Andrea Davis '13, a psychology major from Longmeadow, Mass., was one of two Holy Cross students out of just 84 undergraduates chosen from 30 select colleges worldwide to attend the inaugural Mr. & Mrs. Robert A. McDonald Cadet Leadership Conference.
“Transformative.” “Inspirational.” “Life-changing.” These are just some of the ways Andrea Davis ’13 and Malik Neal ’13 describe their experience at the prestigious Mr. & Mrs. Robert A. McDonald Cadet Leadership Conference (MCLC).
Two of just 84 undergraduates chosen from 30 select colleges and universities worldwide — and the U.S. service academies — Davis and Neal attended the inaugural conference, held at the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., last October. The event united outstanding students from around the globe with 12 preeminent world leaders — including Ernesto Zedillo, former president of Mexico and director of the Yale Center for Globalization; Kenneth Chenault, CEO of American Express; and Holy Cross’ own Maggie Wilderotter ’77, CEO of Frontier Communications — to explore the importance of values-based leadership in such areas as education, media and health care.
In addition to attending panel sessions and participating in small group discussions, students worked in teams, under the mentorship of a senior leader, to produce an editorial on their assigned topic. In the process of developing solutions to problems with global implications, participants bolstered their leadership, critical thinking and collaboration skills.
“The conference instilled in me the confidence that I have the skills to make a difference,” says Davis, a psychology major from Longmeadow, Mass. “We were told that we weren’t invited for ourselves, but so that we can hone our talents to help others.”
As a result of her experience at the MCLC — and the ongoing relationship she formed with her health care group’s mentor, Dr. Susan Desmond-Hellman, chancellor of San Francisco Medical University—Davis plans to pursue a career in public health.
Neal, a history major with an Asian studies concentration from Philadelphia, was assigned to the global economy team — not his first choice. But he found that his liberal arts background was valuable when his team composed its essay.
“Some of the group members were focused purely on highbrow economic theory,” recalls Neal. “But my liberal arts education allowed me to look at things from a different angle, draw from what I knew of other disciplines, and incorporate that into discussions of how certain policies could improve the everyday lives of ordinary people.”
In situations like these, Associate Dean of the College Margaret Freije believes that Holy Cross students have a lot to offer. “Our students stand up very well in the company of the best students from around the world,” she explains, adding, “This conference had a number of very important mentors, and we want them to know that the next generation of leaders will come from Holy Cross.”