Meet Alumna Stephanie Schaefer Ford ’11, Senior Marketing Copywriter with Rue Gilt Groupe

Stephanie Schaefer Ford

Class Year: 2011

Title: Senior Marketing Copywriter

Organization Name: Rue Gilt Groupe

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

As a Senior Copywriter, I am responsible for crafting the stories that support Rue La La’s marketing initiatives, whether it be as straightforward as writing clever subject lines and push notifications for our daily sales, or as in-depth as conceptualizing an entire holiday campaign.

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?  

After graduation, I accepted a summer fellowship through the International Radio & Television Society in New York City. My spot was sponsored by The Hallmark Channel/Crown Media Networks and its CEO (Bill Abbot, Class of ‘84). It was an amazing experience and exposed me to the ins and outs of the industry.

Through the program, I interned in the marketing and publicity department of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, assisting with the promotion of films like The Help & Cars 2. During the course of the summer, I also attended seminars hosted by IRTS and media executives in various positions, ranging from ad sales to production. These meetings confirmed that I wanted my next role to involve creativity and writing, which eventually led me to pursue a position as an Editorial Assistant at an online magazine.

 

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

I was the Vice President of the English Honor Society and Co-Editor-in-Chief of The Purple Literary Magazine during my senior year. I also was involved with the Campus Activities Board (CAB), volunteered at Friendly House in Worcester through SPUD, and contributed articles to The Crusader Newspaper.

 

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

I majored in English, with a concentration in Creative Writing. I remember right before graduation, one of my favorite professors, Leah Cohen, asked us to respond to an article that said, “graduating with an English Degree is like going out into a storm without a coat.” I believe my response was something along the lines of “I’d rather go out coatless than wear one that isn’t my style.” Through my Holy Cross courses, I realized I wanted a career that would fulfill me creatively, but I wasn’t quite sure what that would be. English majors may not have a direct path, but that’s half the fun!

 

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

I’m fortunate that I get to hone the skills I developed in college every day. Holy Cross taught me to think outside of the box and express my voice, whether that be in an extensive 20-page thesis paper or a three-line poem for a Creative Writing class. These abilities are certainly valuable when you’re a Copywriter writing for a variety of different mediums.

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

Learn from every experience, big and small. Also, I think it’s important to be adaptable, but always stay true to your passions. Luckily, in today’s digital world that’s easier than ever. For instance, in my spare time, I contribute to Writer’s Bone, a podcast and website my husband co-founded, dedicated to writing. I’m fortunate to have a creatively fulfilling day job, but interviewing authors and screenwriters for the podcast allows me to hone a different set of skills. In addition to signing up for courses and extracurriculars that you’re passionate about, I’d encourage students to pick up a side hustle, start a blog, or do whatever it is that fuels your creative spirit.

 

 

Meet Alumna Justine Hill ’08, Independent Artist

Name: Justine Hill

Class Year: 2008

Title: Artist

Organization Name: Self-Employed

 

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

As an artist, most of my job is spent working in my studio making new artwork for both exhibition and sale.

 

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?  

As with most artists I know, I’ve had many non-art-related jobs. But I am grateful for two jobs that helped me connect better to the arts community in New York.

My first was an internship for the artist Mickalene Thomas. At the time she was working towards a large show at the Brooklyn Museum and needed extra help. I only worked there for a few months, but it gave me a huge insight to different ways artists can function and run their studio practices.

The second job was at Denny Gallery (now Denny Dimin Gallery). It was one of those great serendipitous moments at an exhibition opening (which I went to constantly when I first moved to New York, and still do for that matter) when the owner was saying she was looking to hire help. I interviewed that week and worked there for four years. I learned invaluable information about the inside workings of a gallery and the commercial art world from that job. I no longer work there but they now represent me as an artist so it’s still a growing relationship.

 

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

I probably wouldn’t be classified as a joiner while at Holy Cross. But I was involved in GESSO the student gallery in Hogan, I was a Publicity Chair for CAB (Campus Activities Board), and my last year I worked at the Cantor Art Gallery.

 

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

I was declared a studio art major and I believe also a math major when I first arrived at Holy Cross. However, I quickly only want to take art classes and tried to find ways to take as many as I could. I had no idea what career I was going to have.

