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Learning Outside the Classroom at Holy Cross

Create a new, innovative project or spend the semester in the bustle of New York City — the opportunities are endless
August 7th, 2019 by 

students work on a farm
Students work on a local farm as part of a course that incorporates community-based learning. Photo by Tom Rettig

Not all education takes place in an academic building — particularly at College of the Holy Cross, where outside-the-classroom learning opportunities range from local to global. Whether you’re contributing to community engagement or diving into summer research or spending a semester in New York City, there are numerous intellectually inspiring programs to amplify the impact of a Holy Cross education.

Head to New York or Washington

 Students stand in front of the White House

Students stand in front of the White House. Photo by Caroline Shannon ’17

While Holy Cross offers a global range of study abroad options, the College also offers domestic semester away programs. The New York Semester Program uses the nation’s largest city as its classroom and gives students the chance to work in cutting-edge firms in the areas of finance, marketing, the arts, and politics and study principles of leadership and live in the bustle of New York City. The Washington Semester Program includes a weekly seminar that provides a forum for critical analysis of public policy issues and an internship chosen from a vast range of fields and independent research, all while living in the nation’s capital.

Jullia Pham ’20, a psychology major, spent a semester in New York City, where she interned at Hearst Magazines.

“The workplace was my classroom. I can honestly say that participating in the New York Semester Program was one of the best decisions I made at Holy Cross. In addition to understanding what I wanted to do in the future, I was able to meet with members of the New York City alumni network through the colloquia program. The network is so eager to help our Holy Cross community and it was great to feel at home away from campus with their support.”

Go deep on summer research

 Two students look at dinosaur bones in a lab

Two students examine dinosaur bones as part of a summer research project. Photo by Kim Raff

Over 100 students stay on campus every summer to take part in a nine-week research program. Recent examples of research projects include creating mathematical models to try and win the game of Risk and exploring the dialogue of nutrition in local food pantries. The benefits stretch beyond the research outcomes. Summer research is an ideal experience for students interested in graduate programs, but it also provides valuable experience in planning and budgeting an extensive program, working within a team and building strong written and oral skills. Students report they develop real, substantive expertise in ways that are hard to match.

Kerry Shortell ’20, a sociology and psychology double major with a concentration in gender, sexuality and women’s studies, spent this past summer researching the history of domestic violence against women.

“Performing summer research has been an incredibly empowering experience. Since day one at Holy Cross, our professors have taught us to ask and answer difficult questions. By affording us the opportunity to completely immerse ourselves in topics that ignite our academic spirit, they’re essentially saying, ‘We’ve equipped you with the tools you need, we believe in you, and we’re here to help you pursue your passion and assert your intellectual independence.’ The impact has been broad: not only was it a culmination of my entire Holy Cross liberal arts education up to that point, but it also provided me with professional and research skills that will aid me in whichever field I enter after graduation.”

Start your own project

 A Holy Cross student stands in front of a class of high school students

Tolu Akinosho ’20 stands in front of Py Coding Academy students. Photo by Avanell Brock

The Ignite Fund, as part of the J.D. Power Center for Liberal Arts in the World, is Holy Cross’ way of saying, in the words of St. Ignatius of Loyola, “go, set the world on fire.” The College invites students to “set the world on fire” by providing them with funds to match their questions to the world’s needs. Some recent student-created, student-propelled projects include recording an EP on campus, planting a community garden and creating a Jesuit curriculum for a local school.

Tolu Akinosho ’20, a computer science and physics double major, used money from the Ignite Fund to help with his startup company Py Coding Academy, which teaches students in Worcester high schools how to code.

“The Ignite Fund has transformed my education by providing a rare platform that encouraged and supported me in designing an independent project and in developing the idea into reality. This opportunity has really helped me learn more than I would have from just the traditional, lecture-based style of education.”

Score an academic internship

 Bobby Tuzzio stands at the counter for the Worcester Election Commission

Bobby Tuzzio ’20 stands at the counter for the Worcester Election Commission, where he interned as part of the Academic Internship Program. Photo by Rebecca Blackwell ’16

An internship is an ideal way to test-drive a discipline or career and see if it’s right for you. Holy Cross helps place students in traditional internships and also offers academic internships — full credit, one-semester courses that includes both an analytical component (a seminar on a particular topic) and an experiential component (such as fieldwork in Worcester or the greater Boston area).

Dane Anderson ’20, a computer science major with a minor in religious studies, explored his interest in computer networks through an academic internship in Holy Cross’ IT department.

“I want to consider a job in computer networks as a career path, but it was daunting to think that I would graduate without any experience on the matter. The Academic Internship Program allowed me to work with two mentors who are well versed in computer networks, and they took the time to ensure that I received a relevant education about their field. I now have the tools to confidently apply to computer networks jobs as I enter my senior year.”

Engage with the community

 Holy Cross students sit with elderly patients at St. Mary Health Care

Holy Cross students play checkers with patients at St. Mary Health Care in Worcester. Photo by Tom Rettig

Win, win: Academic credit meets civic engagement through community-based learning (CBL) opportunities at the College of Holy Cross. The heart of CBL courses is to bring classroom learning to life through a range of projects and service opportunities that meet community needs. Consistent with the College’s tradition of preparing students for a lifetime of learning and moral citizenship, CBL courses join students, faculty and local agencies in an effort to lead students to become more invested in their course subject matter — and to support the community in a real and purposeful way.

Emma Davison ’21, a political science and Middle Eastern studies double major, became involved with community-based learning through her first-year Montserrat course. Through the class, Davison became a teacher’s assistant for a kindergarten class in Worcester and helped create a documentary on an LGBTQ+ asylum task force at a local church.

“I’m most drawn to my areas of study for their human components. I take great interest in formal lectures and paper writing, but have found I learn most deeply when I can pair lessons with lived experience. My most intellectually stimulating courses have been those that demand just as much from my interpersonal skills as they do of my more traditional studies.”

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