Preparing Students for Life After College
Professor Isaac Desta, Ph.D., associate professor of business at Holy Cross, is described by his students as being both a challenging teacher, but a calm, steady leader. For his part, Desta appreciates the personalized education offered at Holy Cross College.
Desta has studied business and economics around the world. He received his BA from Addis Ababa University, his MSc from the University of Groningen, and his Ph.D. from the University of Bremen in Germany. He came to Holy Cross in June 2014. “The close relationship between student and professor is integral for a student to actually learn and retain what they learn,” says Desta. “Professors teach beyond pages of the book at Holy Cross; they teach their experiences, which help prepare the students for life after college is over.”
Desta believes the business program is tailor-made for Holy Cross students because it aims to practically prepare students for an immediate career in business. “The way I teach allows me to identify key strengths and weaknesses of each student and give attention to each individual’s progress,” Desta explains. “The students who do best in my classes work hard and think critically.”
Desta played a significant part in the Labor & Leisure conference in the summer of 2017 at Holy Cross College. This interdisciplinary conference was organized in collaboration with John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin in Poland. It is held alternatively at Holy Cross or the University of Lublin; in 2018 it will be in Poland and in 2019, it will be back at Holy Cross. Desta will be the lead organizer for the 2019 conference. As in 2017, attendees from both host countries and around the world convene to discuss the future of liberal arts education and institutions, uniting all departments to work together to improve the college experience.
Strengthening Education at Holy Cross
This summer, Felicia Reid-Metoyer was named director of student teaching for the education department at Holy Cross College. Reid-Metoyer was an adjunct professor during the spring 2017 semester, but this new role is an even better fit for her passion and education. “I see teaching as reaching across lines of social class, race, money, and ability to understand the different narratives in student, parent, and community relationships,” Reid-Metoyer explains. “The role of a teacher is something to be proud of, and it’s our responsibility to be ambassadors for social justice and service.”
The faculty and administration were thrilled to bring Reid-Metoyer on board full-time. “She’s a rock star,” Michael Griffin, Ph.D., senior vice president is quick to say. “She’s energetic and enthusiastic about teaching, and she will bring a whole new perspective on education to Holy Cross.”
Reid-Metoyer began her career as a first-grade teacher, but quickly expanded her experience to include teaching autistic students, being an instructor for Teach for America, and teaching college students at Oregon State University and Linn Benton Community College in Oregon. She and her husband, Ron Metoyer, moved to the South Bend area from Oregon in 2015. It was a huge change for the whole family, so Reid-Metoyer promised her two children that she would take an entire year off work to support them and help them adjust to a new city and school. As the family’s transition year came to an end in 2016, Reid-Metoyer happened to meet Carmen Macharaschwili, Ph.D., who was the chair of the Holy Cross education department at the time. They quickly connected, and Macharaschwili offered Reid-Metoyer the opportunity to teach EDUC 210, Building Relationships, a class about teacher, family, and student dynamics.
Even after Macharaschwili left Holy Cross to join the Association of College and University Educators, it wasn’t hard for Reid-Metoyer to see how well she fit in at Holy Cross. “I love the focus on the mission here,” she explains. “The small class sizes allow me to build relationships one-on-one, which leads to deeper understanding.”
As the director of student teaching, Reid-Metoyer looks forward to working with Eileen Dial, Ph.D., the new chair of the education department, to develop the education program even more. One of the things that drew her to Holy Cross in the first place was that the student teaching experience was longer than average, and worked more like an apprenticeship. “I heard such good things about Holy Cross student teachers from the community,” Reid-Metoyer says. “It’s a robust program with the flexibility to adjust to student and community needs, and I’m eager to be a part of its success.”
Outside the classroom, Reid-Metoyer loves traveling and spending time with her family. She’s also committed to giving back. “I recognize how privileged and blessed I am,” she says. “I am always looking for ways I can use my passion, education, and time to serve my community.” With her passion for teaching and her dedication to service, Reid-Metoyer will have no difficulty preparing students with the competency to see and the courage to act.
A Time To Change, and A Time Not To
Ann Baldinger started her career in the communications department at Holy Cross in 1993 as a replacement for a professor who had passed away. She initially taught public speaking and interpersonal communications classes, but since then, Baldinger has been an integral part of the Holy Cross College community. She has served as chair of the communications department and head of her academic division. More importantly, she has become a valued professor, co-worker, and friend.
Over the last 23 years, Baldinger has weathered many changes at Holy Cross College and in the field of communications. In 1993, faculty, staff, and students were only just beginning to use computers. Most of them still did their work on a typewriter. The bookstore wasn’t a store at all. In fact, it was merely a room in Driscoll Hall with a small window to the hallway. Long before Holy Cross had the Pfeil Center, the O’Connor Commons, or even residential housing, the faculty used two trailers on the southwest side of Vincent Hall as offices and classrooms. One of Baldinger’s early forays into change at Holy Cross College was helping to update Vincent Hall by serving on the committee that decided to add faculty offices and a student center (commonly known as “The Max”) to the building.
