Meet Cathy Liebowitz, Director of Sustainability

1. In one sentence, what does your job entail?

I serve as a subject expert, connector, and catalyst for environmental action as Holy Cross strives to reach carbon neutrality by 2040.

2. What planned and unplanned events connected you to your industry and your first employer? How did you learn/decided it was a good fit for you?

It was a combination of mentorship and failure. During my first semester of college, I dropped out of a biochemistry class because I was doing quite poorly despite giving it everything I had. That experience made me realize that my original plan to pursue a major in environmental engineering wasn’t going to happen. After stumbling through that reality check, I was fortunate to find the dean of residential life who took me in as a mentee and gave me a few significant opportunities to explore student affairs as a career path.

3. Please tell us your career path since graduating college.

During my senior year, I applied to both jobs and master’s programs. When University of Maryland, College Park offered me a generous financial aid package and an assistantship that allowed me to get practical experience, I decided to go straight to graduate school. After finishing my master’s degree in higher education administration and international education, I was willing to move anywhere in the United States and landed at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign overseeing their $1.1M student green fund. Recognizing my desire to move closer to family, I started applying for a variety of positions in the northeast. I took a sustainability officer position at another institution before ending up here at Holy Cross. While I support networking, all the jobs I’ve been offered have come from online job applications.

4. What was your major and how did it affect your career decisions?

I majored in Environmental Studies and minored in Latin American, Caribbean, and Latino studies. I was, and still am, interested in sustainable development. However, I was leaning on my internship and co-curricular experiences far more than my major when thinking about my career. My major really came into play when I was a few weeks into my assistantship at UMD and my supervisor changed some of my job responsibilities to incorporate environmental stewardship, which aligned with the University’s goals. Otherwise, I’ve made career decisions based on experience, passion, and impact, rather than my major or course selections.

6. What skills are needed for the work you do?

Perseverance, active-listening, a willingness to learn new concepts quickly, and project development skills. The director of sustainability role is a generalist position, so some days I’m analyzing the phase out of R-22 refrigerants or writing a grant proposal while other days I’m helping students with a waste audit or creating social media graphics.

7. What advice do you have for students today?  

If you like multiple professional fields, it’s possible to work and/or stay connected across disciplines, especially over time. For instance, I currently work in environmental sustainability in my day-to-day job, but I support an emergency line in the summer for high school students traveling abroad for the first time, which feeds my interest in emergency management. Conferences, volunteer opportunities, consulting gigs, neighborhood projects, or starting a business are just some of the ways to engage in multiple professional fields. While I’ve held a few sustainability in higher education roles in a row, I’ve certainly explored positions in different areas because I like to merge potential impact, my skill set, and my passions.

Meet Alumna Ariel Baker ’18, Program Manager, New England Blacks in Philanthropy

Name: Ariel Baker

Class Year: 2018

Title: Program Manager

Organization Name: New England Blacks in Philanthropy

1. In one sentence, what does your job entail? 

Creating a narrative shift in the way that the Black community and Black wealth is seen inter-communally and at large.

2. What planned and unplanned events connected you to your industry and your first employer after Holy Cross? How did you learn/decide it was a good fit for you?  

I was connected to my current employer by a Holy Cross alum Jerome Daye ‘08, who is a mentor of one of my close friends that I also met a Holy across. I decided this role was for me because I knew it was a fantastic starting point in my career and a way for me to explore numerous fields that interested just by the very nature of the position. My organization is a bit of a start up, so I have been deeply entrenched in the operations of the organization as well as the more “client facing” aspects, such as events, networking on behalf of the org etc. I have been able to learn what experiences I enjoy and don’t, in order to continue shaping what exactly I would like my career trajectory to look like. 

3. What were you involved in when you were on campus?

Rhythm Nation Step Team


Inter House Council
Work Study

Study Abroad 

4. What was your major and how did it affect your career decisions?

Sociology. I have always been a “systems“ and “theory” person and understanding society from a sociological lens was just a natural fit for me. I am obviously extremely passionate about the way the Black community in particular functions in American society and when I had the chance to work for an organization with a mission like ours as well as to work for and be mentored by a Black woman this early in my career I jumped on the opportunity. 

5. What are one or two skills that you developed at Holy Cross that you use in your work?

1) Be firm in your approach but never to the point where you are difficult to work with. No one likes a know it all and as a new graduate you have to understand that you will not know much of anything actually. Approach all opportunities with an open mind but also with the confidence that graduating from an institution like Holy Cross has provided you. 

2) Never stop learning. There will always be something that you don’t know. 

6. What advice do you have for students on campus today?

Try everything at least once. If you have your eye set on one career path I encourage you to try the complete opposite (ex: hard sciences try something more creative and vice versa), just for the experience. You really never know what is out there for you so don’t limit yourself especially right now when you have so much support from Holy Cross.

