Where Are They Now? Lauren Raia Mooney
Purchase, NY (May, 19, 2017) – For Lauren Raia Mooney ’09, being in school and living on campus was so much fun that she hasn’t stopped.
After obtaining her MFA in Creative Writing from Stony Brook University in 2011, which she didn’t enjoy as much as her time at Purchase, she got a job as Director of Residential Life at a Connecticut boarding school in 2015. She, her husband, and their two rescue dogs live on the school’s campus.
“I missed living with my friends,” said Mooney, now 29. “I lived in Westchester for my first job and I couldn’t drive by Purchase campus without crying!”
Mooney, an alum of the literature program after switching majors from pre-med, was a two-sport athlete, member of the Dean’s List, and student leader. She still recalls what an amazing four years she spent as a Panther, and credits her involvement in the athletic program as helping her to become the leader she is today.
After her freshman year, she considered a transfer, but changed her mind when the captain of the volleyball team reached out to her on Facebook and recruited her. “I stayed at Purchase for the athletic program,” she said.
Mooney played volleyball in high school and is currently a JV volleyball coach at her job at the Ethel Walker School in Simsbury. The team is coming off two winning seasons.
Playing at Purchase her sophomore, junior and senior years under then-head coach Jackie Goldstein, Mooney excelled on the court and was named captain her last two seasons. This gave her the opportunity to see herself as a leader.
“I started to think of myself in a leadership role,” she said. “I felt such ownership of the team. I go back to a lot of that now as a coach.”
Mooney’s involvement in athletics helped her to be more confident, as an athlete and a leader.
“I had so many opportunities that I would have never had without the athletic program,” she said. She was involved with the Student Athletic Advisement Council, and credits Sports Information Director Bobby Ciafardini for helping her stay social and engaged.
Ciafardini, who referred to Mooney as “Princess Sparkle,” nominated her for a leadership position in the Skyline Conference, which she got and was involved with during her senior year.
She expressed pride in the leadership roles she was able to take on “for my friends and fellow athletes at Purchase.”
Besides playing volleyball, Mooney also spent two years on the swim team. She initially joined her junior year as a novice because the team was low in numbers.
“I was terrible,” she joked. The team was anything but – in fact, she was a swimmer at the peak of the women’s program, enjoying success with her teammates when they won the Skyline Championships during her first season.
“We had the most amazing season,” she said. She recalls the focus and depth the team had, propelling them to new heights. Their sole loss her junior year was to athletic powerhouse Merchant Marine Academy.
The team had a few Division I transfer students on it that Mooney said took rookies like her under their wing. She also recalled head coach Peter Nestel giving her her own workouts and lane and spending the time with her that she needed.
“Coach was so good at keeping us focused,” she said. She swam distance and butterfly.
The bond she made with her teammates was strong. “We spent time together that translated into the pool,” she said, recalling the winter break she and a few teammates drove down to Florida together. When she married on March 18 of this year, several of her swim teammates attended the wedding.
Of Mooney, Nestel said “She’s a really neat person. She gave her best, she worked hard, she was there almost all the time if not all the time. It was fun coaching her.”
“It was a team filled with passion for the sport and a desire to get better,” Nestel said of his roster that year. “There was a lot of positive energy.”
He remembers Mooney’s role in that energy. “Her attitude was all about positivity.”
In a discipline he calls grueling, Nestel felt her positivity was even more important. “Practices are early in the morning at Purchase, and so having that positive energy was really helpful.”
He certainly made a swimmer out of her. Mooney now says she swims almost every day.
Her job now consists of “all the fun things that go on on campus.” She’s also Dean of Students, so deals somewhat with student accountability as incidents arise. She joked that her creative writing degree from Stony Brook comes in handy when she writes emails.
She’s using her literature degree to teach a section of English literature this year. Mooney incorporates some books she read at Purchase into her syllabus.
One of her favorite professors, Gaura Narayan, said “Lauren remains one of my favorite students of all time!”
Mooney thought the school’s balance of dedicated athletes and talented students is what made it such a positive experience for her. “I could go from a baseball game to a ballet production all on the same campus.”
She plans on visiting her alma mater sometime soon, and says she knows that even after a few years away she’ll be able to see people she knows and cares about.
-Written by Colleen Ferguson