postgradprep

Alumni Stories

Wondering what you’ll do with your life after Holy Cross and how you’ll get there? We checked in with four recent Holy Cross graduates who used to wonder the same things when they were in school. Now these Crusaders have begun achieving their post-grad dreams of being men and women for others in finance, law, medicine and the priesthood.

Learn which post-grad planning opportunities they chose to help find and prepare for their own callings. Find out which faculty and staff members really made a difference in their lives. Imagine yourself after graduating with a liberal arts degree from Holy Cross. What will you have to say to the students of tomorrow?

Didi Desjardins ’07

Mathematics major with a
premedical concentration

"I always knew I wanted to go into medicine," says Candida "Didi" Desjardins, ’07. "The fact that Holy Cross had a strong premed program was a huge criterion for me." Along with her rigorous class schedule, the math major still found time to tutor calculus students, serve as a Peer Assistance Leader (PAL) in chemistry, help bring the American Medical Student Association to campus, and take part in Dance Ensemble. "When it's important to you, you make time," she says. Didi also loved research, which led to her becoming a Fenwick Scholar and spending her senior year developing a device that provides blood pressure readings without touching patients. (A patent has been issued for the use of the device.) "I chose a medical school whose curriculum is remarkably similar to what I did as a Fenwick Scholar," Didi says. "I feel like I had a huge advantage over people going into med school who hadn’t yet experienced learning material on their own."

Didi Desjardins ’07

Today Didi is in her fifth year of an M.D./Ph.D. joint degree program at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. Her goal? To be a physician scientist whose research can be translated into patient care. "Holy Cross did a great job of preparing me for medical school," she says. "My year as a Fenwick scholar was the ultimate test to determine if I enjoyed working in the medical field." Didi also recognizes three Holy Cross faculty members for their guidance: Professor Andrew Futterman, chair of the Health Professions Advisory Committee; Tina Chen, director of Academic Services & Learning Resources and head of the PAL program; and Professor Ed Soares, associate professor of math, who mentored Didi while she was doing her research. "He was the first person who opened my eyes to academics outside the textbook," she recalls. "He taught me how to acquire knowledge to solve real-life problems." Quite a few Case faculty members are former Crusaders," Didi adds. "I'm always proud to say that I went to Holy Cross."

Gerald S. Dickinson ’09

Political science & sociology
double major

"I was always interested in becoming a better leader," says Gerald Dickinson ’09 about his decision to attend Holy Cross. He immersed himself in campus activities, becoming the captain of the men’s soccer team, Student Government representative, and a College Honors Program student. In fact, it was Gerald’s honor’s thesis — on the relationship between housing policy and black neighborhoods — that nudged him from studying political science to studying the law. Gerald won a Fulbright Scholarship to extend his thesis topic to similar problems in Johannesburg, South Africa, studying at the University of Witwatersrand and working with the Litigation Department at the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS). But he also credits his passion for the law to his participation in the Black Student Union. It was through the BSU that Gerald met Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas ’71, and Ted Wells ’72, co-chair of Litigation for Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, New York. "They were doing great things with their law degrees," Gerald says. "I took that as an indicator that law school was the place I should go."

Gerald S. Dickinson ’09

Today, Gerald’s life mission is to serve the public interest by finding innovative ways of providing affordable housing. He’ll do that first as a skilled litigator, after graduating from Fordham University School of Law in 2013 and beginning his career in the Real Estate Group at Reed Smith LLP in Pittsburgh (Gerald’s hometown). There he’ll be working on real estate and land use law issues, both residential and commercial property, and some dealing with affordable housing. Eventually Gerald intends to become a career public servant. "Everything I’ve done at and since Holy Cross has encouraged me to think about how I can make the world better," he says. As a captain of the Holy Cross men’s soccer team, Gerald says he learned the value of leadership and mentorship. As a student leader, he gained key management skills. And litigator Ted Wells ’72 remains a mentor to this day. Gerald also credits Rev. Michael C. McFarland, S.J., [Holy Cross president during Gerald’s undergraduate years] and Anthony Cashman, director of the Office of Distinguished Fellowships and Graduate Studies, as key advisors. "Holy Cross helped me understand who I am and what I can do with my education in the service of others," he says.