 

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

I feel in order to answer this I should explain more of what my job entitles, because I certainly did not know this when I got to Holy Cross.

It’s certainly true that most of my time is working on new artwork and projects in my studio. This involves sketching, planning, building panels and painting. I spend a lot of time researching and looking at art in galleries, museums, and at other artists’ studios so I always know what is happening around me and what has happened before me. I also spend more time than I realize on general correspondence and logistics such as shipping, packing and installing artwork. And as with all professions, networking is very important and something I am constantly trying to be better at.

Where I am still very grateful to Holy Cross, is when I am in my studio. Many of the small decisions I constantly make are rooted in what I was taught at school. Decisions such as material choices and being conscious of scale. But also the advice that the first idea is not usually the best and one sketch is helpful but twenty would be much more helpful.

I received great practical advice in my studio classes but perhaps the most important skill they encouraged was to be extremely self-critical. This constantly helps me as an artist and as an entrepreneur.

 

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

Make the most of your time on campus. And what I mean by that is gather as much information and advice from your professors as you can because it’s very hard to find that type of an honest and open mentor relationship after school.

But also, be honest with yourself and realistic about the type of life you hope to lead. I love being an artist and wouldn’t change it for the world, but I may never be financially stable and might live in a studio apartment for the rest of my life!

Meet Alum Eric Butler ’06, Director of Development, edX / Founder, Final Bow Productions

Name: Eric Butler

Year: 2006

Title: Director of Development, edX & Founder, Final Bow Productions

 

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

Building relationships with individuals, foundations, and corporations and fundraising and investing in both the nonprofit EdTech sector and the commercial Broadway and national and international tour market.

 

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? 

The Holy Cross Advancement Office was my first employer! As a recipient of scholarship both in undergraduate and graduate school, I had a first-hand appreciation for the work and mission of the Advancement Office helping provide the college with the resources to make the Holy Cross experience better for each generation to come. Advancement and educational fundraising was an industry that I fell into – but one I grew to love as I developed rewarding, personal relationships with alumni and donors who helped the College and my other alma mater, Saint John’s High School, fulfill their missions. Now, I’m part of a whole new frontier in edTech as I seek funding and investments to transform education and democratize the educational experience at scale, globally. While my career in Advancement was somewhat unplanned, my “side hustle” in the commercial theater has been somewhat more strategic and purposeful with wonderful mentorships, support, and invitations to participate coming from some of Broadway’s most successful lead producers. I’ve found the Broadway community to be incredibly accessible and helpful – everyone remembers what it was like starting out and they are all happy to be part of your future success. Theater is a collaborative art form and I’m happy to see that the same holds true for the business of Broadway.

 

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

Fenwick Theater, ACT, College Honors, SPUD, campus ministry retreats, Alpha Sigma Nu

 

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

I double-majored in Psychology and Theater. In many ways, the psychology major helped guide me toward business school. Sitting in a Marketing Analytics or Brand and Product Management class was not much different than taking a psychology statistics or research course – the methodology behind studying human behavior and consumer behavior is identical. All the tools (e.g. SPSS) are the same!  I think my experiences fundraising and in business coupled with my passion for the theater helped naturally lead me toward investing/producing commercial theater.

 

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

Strong writing skills will be valuable to you throughout your life. Whether composing an email, writing a blog entry, or constructing a 20 page proposal for an eight-figure philanthropic contribution – it is very important to communicate clearly and intelligently to a professional audience.

 

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

Take advantage of all that Holy Cross has to offer from its alumni network to its career development office. Since I graduated, HC has really expanded the professional and career preparation opportunities it offers to its students. If there is an industry that interests you, explore it now through an internship or first entry level job. Having experience (even at the lowest level) will make all the difference in the ability to start a career in the industry of your choice.

Meet Alumna Abaigeal Healy ’11, Communication & Change Management Consultant, Willis Towers Watson

Name: Abaigeal Heally

Class Year: 2011

Title: Communication & Change Management Consultant

Organization Name: Willis Towers Watson

 

In one sentence, what does your job entail?

I develop and implement communication strategies and employee engagement tools to help large organizations enhance their total employee experience.

 

What planned and unplanned events connected you to your industry and your first employer after Holy Cross?

