Jacqui Henry had her heart set on majoring in art conservation. But she’d found resistance to creating a specialized major at the large university she attended as a freshman. Then, a conversation with Stonehill Art History Professor Allyson Sheckler changed everything.
“She hadn’t heard of anyone wanting art conservation either,” said Jacqui, who transferred to Stonehill and graduated in 2011. “But she said, ‘Don’t worry – this will be fun. We love working with other departments.’” Sheckler immediately went to work connecting courses in art history and science to create a unique major for the new student.
Jacqui’s story is a common theme at Stonehill, where a liberal arts education teaches students to forge their own paths, discover themselves and interact with the world in meaningful ways. This approach isn’t about checking off boxes, it’s about discovering your passion and true calling.
Learning Outside the Box
It starts with small class sizes where students find dedicated faculty and a diverse curriculum that encourages students to step outside their comfort zones.
For biology major Elsa Pearson ’12, a Stonehill writing course did more than sharpen her writing skills; it opened her eyes to creative freedom beyond the fact-driven world of science. “At Stonehill, you learn that life isn’t just about your own major,” says Elsa. “You may not like everything you take, but if you don’t try it, you won’t know.”
The ultimate goal for Stonehill faculty is to guide students in their mastery of a topic and to teach them how to critically assess it. “Our curriculum encourages students to be good communicators, to think creatively and solve real-world problems,” said Todd Gernes, assistant dean of general education and associate professor of history and American Studies. “Our faculty strive to create innovative, individualized approaches to a traditional liberal arts core curriculum.”
Education for the Soul
While building balanced knowledge, students also find that Stonehill’s curriculum provides important lessons in self-discovery. With an emphasis on communication, analytical thinking and problem-solving through a broad lens, students become aware of who they are and how they can leave a meaningful mark.
Stonehill faculty members reinforce these lessons by guiding students based on each one’s needs – not simply their major or career focus. “The Stonehill experience is designed to help students individually and personally,” says Maria Curtin, dean of the faculty.
Over the course of their four years at Stonehill, students reflect on their experiences and self-assess to strengthen their sense of self in relation to what they’re learning. “Through this process, students become more aware of who they are as a person, what they’re doing and why,” says Craig Almeida, dean of academic achievement.
Stonehill students also find direction and self-discovery through the college’s Congregation of Holy Cross philosophy, which guides them to a sense of purpose so they can lead courageously in their chosen field. “The Catholic perspective helps me stay focused, to know school isn’t just about getting good grades,” said Kimberly Purisky, ’17, an accounting major. “It’s about knowing yourself and how to handle life’s situations.”
Beyond Campus Borders
In addition to learning about oneself, Stonehill emphasizes exploring the world beyond campus. Opportunities for engagement – including internships, research and community service – are built into Stonehill’s curriculum and culture. Forty percent of students study abroad, twice the national average.
As Stonehill students go into the world, they’re provided with the tools they need to succeed. The liberal arts curriculum, combined with core values that instill students with a strong sense of self, help them to follow the right path and confidently pursue every opportunity they uncover.
For Elsa, studying abroad in Granada, Spain, did more than strengthen her Spanish; she learned how to better relate to a diverse patient population in her current work at Boston Children’s Hospital. “Being able to talk about culture with the people who live there changed my perspective,” she says.
Lifetime Return on Investment
As students graduate and pursue work, advanced degrees and service, they find that Stonehill’s broad educational foundation and opportunities for self-discovery and engagement position them strongly for success.
“We focus on and emphasize the qualities employers want: people who can learn, think critically, communicate, adapt and use ethical reasoning,” says Gernes.
According to Career Services Director Heather Heerman, employers know and value the fact that Stonehill students take fundamental courses like writing and logical reasoning in addition to courses within their major. Heerman and her team also help students refine the “soft skills” – proper handshaking, eye contact and interviewing skills – needed in today’s marketplace.
The success Stonehill students find immediately after graduating points to the strength of this approach: a full 98% are employed, in graduate school or doing service work just one year after graduation. And with most Stonehill students graduating within four years, a Stonehill education is a wise investment that offers immediate and lifelong returns.
The full value of her Stonehill education means so much more than the ability to secure a job. Becca Leising, ’14, a chemistry major who plans to attend graduate school, puts it all in perspective:
“The classes I took here helped to broaden my scope, not just think analytically,” she says. “Whatever I do in the future, I don’t want to be just a cog in the system – I want to have influence. Stonehill has helped me shape who I am.”