years here more than anything. “The friends that I’ve made here that go beyond surface-level interactions have been so conducive to my personal growth.”

Now go track her down for the best cookie you’ve ever had!


Kendra is a senior at Santa Clara University from Denver, Colorado, double majoring in English and Philosophy. If not writing for Her Campus, the campus ministry blog, or just for fun, she can be found playing pickup soccer, online shopping, or binge-watching documentaries. She loves skiing, reggae, and good Japanese food, and hopes to spend her life writing and traveling.
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