“The liberal education I received at Notre Dame really taught me how to learn, how to analyze, and, at the most fundamental level, how to problem-solve,” said Bill Dirksen ’82. “And that’s what most businesses are looking for—people who know how to solve problems.”
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As an undergraduate at Notre Dame, David Barlow ’64 was known as a good listener with a penchant for practical jokes and above all, a fascination with the human mind. Barlow turned that curiosity into a fruitful career as a clinical psychologist. A professor emeritus at Boston University, he is the founder and director emeritus of the institution’s Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders.
Every year, the Notre Dame Career Center hosts Arts and Letters Career Conversations, an event offering students the chance to network with and receive career advice from alumni in a wide variety of industries. Sixteen alumni—including leaders in the management consulting, communications, nonprofit, and health care fields—attended the 2016 event and shared their experiences with current students. Here is some advice from three of them.
Sarah Childress ’03 didn’t come to Notre Dame planning to become an international journalist. As a freshman, she was unsure what career path she wanted to follow, but she knew she loved to write. Since majoring in English and minoring in the Gallivan Program in Journalism, Ethics, and Democracy, however, she's found her calling. Childress has covered Iraq for Newsweek, sub-Saharan Africa for the Wall Street Journal, been an editor for the GlobalPost, and written for The New York Times and The Washington Post. She’s now with PBS’s Frontline as a senior digital reporter.
Adam Frisch ’07 sat across from a four-star admiral, trying to talk his way onto a nuclear submarine. Specifically, Frisch had to explain to the senior officer how a Program of Liberal Studies major could succeed studying nuclear propulsion. The simplest answer was the best one.
Three alumni from the College of Arts and Letters—an ambassador, the founder of the University of Notre Dame soccer team, and an Air Force colonel—were among the recipients of five major Notre Dame Alumni Association awards given out this fall.
A documentary by two Notre Dame student filmmakers has been featured in 12 film festivals across the country and won numerous awards. It's the latest success story for documentarians from Notre Dame, a line that extends from How to Die in Oregon director Peter Richardson to The Great Alone’s Greg Kohs to Wordplay director Patrick Creadon. That tradition of excellence extends to 2015 graduate Dylan Parent, whose short documentary on a Holocaust survivor screened at the St. Louis International Film Festival, and Erin Zacek ’11 and Dan Moore ’11, whose film was chosen for the 2011 Los Angeles Film Festival.
For a talented group of students and young alumni from Notre Dame’s Department of Film, Television, and Theatre, the dream of having their film screened at a Los Angeles film festival was realized this summer. The showcase, hosted by the College of Arts and Letters, was held at the Directors Guild of America Theatre this summer. It featured six student films and a short documentary from the “First Time Fans” series, directed by alumni filmmakers.
In his new book, American Jesuits and the World: How an Embattled Religious Order Made Modern Catholicism Global (Princeton University Press), McGreevy uses individual religious experiences and others as a gateway to a larger narrative. The book traces how the religious order grew from 600 men in 1814 to roughly 17,000 men a century later. McGreevy argues that their odyssey of expulsion (by European nationalists worried about excessive Jesuit loyalty to the papacy) and reconstruction (as Jesuits launched a counterculture centered around parishes, schools, and universities) powerfully shaped modern history.
A political science major and a German minor in the College of Arts and Letters, Mallory Brown has spent her entire career with Egon Zehnder, a global management consulting and executive search firm, and is now based in its Berlin office. When hiring entry-level researchers, Brown said that she looks for students with a broad educational background. “I'm targeting Arts and Letters majors because I know they can write well, and they've also had exposure to a broad number of topics,” Brown said. “We deal with every industry, every function, and every geography, so the broader the type of candidate and the type of student we can interview, the better."
“A liberal arts education gives you really good foundation,” said John Phillips ’66, a College of Arts and Letters alumnus who majored in government and international studies. President Barack Obama appointed him ambassador to Italy in 2013. Phillips is the president’s personal representative in Italy and is responsible for managing a wide range of diplomatic issues, including military, commerce, immigration, and foreign policy matters.