Meet Alumna Melissa Cummings ’92, EVP and Chief Customer Officer

Name: Melissa Cummings

Class Year: 1992

Title: EVP and Chief Customer Officer

Organization Name: Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Rhode Island

1. In one sentence, what does your job entail? 

Lead the company’s business lines, responsible for growth and retention overseeing sales, account management, product development, marketing and brand, digital assets, operations, customer service and our retail footprint. 

2. What planned and unplanned events connected you to your industry and your first employer after Holy Cross? How did you learn/decide it was a good fit for you?  

I answered a job ad in the newsletter the HC Career Placement Office sent to new graduates for a job in NYC at a healthcare public relations firm. The hiring manager was a Holy Cross alum and she could attest to the value of the Holy Cross curriculum relative to thinking critically, writing effectively, considering alternatives and communicating with meaning.  We connected right away given our shared experience and preparation.  Public Relations was a great initial exposure to job that required strong writing, strong communication and creative skills My client base was an array of pharmaceutical, biotech and medical device companies and my “clients” were product managers in those firms, most of whom had a MBA.  I knew I could give better counsel to my clients if I had a richer appreciation of all the levers a product manager considered, beyond just public relations, so I attended business school and chose a degree specializing in healthcare management, which at the time was a newer and growing MBA discipline.  I went on to join a for profit health insurer in a MBA leadership development program designed to train general managers.  The notion of being a general manager is a theme I have carried throughout my career as I have had a wide array of varying leadership roles across the health insurer landscape.

My mom shaped my health interest – she was a nurse who left her career to raise kids and later returned to graduate school to receive her Master’s in Social Work and to this day is a private practice psychotherapist.  My dad shaped my business interest – he was a talented sales executive who later started his own business in the data communications space, his entrepreneurial spirit is a strong force for me. My work at UMass Medical Center while at Holy Cross in a community advocate role that I obtained because of a student run health and wellness program I was part of shaped my first exposure to recognizing the power of delivering health with care.

3. What were you involved in when you were on campus? 

I was a Resident Assistant, an Admissions ambassador, a peer minister, I worked as a server in the “Kimball Café” (is this even a thing anymore?  Faculty and staff ate in a café in lower Kimball) and a member of a student run nutrition and wellness organization.

4. What was your major and how did it affect your career decisions? 

I was a Psychology major after trying out Political Science and Economics.  The healthcare/business combination was clearly in me even then! 

5. What are one or two skills that you developed at Holy Cross that you use in your work? 

Critical thinking and curiosity as well as doing what is best for others and the community in which you live are two things that Holy Cross emphasized.  I am a learner at heart and Holy Cross fueled that for me.  I ask questions and am naturally curious and encourage that in those I work with on my team.  My interest in joining a not for profit insurer like Blue Cross is rooted in my appreciation of and commitment to giving back to the community, a core part of my experience at Holy Cross. 

6. What advice do you have for students on campus today? 

Take as many different classes as you can – spark your curiosity.  Find a way to give back to your student community or to the community at large by getting involved in something. Network.  Use the alumni resources the College has to offer to explore different career options, graduate school choices, fields of interest, whatever it may be.  No one ever said “no” to a networking request and it takes little preparation on the part of the person being asked.  It’s a great way to learn about pathways and the twists and turns each career typically includes and it often leads to additional networking introductions.

Meet Alum Peter McStravick ’13, Director – Global Digital Business

Name: Peter McStravick

Class Year: 2013

Title: Director – Global Digital Business, Partner Development

Organization Name: Sony Music Entertainment

1. In one sentence, what does your job entail?

In my role, we manage the global business relationship with music streaming companies and identify digital strategies to grow engagement with our labels’ content.

2. What planned and unplanned events connected you to your industry and your first employer after Holy Cross? How did you learn/decide it was a good fit for you?  

I got my first job at a boutique marketing agency through the Liberal Arts Career Network (LACN). I really enjoyed that problem solving nature of marketing strategy but was more interested in music and film.

And it was through another HC alum that I was first connected to the music industry. The career office put us in touch my senior year and over time led to the introduction of several other music and tech folks. Networking really helped me get a grasp of some of the industry levers, key questions, and the necessary skill set to navigate the space. With the music streaming boom, analytics became an increasingly important piece so I focused on developing this during grad school and internships.

3. What were you involved in when you were on campus?

 WCHC 88.1, Campus Ministry (i.e. retreats, Spring Break Immersion), The Crusader (student paper), Gateways Orientation, Battle of the Bands

4. What was your major and how did it affect your career decisions?

Music and Economics. Pretty straightforward!

5. What are one or two skills that you developed at Holy Cross that you use in your work?

It may sound simple but writing. 

A lot of my work today involves communicating analytical insights to people with limited technical knowledge. I really learned to shape my voice writing countless papers at Holy Cross – even in technical courses in economics and music theory. I think this challenged me back then and helped me get my thoughts/points across more effectively.

6. What advice do you have for students on campus today?

Two things: Make sure you focus on developing macro skills that will make you successful regardless of where you end up – these will carry you through your career. And then separately, build a plan around acquiring specific skills you need for the avenues you’re specifically interested in.