Another change has been to the field of communications itself. There is a growing range of communications jobs graduates can find, thanks to changes in technology. For her part, Baldinger has tried to adapt with the times by making her classes more practical for students, giving them versatility for their careers. It’s been a rewarding process. “I like being seeing students grow and gain confidence in their ability,” she says. “Having a front-row seat to the progress students make is just a gift in itself.”
But in other ways, Baldinger has resisted change. When she first came to Holy Cross College, there was an open door policy, meaning faculty could not be in their offices without their doors open so that students can have access to them, a policy Baldinger still tries to follow. “I’ve stayed as long as I have because Holy Cross has always been a place where the students come first.” Thanks to her commitment to an open door policy, Baldinger is still one of the most accessible professors at Holy Cross.
Another thing that hasn’t changed is that she still loves her job. She jokes that she’s just “an old lady who loves teaching,” but more seriously, she adds, “I don’t see waking up and coming to Holy Cross as a job. I sees it more as a fun, family environment, where I can do what I love.”
That love is evident to her friends, coworkers, and students, who know Baldinger as an outgoing, lively, and uplifting person. She has cared for her students and community for more than two decades and God-willing, will continue to do so even longer.
The Great Intersectionality of Julie Kipp’s Life
Julie Kipp, Ph.D., is a new addition to the English program at Holy Cross College this year. A published author, she teaches British Literature II and Composition I at the college. She also directs the writing program for the Westville Education Initiative (WEI), an academic collaboration between Holy Cross and the University of Notre Dame which offers college-level courses at the state-operated prison for adult males in Westville, Indiana. And in between all of that, Dr. Kipp is also working on her second book. I count myself lucky that she was able to carve out time for me to interview her about the future of the English programs at Holy Cross and WEI.
Full of energy, Dr. Kipp arrives at the writing center early for our interview. She pops her head around the partition which divides the writing center from the faculty hall and encourages me to take my time, and she will be waiting for me in The Max, immersed in stimulating conversation with one of her students. I have no doubt of this, as every time I’ve encountered Dr. Kipp, the conversation has been anything but dull!
Even before this interview, I already knew that Dr. Kipp was a passionate woman with many causes: social justice, language, feminism, motherhood… just to name a few. She was a determined advocate for feminism when she began her undergraduate program at the University of Notre Dame 1979. With a ratio of six men to every woman on campus at the time, she had to be! Dr. Kipp gushes that she “got to be part of a cohort of women that went on to do amazing things.” As I see it, she is no exception to this claim.
When it’s time to talk, I find a quiet corner of the room, and Dr. Kipp jumps up to stride toward me, never going anywhere slowly. She quickly navigates the tables before sinking into the couch across from me. We both breathe a sigh of relief and make easy conversation. I can’t help but be compelled by her unfailingly curious eyes framed behind bright-green glasses.
Dr. Kipp passes me a copy of her first book, Romanticism, Maternity, and the Body Politic, which examines Romantic writers’ treatments of motherhood. I notice an inscription inside the front cover of Dr. Kipp’s copy and read it aloud:
- For Mom and Dad,
With love and gratitude.
“Don’t move the marker,” Dr. Kipp requests, referring to the checking deposit slip between pages 16 and 17. “It’s as far as my dad got before he passed away – it just cracks me up to remember!” Then, Dr. Kipp directs me to the dedication page, where the names of her five children are listed. In this moment, guided by her expressive blend of a daughter’s love and a mother’s pride, I am moved by the close relationships that clearly permeate generations of Dr. Kipp’s family.
We also discuss her upcoming book, Ireland and the Romantic Atlantic Archipelago: Cosmopolitan Romanticism in the British Peripheries. In it, Dr. Kipp is exploring what happens when scholars view British Romanticism from a foreign nation’s perspective, decentralizing England as the sole driving force. This is a new and developing field of Irish and Scottish studies, and Dr. Kipp is only too eager to jump in a little ahead of the curve. It’s a very personal topic for her, and she finds herself closely relating to the literary explorations found within her book’s pages. “There are these intersecting conversations, and ‘intersectionality’ is the way I think as a feminist scholar,” Dr. Kipp explains. “I’m a woman, I’m also aging, I’m also white, I’m also educated, I’m middle class, I’m an English speaker… all of [these] things are happening at once and [my] positioning, in terms of privilege and power, can happen on just as many planes.” This method of non-linear, intersectional thinking has been taking shape in feminine literature for almost a century. It’s a complicated topic, but Dr. Kipp chooses to acknowledge the complexity and embrace it, something she encourages her students to do as well.
