Every student knows the foundational principle of a Holy Cross education by heart; we are, and we become, men and women for and with others through the educational emphasis on learning for the greater benefit of the world. During my last four school years, each class that I have taken has given me a glimpse into how the information applies to the real world. Whether it’s discussing the politics of globalization or reading Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, my professors have always shown me the material’s relevance to the world, and what it can do for others, in whatever form that entails.
My academic experience of the mission, and the way that it’s grown within my intellectual pursuits would not be complete, however, without my participation in the various programs that the J.D. Power Center provides. Through classes, we learn how to understand the world and how we can think and act for others, but through experience, we learn how to act with others. This combination of class and experiential learning, understanding how the skills learned in the classroom apply to the world and to real people, is truly where the Jesuit mission at Holy Cross becomes evident.
My first experience with integrating my classes with the world was during the spring semester of 2021. I participated in the Academic Internship program and enrolled in the course Women and the Law while interning with an immigration law firm in Worcester. The course looked into the intricacies of the female experience under the law, and I was able to see many of the topics we discussed in real life during my work experience. I understood on a more complex level, how and why some of these clients were in the positions that they were in, and I was able to assist their cases much better because of the background knowledge I had from class. And the experience of my internship helped me better understand my class material as well because I had something to apply it to.
I have the same sentiment with my CBL component of one of my current courses. I’m working with the Accessibility Advisory Commission for the City of Worcester, and not only am I helping the city with an important project, but also, I’m applying what I learn in class to work for the and with the chairpersons of the commission all to benefit the residents of the city. The collaboration in the pursuit of service is made easier when I have the experience and the knowledge to do it.
The experiential learning programs that I have participated in within the J.D. Power Center has significantly enriched my learning, but most importantly going forward towards life after Holy Cross, it has expanded my ability to live our mission, men and women for and with others, throughout my life.
I spent the Fall 2020 semester participating in the Washington, D.C. Semester Program. This program was an experience that I was interested in before I had even applied to Holy Cross, so I was excited to begin the journey after my acceptance. I ultimately landed on an internship with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in their Security Operations and International Operations offices. What I valued most about my internship experience was the balance of autonomy and trust my supervisors gave me while also always working tirelessly to engage with me and find projects that fit my interests. My classes and professors at Holy Cross prepared me well to tackle all of the projects that I worked on. One example of this is that my supervisors frequently asked for my feedback and review on documents before they were submitted, valuing the writing and revising skills I had developed at Holy Cross. Going into my internship I took this knowledge, but also an open mind knowing that there was so much to learn in the work environment from my colleagues and projects I was doing. Although I was working almost entirely on Zoom, I was exposed to lots of new experiences, learned so much about both the TSA’s mission and connected my academic studies to foster intellectual and personal growth. As the J.D. Power Center’s mission is centered around experiential learning, my holistic experience in D.C. embodied all of its most important traits.
Washington, D.C. has so much knowledge to offer that I knew I wanted to expose myself to and educate myself on as much as possible. Experiential learning is synonymous with hands-on and visual learning, taking education from something that happens solely in the classroom to something that we immerse ourselves in every day. Other students in the program and I visited as many of the Smithsonian’s as we could, such as the National Zoo, Museum of American History, Museum of African American History and Culture, and the National Air and Space Museum (Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center) in Virginia. We also took a tour of the Sully Historic Site (formerly Sully Plantation) and were fortunate enough to do a tour of the White House. Additionally, I took advantage of the motorized scooters around the National Mall and took in the various structures and statues along the way. All of these experiences were opportunities to learn and to engage with pieces of history first hand. This learning challenged us intellectually but there was also a social – emotional aspect that made it even more powerful. The Washington Semester Program provided me with new opportunities to connect information I had learned in the classroom to real-world situations to find even deeper meanings. This learning also helped build a better sense of appreciation and built upon the liberal arts foundation that Holy Cross offers.
For my thesis project I wanted to expand on my internship with the TSA and academic interests and explore a topic with real world ramifications. I was working closely with the International Affairs office and as an International Studies major I knew this was the perfect blend. Through my work at the TSA, I learned about their dedication to aviation security and that on an international scale its administration can get messy. I found in my initial research that aviation is a crucial part of our world, so I categorized it as a global public good or a good that is critical to the well-being of the citizens of the world. Throughout the writing process I developed my central thesis statement and ultimately focused on the international ramifications of private-public partnerships and increasing international bodies’ ability to regulate the supply of global public goods. I was fortunate enough to win the Vannicelli Award for the most outstanding thesis produced in my semester in the Washington Program. Last month, I presented my research and findings to the campus community and was honored to share a piece of the hard work I put into my thesis. I learned more about this topic than I ever could have imagined, but it was also an opportunity to strengthen my writing and research skills which will be valuable for any path in the future. My experience in the Washington Program inspired me to become a Center Ambassador for the J.D. Power Center during my senior year and to begin pursuing opportunities in International Affairs after graduation. Finally, the work that I did at the TSA, lessons from the classroom and experiences traveling around the city have fostered the tools I need to be successful both academically and professionally.
