Holy Cross graduation in 2019.
As graduation season approaches for colleges across the country, students are focusing on the next step after commencement — but at the College of the Holy Cross, the “what next” and, more importantly, the “why” have been questions in progress for students since they enrolled four years ago.
“The outcome of a Jesuit, liberal arts education from Holy Cross is not just about what you will do in life but about who you will become,” says Amy Murphy, director of the Center for Career Development.
That’s why the career development process at Holy Cross is steeped in Jesuit traditions like reflection, Murphy says. “Reflection is a little trendy right now in higher ed, but it is our foundation — it’s core to who we are,” she says. “Over the course of four years, students are thinking about what they want to do, where their passions and strengths reside and how those connect with the needs of the world.”
The only AJCU member institution dedicated exclusively to a four-year, undergraduate liberal arts education, Holy Cross offers a unique learning environment, Murphy says. “It’s all about developing this set of competencies that are universal to the world of work: the ability to write and communicate, look at problems from multiple angles, synthesize data and draw conclusions, consider all voices in an issue and advocate for the poor and powerless.”
Even though they graduated into a pandemic and challenging job market, the class of 2020 was ultimately highly successful, Murphy says. According to a recent Holy Cross survey, 94% of respondents from the class of 2020 reported being employed in a job or internship, in graduate school, engaged in service work or on a fellowship.
The breadth of the top five industries they entered — health care; financial services; technology; government, politics and law; and education — doesn’t surprise Murphy and those familiar with liberal arts institutions. “You think, how is the philosophy major going into tech? But they are, because they’re open to the possibility,” Murphy says. “At Holy Cross, students are invited to think flexibly about how they can apply their skills and talents to make a difference. That is the magic and the beauty of a Jesuit, liberal arts education.” And, she says, employers are increasingly seeking employees who have the ability to problem-solve, pivot and adapt: “That is who’s going to be successful.”
One of the top refrains Murphy hears from employers is that Holy Cross graduates are highly effective and compassionate team members and leaders. Alumni frequently connect their leadership strengths to the Jesuit concept of cura personalis, or ‘care for the whole person,’ fostered at Holy Cross, Murphy says: “That care of self and others is how they lead and how they manage their teams and their organizations.”
For Murphy, alumnus Dr. Anthony Fauci ’62, Hon. ’87 represents “the North Star of ethical and principled leadership” forged at Holy Cross. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical adviser to the president, has spent decades fighting epidemics like HIV/AIDS and has been leading the nation’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Addressing the class of 2020 last spring, Fauci detailed the enduring impact of his Holy Cross education. “Permeating the entire experience was the Jesuit spirit of intellectual rigor,” said Fauci, who was a classics major with a premedical concentration (now health professions advising). “Precision of thought and economy of expression are tenets that have remained my touchstones to this day — applied to how I think, how I write, and how I communicate with the public, especially during these currently unsettling times. Just as important, however, was the Jesuit emphasis on social justice and service to others.”
Harry K. Thomas Jr. ’78, Hon. ’16, former U.S. ambassador to Zimbabwe, the Philippines and Bangladesh, has long championed the importance of mentorship, most recently advocating for improving diversity and inclusion at the State Department through mentorship. In a 2007 conversation with Holy Cross Magazine, Thomas, who was a political science major, said, “The Jesuits teach you to do the right thing, and, when you do it, stick with it. That’s important to me spiritually — to be decent and to give back. I’m very proud of Holy Cross and how it prepared me for the rest of my life.”
Speaking to graduating seniors last spring, Joanna Geraghty ’94, president and chief operating officer of JetBlue Airways and one of the highest-ranking women in the U.S. airline industry, shared the Holy Cross mindset she carries with her. “I am fortunate enough to have a job that, at its core, only amplifies what The Cross taught me: Be a person for others,” said Geraghty, who was a sociology major. “The world will never have enough men and women for others.”
The Holy Cross alumni community, fueled by its Jesuit values, is a standout when it comes to giving back. Ranked by a recent U.S. News & World report as one of the top 10 colleges in the country for alumni participation in giving, Holy Cross produces graduates who want to share their gifts.
Not surprisingly, Holy Cross alumni are also a powerhouse when it comes to supporting students and fellow graduates on their career journeys. Murphy says the way they stepped up to assist the class of 2020 was particularly “remarkable” — from offering industry-specific insights to posting full-time jobs and short-term projects when many opportunities were cancelled. “‘Men and women for and with others’ is not a bumper sticker or T-shirt slogan,” she says. “It’s a very profound love and respect for all people that’s cultivated and developed over four years [at Holy Cross].”
Murphy emphasizes that how students and graduates define “success” is deeply personal and rooted in the Jesuit notion of desire: “What do you desire for yourself, as a whole and complete human being?”
Whether it’s through a profession, community or civic engagement, friendships or family relationships, there are so many ways to be of value and find personal fulfillment. “What you will do is important,” Murphy says, “but who you will become is really what’s driving what we do.”
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