Political science major Patrick Vassel '07 didn’t come to Notre Dame dreaming of a career on Broadway. But a path that began with acting and directing in shows on campus has led him to New York's biggest stage. He's now associate director of Hamilton, the blockbuster musical that's won Tony Awards, a Grammy, and the Pulitzer Prize. Vassel has been a key figure in the show's development, working with actors and technicians night in and night out.
Notre Dame alumna Ray’Von Jones ’16 wants to make a difference in the world of education. And her sociology and Spanish majors are going to help her get there. “Education doesn’t only happen inside schools,” Jones said. “It happens in communities and in neighborhoods. So it’s important for me to have a larger understanding of what’s going on in our country in terms of racial climate, what different communities look like, and how they interact.
Congratulations to the Class of 2016! This video, screened at the Arts and Letters Diploma Ceremony, features several seniors reflecting on their time at Notre Dame and in the College of Arts and Letters. "The College of Arts and Letters has really given me this great base that has allowed me to think and critically reflect on what kind of life I want to live," said Seamus Ronan, a political science and peace studies major. "I feel prepared for whatever life brings my way."
Anne Hamilton ’04 didn’t always know she wanted to be a filmmaker. She majored in philosophy in the College of Arts and Letters, but plans change, and now Hamilton is one of Hollywood’s up-and-coming directors. She recently signed with William Morris Endeavor after the successful world premiere of American Fable, a feature film she wrote, directed, and co-produced. The film made its debut at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, in March and received a string of excellent reviews.
Dr. Patrick Lyons ’08 doesn’t ask his patients if they have questions when he’s finished talking with them about a diagnosis. There’s a good chance they’ll say no. Instead, he asks what questions they have. Looking at how he practices medicine now, especially in his interactions with patients, Lyons realizes his time as an English major had a profound effect on how he communicates. “English prepared me well because I have the ability to think critically and organize and analyze the information in front of me,” he said. “Word choice and the way you’re addressing patients can be really powerful.”
About 28 percent of recent Notre Dame sociology majors go on to graduate or professional school, according to data from The Career Center’s First Destination reports. Some pursue advanced degrees in law or medicine, but others—like Annalise Loehr ’09 (Indiana University) and Maryann Erigha ’07 (University of Pennsylvania)—enroll in prestigious sociology Ph.D. programs. It’s a trend that continues with the Class of 2016, as sociology majors Shannon Sheehan (University of Michigan) and Nicolette Bardele (Harvard University) plan to begin graduate programs in sociology this fall.
Kara Donnelly wants to know why you read what you read. Many people pick up a book because they heard it was great, either from a friend or through the media. But how did they know? Who is it that makes the decisions about which books are worth our time?Donnelly, a post-doctoral fellow in Notre Dame’s Department of English who completed her Ph.D. in 2015, has researched British literature from the 1950s to the present trying to find answers to those questions. Her scholarship has focused largely on the Man Booker Prize, which recognizes excellence in fiction writing published in Britain.
Lindsey Horvath ’04 had one goal for her future—to be of service to others. At Notre Dame, she developed a broad range of skills that would help her pursue that goal, both in her career and in her community. The political science and gender studies major now serves as mayor of West Hollywood, Calif., in addition to owning an entertainment advertising agency.
Take the skills liberal arts majors already have — analysis, communication, creative collaboration, critical thinking. Now add intensive training in business and entrepreneurship. That’s a recipe for success, according to College of Arts and Letters alumni who have gone on to Notre Dame’s Engineering, Science & Technology Entrepreneurship Excellence Master’s program (ESTEEM). The 11-month professional master’s degree program has primarily trained students with STEM backgrounds in business and entrepreneurship to spur the launch of startup companies. It is now also actively recruiting Arts and Letters majors.
