How did you come to value what you do?
by Beth Adubato (Rutgers)
First of all I have wanted to go to William and Mary my whole life because Thomas Jefferson went there and we have the same birthday. That’s what I wrote about in my essay and I’m pretty sure I got in because of my essay; I’m the only one who got in from Essex County in my year. The most students apply from New York and New Jersey and more females apply than males, so it’s really hard to get into William and Mary.
When I got there I didn’t like it. But I wanted to go there my whole life so I decided to stick it out. And I wanted to major in political science and go to law school; that was the whole plan.
William and Mary political science, Harvard Law, and then run for office – that was my life plan. But I discovered that freshmen cannot get into any political science classes because they are too popular. I couldn’t get into anything I wanted to study, so I started taking religion classes my first semester. Because I was in all upper level classes my freshman year, one of my favorite professors, Professor Holmes, said to me, “Miss Adubato, when you came here you were on an ego trip and now you’re in trouble.” I thought I was so smart at my little Catholic high school, but everyone at William and Mary is smart.
I started taking religion classes and I loved them. What was interesting was that I had to take religion classes all four years of high school and what we learned there was not dogma. Everyone probably thinks that’s what we learned, because outside people don’t know what goes on in Catholic schools. But we learned about world religions, we learned about ethics; we had terrific classes. We had a class called Marriage & Family in our senior year which was taught by a priest. It was funny because we were like, “How does he know that?” But it was a wonderful course.
Now I’m in these religion classes at college in Virginia and most of the students were in the south and a lot of them were Baptists. They wanted to go into ministry and they took the bible literally. It was an eye-opening experience for me to be in these classes with people who thought that Catholics were the anti-Christ. But I learned a lot of things my first year. Jesus wasn’t the only person to have a virgin birth; so did Buddha. And Jesus was probably not born on December 25; that was an old pagan holiday. Revelations was not written until 100 years after Jesus died. I mean this stuff was blowing my mind.
So the whole first semester taking these religion classes I was learning so much about the world and our culture, but I was kind of struggling because I had been a great student in high school because I was smart.
I was trying to have fun. I was also dating this guy from England and I really liked him so I spent a lot of time not studying.
We had this exam on the New Testament that I missed for some reason and I had to do a makeup. William and Mary was the first school to have the honor system so the professor left the exam on his door and went away for the Good Friday weekend.
I was supposed to go take it somewhere, give myself three hours, and when I was finished I was to put it back under my door.
I went to a classroom that was empty, I sat down and put all my books next to me, and when I opened the exam I didn’t know anything. I mean I really did not know anything. I sat there and I thought, “I can cheat on this exam. I have all the books next to me, I have all the answers. Nobody in the world knows where I am right now. No one can see me, no one will know; I can get an A on this exam.”
I sat there and thought a lot about this exam; should I cheat and get a good grade, or should I not cheat? And then I thought, “It’s Good Friday and this is a New Testament exam. I don’t think it’s a good idea to cheat on this exam.” I thought of something the nuns used to say to us: when you cheat you’re only cheating yourself.
So I did not cheat, I did not open the book, I answered the questions to the best of my ability, I took it back over and handed it in.
I got an F. And that event was a really big deal to me. I had to take the class over again. I lost money, I lost time. But I think that was a watershed moment in my life when I decided who I really was, and I was not a person who could cheat on an exam to get a good grade.
Beth Adubato has her MA and Ph. D. in Criminal Justice from Rutgers University and her MPAP in Public Afairs and Politics from the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy. She is an undergraduate lecturer in Criminal Justice at Rutgers, as well as an actress, journalist, and television news anchor. She is currently working on a book.