Following a national search, Michelle Sterk Barrett has been named the new director of the Donelan Office of Community-Based Learning at the College of the Holy Cross.
Sterk Barrett earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Villanova University and her master’s degree in higher education administration from Boston College. She is currently completing her Ed.D. in higher education administration from the University of Massachusetts, Boston. The subject of her doctoral research is “Fostering the Spiritual Development of Undergraduates through Service Learning.” Sterk Barrett has held positions of increasing seniority in academic administration, including roles in admissions, career planning, and community-based learning. Most notably, she served as assistant director of Boston College’s PULSE Program for Service Learning from 1999 – 2008.
“We are fortunate to have attracted as the new director someone who can bring both substantial prior experience in the field and great personal enthusiasm to our efforts to further develop community-based learning at Holy Cross,” says Timothy Austin, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the College. “The College has made major strides since the Donelan Office was established almost 10 years ago; Michelle’s arrival positions us to continue that trajectory.”
“In my personal and professional experience, I have observed the powerful learning that can occur through connecting academic coursework with community engagement,” says Sterk Barrett. “I am grateful for this opportunity to build upon the excellent work of my predecessors to further develop community-based learning at Holy Cross. As the new director of the Donelan Office, I look forward to playing a role in supporting Holy Cross’ long tradition of civic engagement and educating ‘men and women for and with others.’”
Community-based learning is a teaching approach that connects classroom learning objectives with civic engagement. Established in 2001, the Donelan Office at Holy Cross provides opportunities for faculty and students to combine course work with experiential learning in the Worcester community by offering courses that meet community-identified needs—either through service in local nonprofit organizations or through research that holds promise of social or scientific value to the community. In this mutually beneficial process, students are able to gain a deeper understanding of course content by integrating theory with practice, while local organizations gain access to volunteers, resources, and wide-ranging research and scholarly expertise. Consistent with the Holy Cross tradition of preparing students for a lifetime of learning and moral citizenship, students enrolled in community-based learning courses are invited to reflect upon moral and ethical questions of social responsibility. The Donelan Office was established through a generous endowment by former College trustee Joseph P. Donelan II ’72.