Matt Ardell ’10 grew up dreaming of working for Nike. Now, five years after graduating from Notre Dame with a degree in economics and history, he is living his dream at Nike’s corporate headquarters in his hometown of Portland, Oregon. As a football marketing field rep, Ardell travels the country building relationships with head coaches, athletic directors, and teams. The foundation for his success in the business world, he said, is his liberal arts education.
While working at a childhood bereavement center after college, Amy K. Nuttall Ph.D. ’15 saw firsthand how resilient kids can be. She was inspired to research parentification, or the act of children assuming adult caretaking roles in their families, in her graduate work in developmental psychology at Notre Dame. She now continues to explore the issue at Michigan State University, where she landed a position as an assistant professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies and directs the Family Stress Lab.
Through the liberal arts, you learn to read deeply. Think about issues critically. Discuss topics thoughtfully. Write arguments persuasively. Contribute to projects creatively. And these abilities aren’t just vital in the classroom—they’re exactly what employers, graduate schools, and service organizations are looking for. With 20 departments across the humanities, arts, and social sciences, the College of Arts and Letters is home to exceptional faculty and talented students who are studying what they love.
Through the Washington Program, a semester-long immersion into national politics and policy, Notre Dame students head to the nation’s capital for coursework and organized visits with policymakers, journalists, and leaders in a variety of governmental and non-governmental offices. Participants also complete internships at the White House, congressional offices, major media outlets, non-governmental organizations, and nonprofits.
Before the rigors of post-college life set in—before mortgages, family, a career, and all the other responsibilities that come with setting off into the world—Kaitlin Sullivan ’10 wanted to devote at least one year of her life to service. Sullivan remembers talking with professors and fellow students at Notre Dame about how the purpose of their education wasn’t just learning for the sake of learning, but to help them to go out and do good in the world. It’s a perspective she carried into her service experience—and in her professional career as a product policy manager for Facebook.
“English is the spoken tongue throughout the world, but it pays great dividends for you if you make a sincere effort to study and use the language,” said James Moynihan ’73. “It was most beneficial (to me) and I highly recommended it, and obviously it’s had a very, very positive effect upon my career.” Moynihan is the director of Louis Vuitton Japan’s intellectual property department, based in the company’s Tokyo offices. He formerly served as a legal attache for the FBI at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo.
Though Betsy Bohlen ’90 once enjoyed success as a partner at Chicago’s McKinsey and Co., the business leader always knew she eventually wanted to direct her efforts toward nonprofit work, especially within the Catholic Church. “There was a part of me that always felt that, one of these days, I would serve in a more nonprofit capacity,” Bohlen said. “I think there was a calling for me to do that, to apply my leadership skills there.” Today, she is the chief operating officer of the Archdiocese of Chicago, making her the highest ranking woman in Chicago’s Catholic Church.
Graduates of the College of Arts and Letters are in demand in the business world. Through a broad liberal arts education, Arts and Letters students develop problem-solving, analysis, and communication skills—attributes that recruiters from major companies are seeking in college graduates. When companies like Vanguard, Epic Systems, Abercrombie & Fitch, and General Mills come to campus looking to recruit new employees, Arts and Letters students find great jobs.
Emmie Mediate, a 2015 graduate of Notre Dame’s College of Arts and Letters, has been selected to the American Rhodes Scholar Class of 2016. A native of Colorado Springs, Colorado, Mediate was one of 32 Rhodes Scholars selected from a pool of 869 candidates who had been nominated by their colleges and universities. She is Notre Dame’s 17th Rhodes Scholar and the University’s second in two years.
Marie Kissel ’83 traces much of her success back to one key point in her Notre Dame experience: going overseas to Tokyo as an undergraduate. “I’ve got this great job, I’m in a region that’s very exciting—that would not have happened without my opportunities at Notre Dame, especially through the study abroad programs,” she said. Kissel is now vice president for government affairs for Asia at Abbott Laboratories, a global pharmaceuticals and health care products company.