That's the Spirit: Education Scholars Rely on Faith to Guide Their Career

January 29, 2024

For Allie Taggart, Carmen Preister, and Conner Hochstein, school has always been about more than academics. 

While past teachers or opportunities to work alongside youth inspired all three to seek degrees in education, it was their devotion to pursuing a career led by faith that introduced them to the Seton Education Scholars program at Mount Marty. 

"Automatically, I had to call my mom to tell her that I was going to be able to do what I love and continue to grow in my life," said Taggart, on first learning she had been selected as a recipient. 

Named for Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, the patron saint of Catholic schools, the Seton Education Scholars program provides a $10,000 scholarship to incoming first-year education students so long as they are practicing Catholics, enrolled in teacher education, and work three years following graduation in a Catholic school within the Diocese of Sioux Falls or a rural Catholic school within the Archdiocese of Omaha. 

Priester recalls feeling compelled to apply upon first hearing about the scholarship. 

"Using my faith in my career is one of my top priorities. I want to help students express their faith and apply it to real life," she said. "To be able to do what I love, but also in a Catholic school, it all came down to that." 

Distinct from other university programs, Mount Marty education students observe in local classrooms starting their first year. 

"You're seeing kids do these things and why they act the way they do with real examples, not something you read in a book," said Hochstein, with Taggart adding that "getting into the classroom early was huge" in affirming her career choice. 

"I have already been in the classroom three times this year," said Taggart, a first-year student. "To see how often they're pushing you into world situations...and going out and seeing teachers do what they do every day is amazing for building [a successful career]." 

As part of the scholars program, the trio also serves weekly in a Catholic school or parish ministry and attends weekly formation meetings with the Sisters of Sacred Heart Monastery and Mount Marty's Mission Scholars, a group of students who work together to create a campus in the image of Christ through daily prayer, service programs, and mission events. 

"It's not just about the academic side. It's the emotional and spiritual side, learning how to be a good person and that community is important," said Taggart, on receiving a Benedictine education at Mount Marty. "You get to share that piece of you with a new generation...and that's what led me to want to continue in Catholic education." 

The application deadline for the Seton Scholars Education Program is February 15. For more information and to apply, visit





Founded in 1936 by the Benedictine Sisters of Sacred Heart Monastery, Mount Marty University is South Dakota's only Catholic institution of higher education. Located along the bluffs of the Missouri River in Yankton, with additional locations in Watertown and Sioux Falls, Mount Marty offers undergraduate and graduate degrees focusing on student and alumni success in high-demand fields such as health sciences, education, criminal justice, business, accounting, and more. A community of learners in the Benedictine tradition, Mount Marty emphasizes academic excellence and develops well-rounded students with intellectual competence, professional and personal skills and moral, spiritual and social values. To learn more, visit