The Academic Internship Program that’s supported by the J.D. Power Center consistently offers enriching opportunities to synthesize both academics and real world experiences through its seminars that are exceedingly interesting and relevant to world affairs. One of these seminars, Policy and Politics in America, taught by former congressman Tim Bishop ‘72 and longtime political consultant Peter Flaherty ‘87, is an impressive academic course centered on student engagement with the real world of politics. The winter 2019 issue of the Holy Cross Magazine reported that through the mission of fostering opportunities for experiential learning in mind, the J.D. Power Center supported the creation of this course to cover experiences in and around politics. Two educators were then selected so that the course did not have a partisan bias. This course intends to provide students with comprehensive understandings of important House and Senate races in midterm elections, particularly the 2022 midterm elections, in tandem with the following result’s consequences on policy debates. One of the goals that this seminar has is to transcend partisanship and engage in more productive political conversations. Guided by well qualified instructors and frequent guest speakers, students participate in high level discussions and develop deeper comprehension of the political system in the United States and of the various career opportunities that grow alongside government ones such as grassroots organizing, voter outreach, and campaigning.
The co-teachers, Mr. Bishop and Mr. Flaherty, both also exemplify how purple runs deep, and that the Holy Cross community is full of support networks and exciting connections. Bishop graduated from Holy Cross in 1972, followed by his brother Chris ‘74, and he has remained in contact with a fair number of his classmates, including Fr. Hayes of the Chaplains’ Office. Flaherty graduated from Holy Cross in 1987. His brother, Chip, graduated in 1986, his son, Peter Flaherty III graduated in 2021, and two nieces are alumnae and one is a current student. Even though 15 years and differing political orientations may seem to separate these two alumni, they really do practice what they preach. Coming from different backgrounds has not been a barrier between a joyful friendship built on mutual admiration. Teaching a seminar, engaging students, and inspiring up and coming political leaders, has further forged their bond, and this is reflected in the strength of their course.
Bishop’s favorite part of teaching the seminar is interacting throughout the years with “uniformly impressive” students. He says that they are consistently, “bright, engaged, committed, interested in playing their part to make the world a better place, and also committed to the central ethos of HC-education for others.” Flaherty echoes this sentiment as he says, “The prism through which the Holy Cross students see the political landscape is rooted in an admirable and refreshing selflessness with an eye toward contributing to solutions, rather than focusing on divisive rhetoric.” This praise of students is hopeful for the future of our country considering both he and Peter Flaherty have supported a fair amount of students in getting jobs in politics, government, political consulting, and more. Notably, with Flaherty’s help, a class of 2019 graduate, Carter Mitchell, obtained a position with a political consulting firm. Mitchell will also be a guest lecturer for the class on October 26. Students who have taken this course also have held a various array of internships that adds interactions with colleagues and coworkers to the academic experience. Some of the internships that students in the course hold this semester are with the Federalist Society, Worcester Court Service Center, Framingham Centre Common Cultural District, Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Worcester District Attorney’s Office, Gray Panthers NYC Network, City of Worcester Elections Committee, Coresight Research. There are often students in gubernatorial and congressional internships and respective campaigns as well.
To expand upon to the course’s relevancy to current political conversations, the co-teachers consistently bring in highly qualified guest speakers. Some of the names on the expansive list include:
Former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, Governor Walz of Minnesota, Governor Inslee of Washington, Congressman Steny Hoyer of Maryland, Representative Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, Representative Linda Sanchez of California and Representative Adam Schiff of California, former Congressman Joseph P. Kennedy III, Former White House Chief of Staff under President George H.W. Bush and former Governor of New Hampshire John Sununu, Former U.S. Senator and U.S. Ambassador to New Zealand Scott Brown, Former Whitehouse Press Secretary Sean Spicer, Barack Obama Campaign Manager David Plouffe, President Obama Senior Advisor David Axelrod, Chairman of the Democratic National Committee Jamie Harrison, Pollster for President Trump James McLaughlin, and pollster for Presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg Jef Pollock, one of President Trump’s lead attorneys Jay Sekulow, political consultant John Lapp, Dana Bash, John Berman, Chris Cuomo and Kasie Hunt of CNN, Phil Rucker and Ashley Parker of the Washington Post, and more.
Students in Policy and Politics in America have the priceless opportunity to hear from high powered figures with diverse voices and opinions. The guest speakers hail from almost every aspect of politics, from elected officials, big names in media news, and everything in between. Every speaker brings important insight to the class that helps further mutual understandings of politics and the reality of the political sphere. Bishop says that, “listening to both Jim Clyburn and Jamie Harrison speak about growing up Black in rural South Carolina and then rising to the heights they have achieved was both powerful and inspiring, and hearing a no nonsense guy like Governor Sununu talk about his focus on results as opposed to politics was a real lesson in what is missing in our current political discourse.”
The mission of this course was reiterated by October 19th’s guest speaker, Congressman Andy Kim of New Jersey, who said that there’s a current desire from the nation for more humble and grounded politics. That’s exactly what Bishop and Flaherty aim to teach and instill in Policy and Politics in America, and they are having excellent success with it.