 Several extra-curricular activities connected me to the communications industry and the business world, including:

  • Pre-Business club and its accompanying networking events – this is how I learned about EMC, which was my first job after Holy Cross; I spoke up during a Q&A session and afterward an alumni and employee of EMC encouraged me to apply to their Marketing Development Program
  • Summer Internship Program (SIP) – I had two fantastic internships where I worked alongside Holy Cross alumni, one of them who was the CEO of the company at the time
  • Communications and Advertising Club (now called the Agency, I believe)
  • Alumni panel where I explored fields I might be interested in
  • Holy Cross sponsored Career Fairs

 

What were you involved in when you were on campus?

Besides some of the career-focused activities, I noted above, I studied abroad for a year in Ireland. This was a unique opportunity that provided me with fresh perspectives – it set me apart from other candidates when applying for jobs who studied for just a semester or so. I have been able to apply my experiences from my year abroad to every job I have had since graduating. Having, since worked at three global companies, I find this continues to be an important part of my career – working at a company that’s involved in international projects and seeks to understand global perspectives.

I was also involved with the Jesuit community at Holy Cross, having served as a Eucharistic minister.

 

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

I was a Psychology major and Studio Art Minor. I knew I enjoyed studying people, especially, emotional intelligence. I wanted to mix my interest in Psychology with my passion for design. That naturally led me to explore marketing and branding. What I learned after several internships was that writing was a way to influence people, and if you do it right, you can change behaviors. This was exciting to me! I wanted to be able to use my degree and what I knew about cognitive processes and apply that to the real world – to the everyday working person, employees.

That’s when I learned more about Communications and all the different hats that Communications people wear at corporations. Communications is a job where you use words and visuals to reach and inform the everyday consumer – the employee (you and me) on all sorts of topics from announcements like leadership changes to new benefit programs. As a consultant, I help companies all over the world do this. It’s always changing and I get to learn about lots of news, workplaces and cultures!

 

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

 The obvious ones are time management, project management and writing skills. The more philosophical one that Holy Cross encouraged me to develop was my ability to question. Challenging the status quo is the approach I take to solve everyday business problems.

 

What advice do you have for students on campus today?

 I recently went to the Massachusetts Women’s Conference and saw Elizabeth Gilbert speak, the author of Eat, Pray, Love, and she said the one thing we all need to do more of is RELAX. I thought this was such a simple bit of advice, but so profound. She said, the next time you are in a meeting, look around an observe everyone. The most powerful person in the room is the most relaxed. As students and as alumni, we all are working so hard, and we should continue to push ourselves to our fullest, but if you feel like you can’t do it all that day, just take a breath, and know it’s all going to be alright! Make sure you have a strong support system and you take the time to prioritize those people. Wellbeing is becoming an ever more important part of work/life culture, if you don’t have your health physically and mentally, we can’t be our best selves. So during your next moment of stress or anxiety, remember… just RELAX! It’s all going to be alright.

Meet Alumna, Sarah Jensen ’08, Director Ad Sales- Crown Media Family Networks

Sarah Jensen, Feb. 18, 2016 Photo by Bruce Gilbert

Title: Director, Ad Sales

Organization Name: Crown Media Family Networks

In one sentence, what does your job entail?

I am responsible for selling commercial time on Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, digital inventory across our digital and social properties and monetizing the many unique sponsorship opportunities that we offer across our platforms during the year, especially within our original movies, original series and seasonal holiday events.

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?  

Holy Cross’ alumni network, Crusader Connections, enabled me to make connections with alumni in the media, advertising and communications industries. Through my outreach, I was able to set up many informational interviews with alumni to learn about their roles and responsibilities as I tried to decide the direction in which I wanted to move in my career. Coincidentally, one of my informational interviews with an alumnus of Crown Media Family Networks, which ultimately led me to the opportunity to begin my career in media.

What were you involved in when you were on campus?

On campus, I was a member of Fools on the Hill, the College’s only co-ed a cappella group. I also was very involved in Campus Ministry, participating and/or leading retreats like Escape, Manresa and the Spiritual Exercises. I was also in the MAGIS program and the church choir, often leading the 10pm Mass in song.