Meg Moran ’08

Classics major

“I knew I was interested in pursuing business, but otherwise I was definitely as undecided as a student could be,” recalls Meg Moran ’08, thinking of her early years at Holy Cross. But Meg also saw the value in studying subjects she might never get to delve into again. So she majored in classics. The aspiring business executive also took advantage of everything that David Chu, the prebusiness program, and the Ciocca Office of Entrepreneurial Studies (COES) had to offer. The Speaker Series and an Executive Leadership Workshop “opened my eyes to the various options that were out there,” she says. The Summer Internship Program helped Meg connect with alumni who offered spots to Holy Cross students. “I came to understand that one Holy Cross student each year was offered a position in global real estate finance at Lehman Brothers [once one of the largest investment banks in the U.S.],” Meg says. “I thought to myself, ‘It could be me.’ ”

Meg Moran ’08

Meg became one of 12 Lehman Brothers Global Real Estate Group summer analysts — thanks to that "aha" moment. The internship led to a job offer before Meg graduated, and due to market conditions in the spring of 2008 she eventually joined the bank’s Public Finance Group that July — a position she retained after Lehman declared bankruptcy and sold its North American assets to Barclays Capital in the fall. Meg credits the willingness of Holy Cross faculty, administration, and alumni for helping her succeed. "It takes a village," she says. "I had a number of different people I could go to for advice." And she credits her liberal arts education for setting her apart. "I could critically analyze problems from a different perspective," she recalls. "And I mentally reinforced the Holy Cross philosophy of being men and women for others time and time again when it came to business ethics." Meg left Barclays in June 2012 to start an MBA program at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. "Business school will be a new and exciting challenge," she says. "Going forward I hope to be able to contribute to a firm at any level."

Tim O’Brien, S.J. ’06

Political science major

"I went to Holy Cross with every intention of becoming a lawyer," recalls Tim O’Brien ’06. And in retrospect, everything he did seemed to be pointing him toward the law. Tim served in the Student Government Association, joined the Honors Program (where he and other students tackled "some really big questions"), and worked for the Senate’s Judiciary Committee as part of the Washington Semester Program. And he won the Vannicelli Washington Semester Away Program Award for his thesis, which focused on the law. Tim says his academic advisor, Professor Caren Dubnoff, pushed him to work at a level beyond what he thought he was capable of doing. Straight through to law school, right? But in the midst of all the academics, Tim took part in a five-day retreat offered by the Chaplains' Office. He says it changed how he thought about his faith. "That was as huge as anything I did in the classroom," he says.

Tim O’Brien, S.J. ’06

After graduating, Tim took a job with the U.S. Department of Justice. He also got involved with a Jesuit parish in Georgetown. "I desperately wanted to be happiest in the law, but it wasn’t fulfilling me as much as my work with the Jesuits was. Then one night he described his life in Washington, D.C. to Alice Laffey, associate professor of religious studies. "She said ‘From the sound of it, you’re meant to be a Jesuit,’ " he recalls. "I knew she was right." Tim took his first vows in 2010, and continues working toward being ordained a Jesuit priest. "I’m still watching the questions unfold that started at Holy Cross," he says. In addition to Dubnoff and Laffey, two other faculty members helped shape Tim’s trajectory. Class Dean Esther Levine urged him to study what he loved. And the late Professor Joanna Ziegler taught Tim about contemplation, exposing him to a way of thinking similar to what he is doing now. "For that I’m grateful to Holy Cross and to her," he says. Tim took his first vows in 2010, and continues working toward being ordained a Jesuit priest. At present, he is a graduate student at the University of Chicago. "I’m still watching the questions unfold that started at Holy Cross," he says.