What are the core elements of a CUA Education that have propelled you to a life of professional success, happiness and purpose?
I am picturing a catapult set up in front of McMahon Hall firing a 22-year-old Rusty over the Shrine and into the real world. But more seriously, I found Catholic University to be tremendously inspiring on many levels. I constantly wanted to do more, both on and off campus. My great Politics courses led me to the world of Economics and to internships on the Hill, at the U.K. Parliament and in the Department of Energy. My fellow students and campus life were also very engaging – I was an OA, an RA and involved in a host of other clubs. By the end of my senior year I was pretty tired, frankly. But I came away with close friends (and a future wife) and experiences that I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere else. Just amazing academic, social and professional engagement all around.
To the premise of the question, I have never spent a moment thinking that I was hurtling toward “professional success, happiness and purpose.” CatholicU gave me the tools and energy to work hard each day in a thoughtful way and these things seem to come along with pursuing the journey in a spirited way.
What was the most rewarding experience you had outside the classroom at CatholicU? What was the most memorable class you took?
Outside the classroom, it was the parliamentary intern program, run by Dr. Kromkowski. I spent a semester as a U.K. Member of Parliament’s only full-time staffer, drafting legislation, press releases and Prime Minister questions. Just really fantastic stuff (and it doesn’t hurt to have an MP write a law school recommendation either).
My top classes include: Dr. O’Leary’s Intro to World Politics, Dr. Schneck’s Political Philosophy, Dr. Zampelli’s Intermediate Microeconomics and Fr. Gignac’s Gospel of St. John. The last class is a good example of the value of a Catholic University liberal arts education. I regularly think about, and believe that I get many creative insights and a stabilizing edge from, the philosophy, religion and other liberal arts “required” courses that I took. I probably would not have taken them if they were not required or if I had gone to another school. And, importantly, for almost every class that I took at the University, the professor knew me by name and I knew the professor. In fact, I exchanged emails with Dr. Schneck last year when I saw him mentioned in an Economist article. Catholic University creates an academic environment where these relationships can develop and thrive.
What attracted you to join the Arts & Sciences Board of Visitors to help champion the priorities of the Dean of the School?
I have stayed involved with Catholic University at various levels over the years. I am impressed with Dean Smith’s passion to build on and improve the University and the Arts & Sciences School. I strongly believe that Catholic University could and should become a leading national university while retaining its unique character. Our school has tremendous resources (location, Catholic identity, great programs), but it underutilizes and undersells some of them. For example, we could create and highlight more opportunities in D.C., going beyond “our students get internships.” In my Economics courses, we attended lectures of leading economists at the Federal Reserve! We need to tell this story. Also, in recruiting students, the University should reach out to its network of parishes and Catholic schools across the country. Each of these parishes takes an annual collection for CatholicU, but very few have anyone stand up and say why the University is such a great place and why people should think about sending their sons and daughters here.
Why have you and your wife, Mary Ellen, decided to support the IMPACT Scholarship program?
Sponsoring an individual student on their road through Catholic University seems to be an impactful and personal way to help, where we can see a tangible benefit (this student could not have attended without this scholarship). I benefited from a Presidential scholarship while at CatholicU and it certainly helped my ability and motivation to attend.
What suggestions do you have for Arts & Science alumni on how best to engage with CatholicU?
I would challenge each to ask themselves what was most meaningful to them about the University and what would inspire them to be involved. What would they like to see in a future CatholicU? This is still their school and they should look for ways to help it achieve its best. Off the top, alumni should consider providing internships and other experiential opportunities or even just professional advice to students. The market is very competitive; the more we can help students get a foot in the door, the more we will make our whole school community better.
Any advice to the Class of 2027?
Maybe a cliché, but make the most of it. It will be a short four years; you might not always live in Washington; try to do it all. You should be able to take away an experience that no other school can offer. And, you will be ready for all of the opportunities that come your way.