Most beautiful emoji: Morgan McGonagle '18

by Abbey Cahill | 11/9/16 1:41am


Morgan McGonagle ’18 has the voice of an angel, a smile that lights up rooms and brows that would make Cara Delevingne jealous. Plus, there’s her uncanny ability to make a rugby-induced black eye look like a fashion statement. But the people who know her best say that her happiness is her most beautiful quality.

McGonagle muses about art, the necessity of alone time and the horrible reality that Donald Trump could be our next president. She is the kind of person who smiles with her whole face, and when she talks, she is patient and thoughtful — she doesn’t mind the natural pauses in a conversation.

“I like the in-between moments,” she said when I asked her about her work in photography. “It’s exciting to capture people in their natural environments, when they are happy or when they are making an authentic connection.”

For her final photography project this term, she is studying the relationship between the human body and nature. She wants to see how landscapes change in the presence or absence of a figure. McGonagle was an everyday regular on Hanover running trails and swimming spots this summer; a semipermanent fixture in the river, head bobbing above the water with her signature dimples and dangly earrings.

“I love being outdoors no matter what it’s like outside,” she gushed. “I love being surrounded by nature. I think it is so rejuvenating.”

McGonagle’s enthusiasm is contagious. Studiou art Professor Enrico Riley ’95 is, in her words, “one of the coolest people ever.” He taught her how to pull from intangible concepts in creating her drawings. For one assignment, she had to incorporate five different “things” into a drawing, but only one — a Picasso painting — was a physical image. Others were songs or emotions. She draws from the lessons she learns from Riley in ways that surprise her, and used her work in visual arts to succeed in her theater class.

“Drawing and acting are similar. When you think about making a drawing, it’s almost a performance for yourself. You have to draw on real emotions to create a character or a picture that matters,” she explained.

McGonagle’s secret to happiness is self-awareness. As a natural extrovert, she gets most of her energy from spending time with others, but recently, she’s been thinking about the importance of self reflection.

“Understanding yourself is really important at a place like Dartmouth when you are constantly surrounded by people moving 100 miles per hour,” she said. “I think it’s important to take time for yourself.”