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

As a Spanish major, I was unsure about the career path I wanted to take after graduation. Knowing I did not want to be a teacher, I was not sure how to best put my major to use in my professional life. My first job after Holy Cross was at a translation company. However, after soon realizing that it was not the right fit, I knew I may have to open myself up to other industries and opportunities to find my place. Despite not working in a role that obviously utilizes my Spanish major, the skills I developed through my major and experience studying abroad for a year in Leon, Spain positively impacted my career decisions and helped me secure a position at Crown Media Family Networks even though I do not use Spanish on a daily basis.

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

My ability to write and communicate clearly and effectively has been essential to my work every day. It not only helps me internally among my colleagues, but it helps tremendously in my outreach to clients and in my ability to establish better relationships with them. Also, thinking creatively continues to help me find success, especially when it comes to finding solutions for my clients.

What advice do you have for students on campus today?

Work hard and soak up as much information and as many unique experiences as you can. Everything you do at Holy Cross helps prepare you for the professional world. Once ready to look for a job, be as prepared as you can be as you go into each interview and as you communicate with people throughout the process. First impressions stick!

Meet Alumna Lorena Sferlazza ’15, Artist / Educator at Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA)

Meet Alumna Lorena Sferlazza ’15, Artist / Educator at Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA)

 

Name: Lorena Sferlazza

Class Year: 2015

Title: Artist, Educator

Organization Name: Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA)

Portfolio: www.lorenasferlazza.com, Instagram @lorenasferlazza https://www.instagram.com/lorenasferlazza/

 

In brief, what does your job entail?

I am a painter, photographer, and reflective thinker completing a Master of Fine Arts in May 2019 and assistant teaching at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) in Philadelphia, our nation’s first art school and museum. Prior to PAFA, I worked at Sotheby’s in New York City for two years as a front-of-house financial administrator, facilitating the payment, collection, and shipment of artwork post-auction. On a personal note, I am a plant-based eater, runner, and continue to remotely assist fundraising efforts as a founding member for Kal-Pa-Vriksh “The Giving Tree” 501(c)3 Nonprofit, which benefits education for disadvantaged youth in India and the U.S. (http://www.kal-pa-vriksh.org/).

 

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?  

Over the summer after I graduated, a close friend from Holy Cross knew I was looking for work in the auction industry in New York City, because I had interned at an auction house while studying abroad for a year in Florence, Italy. She sent me the initial contact information, and five interviews later, I landed a job at Sotheby’s. I ended up working in two departments during my time there before realizing that the industry would not suit my long term career goals. I needed to get back into creating my own artwork and have meaningful conversations about the significance of art-making in today’s world. That is when I decided to honor my long-held dream of pursuing an MFA, the terminal degree in the Visual Arts required for teaching in higher education, which is ultimately what I’m looking to do. I’m very grateful for my experience at Sotheby’s, and it took a lot of courage for me to leave. Though with a scholarship to the Academy and a gut feeling it was the right decision, I moved to Philly last year for graduate school.

 

What were you involved in when you were on campus?

I was very involved on campus, in part because I had so many interests and also because I loved the community. Academically, I participated in the College Honors and Pre-Business programs, tutored Italian, and represented C.O.E.S. (Ciocca Office of Entrepreneurial Studies) and the Visual Arts department on their student advisory boards. I also served in HC’s faith-based gatherings as a liturgical coordinator, lector, R.C.I.A. mentor, worship leader for adoration, Taizé, and interfaith prayer, and participated in the many retreats, Spring Break Immersion trips, and freshly baked cookie binges that Campion had to offer. Recreationally, I enjoyed performing with friends at our acoustic 10Spot sets in Hogan, talking to prospective students as a tour guide and outreach coordinator for Admissions, cooking for the Italian department’s annual Pasta Olympics, dancing in the annual Noche Latina and UP 4 THE FIGHT Dance Marathons, and playing pick-up soccer games.