On that note, our conversation shifts toward her work with the WEI students. The Holy Cross and Notre Dame faculty work to recreate college classroom experiences for the incarcerated students. Dr. Kipp’s eyes light up as she talks about WEI. “The students have incredible stories,” she exclaims. “They’re just waiting to tell them.” She leans forward intently. “There’s almost nothing different—except for our access to research—about my teaching in terms of what I’m bringing to the experience.” Though, she acknowledges, going to Westville has been a particularly interesting challenge because “a lot of the things that have been strengths in my teaching are things that I have to negotiate more carefully [when I’m there].”
One of the primary differences is the matter of her students’ safety. Dr. Kipp believes in empowering her students. She sees the classroom as a safe space, but also a space where students need to be raising challenges, taking risks, and getting out of their comfort zone. “We don’t learn as much when we keep it safe,” she says, and I agree. However, her students at Westville often remind her that they are in constant danger, so she often has to pull back, reminding herself that she is not in a safe classroom in the same way. “There may be different kinds of consequences for some of the challenges I pose for them.”
WEI is a project and experience Dr. Kipp has described as inspirational and challenging. It makes her better at negotiating on her feet. It also renews her passion for social justice as she encounters structural and personal cruelty upon every visit to Westville, whether in the arguably excessive sentencing for non-violent crimes or the conditioning language used to convince “offenders” that they are without value “I’m staggered every day by some detail about the reality of my students and the life that they’re enduring,” Dr. Kipp reflects. “It has nothing to do with justice – nothing. Justice is not present anywhere in that system… except maybe what justice we’re trying to bring in.” In the end, she says, “[WEI is] not about us going out and saving anybody. I feel like I’m the one being saved.”
Not Just an Advisor, But a Friend
By Alexis Petersen, ’18
Brian Howard, dean of Academic Support Services, is a soft-spoken man, but when he greets me in his office, his face lights up with quiet exaltation – one of those smiles that doesn’t quite make it past the lips but completely fills his eyes. I’ve known him for almost five years, and during that time, I’ve come to his office for a variety of things: advising, advice, conversation. He’s never averse to an unplanned visit, nor is he, in my experience, averse to a surprise batch of chocolate chip cookies. Beyond that, however, I know my camaraderie with Mr. Howard belies his dedication to something more than our weekday afternoon chats.
He found Holy Cross on a fishing trip. Or rather, it found him.
It was 2005, and he and his wife, Melissa, had thought about moving to South Bend. His family was from Illinois, hers from Michigan, and they decided the city was a good midpoint between the two families. For the previous seven years, he had worked at Southern Illinois University as an advisor, which bolstered his experience in making time for students on an individual basis. His struggles growing up and being the first person in his family to attend college emphasized the importance of compassion to him, and so being able to help students who went through various struggles while pursuing an education allowed him to draw from his own experience and be the person he’d needed in his college years.
Holy Cross College was the first private school he applied for in South Bend. The phone call came while he was still on the boat – still reeling in his catch, as he tells it, his eyes smiling with the memory. Two weeks later, he was on the job and hit the ground running. The advising department at Holy Cross, before his influence, was not the same, fruitful environment which it is now reputed to be. Hoping to align the department’s reputation with the Catholic ethics he’d practiced all his life, and utilizing his years’ worth of education on student development theories, he spearheaded the introduction of a new advising model that emphasizes attention to the individual student. He supports every advisor on campus, and he created the method of online registration that streamlined the process for students and advisors. He also taught the first interdisciplinary studies (IDST) course, a historical and philosophical survey of liberal arts and Holy Cross College designed to improve freshman retention. Combined with his approach to advising, freshman retention increased from 32% to 72% – making it higher than the national average.
His future endeavors for the school involve further admission and advising first-generation college students. His hope is that all disadvantaged students will have the opportunity to experience a transformative education at Holy Cross, and to promote the mission of the college to serve God by serving others.
Some people paint in broad brushstrokes; Mr. Howard fills in the details. He was the first person I encountered at Holy Cross. Without him, the bigger picture would have had no definition. I don’t doubt this is the experience had by many, if not most of his advisees. You go to Mr. Howard and he helps you plot out your future. In the years that pass, you grasp for a starting point, a logical Chapter One to your story – and you still see him in your mind’s eye sitting at his desk, offering an open chair and an open heart (and a list of the most recent requirements for your major). So indelible is his presence, students he has not seen nor advised for years still contact him. He is humble enough to count those among his blessings, but to me, they provide irrefutable proof of the kind of man he is, and the impact he’s left so far – on them, and on me.
Going into his office, I know I can confide in him because he isn’t just my advisor. He’s my friend.