 

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

My critical study of language at Holy Crossvisual, spoken, and writtenserves as the root of my artistic practice. I graduated with a double major in Visual Arts (Studio) and Italian (Linguistics and Literature) from the College Honors Program, through which I completed an interdisciplinary thesis, Addressing the Wound: An Artistic Exploration of Human Pain. Several courses led me to this thesis, including Dr. Christopher Dustin’s Philosophy of Art, Dr. Mathew Schmalz’s Religion and Violence, visiting professor Rev. A. Maria Arul Raja’s Dalits: Theology of the Oppressed, and Prof. Cristi Rinklin’s Senior Studio Concentration Seminar. My research began a persistent inquiry for me on the relevance of art-making in healing after trauma, negotiating the past, recognizing our temporality, and building a sustainable world in the face of crisis. At its core, my understanding of art-making is both a meditative practice and socially engaged tool that provokes our most innate knowledge of who we are, through visceral language that words often fail to express. This purpose both excites and challenges my career as an artist.

 

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

Thinking critically and interdisciplinarily are the two most impactful skills I developed while at Holy Cross. Being an artist requires you to probe beyond yourself, from most intensely inwards to keenly outwards with an inquisitive mind. Why create the way you do? What is your purpose and relevance to contemporary justice issues? How can your craft improve technically and conceptually to better relay your intended message? In graduate school at PAFA, these are the questions we dissect the most, through our studio work, thesis writing, weekly faculty-student critiques, seminars, visiting artist lectures, teaching assistantship opportunities, and peer discussions over food after hours. These are the questions that I’m excited to continue examining through a teaching career in higher education.

 

What advice do you have for students on campus today?

Pursue your passions and forge your own path. Participate in activities that fulfill you, not to resume build, but to enrich your mind and friendships along the way. If you have the chance, study abroad. I grew the most during my time away. Be honest with and take care of yourself: you cannot pour from an empty cup. Savor every Cool Beans conversation, late night run around the track, snowstorm lock down and Kimball tray sledding excursion, roommate coffee breaks during all-nighters in the Dinand stacks, and extended office hours with professors who care, because your time on the hill is precious. Be excited for your journey!

Meet Alumna Lilse McKenna ’11, Founder of Lilse McKenna Inc.

 

Meet Alumna Lilse McKenna ’11, Founder of Lilse McKenna Inc.

 

Name: Lilse Rodgers McKenna

Class Year: 2011

Title: Founder

Organization Name: Lilse McKenna Inc

 

In one sentence, what does your job entail?

As the founder of a residential interior design firm my job entails everything from reviewing architectural drawings and overseeing contractors, to drawing furniture plans, designing furniture and scheming rooms, to managing the orders, timelines, and installations for a project.

 

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?  

 

During my senior year at Holy Cross I had big plans to go to law school.  At the time I thought that it would be the most logical and practical fit for me, and I took the LSAT class offered at Holy Cross to prepare for the exam.  We were encouraged to take study breaks in between practice tests, and I found myself filling that time with interior design magazines like House Beautiful, Veranda, and Architectural Digest, and countless design blogs.

 

After taking the LSAT and starting to pull together my applications for law school I realized my heart wasn’t in it.  Since long before the LSAT I’d enjoyed reading about and discussing interior design with my grandmother, and she and my mother both believed I had shown some innate talent in decorating. My Mom had often suggested I pursue it as a career, but I had the impression that most successful designers had degrees in interior design or a lifestyle that enabled them to open a firm “for fun.”

 

After graduation I applied for jobs in advertising and marketing, but nothing really felt like the right fit.  In a moment of frustration with the job search process I googled the phone number for the office of my favorite interior designer at the time and asked if they needed an intern.  They asked how soon I could start.

 

Within the first week of the internship, I knew I’d found the right career fit for me in interior design.  Suddenly all of the knowledge I’d accumulated about interior design throughout my life, which I’d long thought was useless and just a hobby, had real value.  I also started to see the opportunity to put another interest of mine, business and entrepreneurship, to use.  I come from a family of entrepreneurs, and just as my knowledge of interior design had been somewhat subliminal, so too was my understanding of work and business through the lens of an entrepreneur.   Having an understanding of how entrepreneurs think and operate gave me a leg up as an intern, and later an employee, of small business owners.  I soon found out that neither a degree in design nor a large trust fund were necessary to start a successful interior design business.

 

What were you involved in when you were on campus?

I volunteered at Dismas House, was a club chair for the Comunications, Advertising & Marketing Club, and interned for the Public Affairs office.

 

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

I was an English major and I think my creative writing classes gave me some insight into how much I enjoyed creative work.  The time I spent working on the assignments for those classes flew by, even when the assignments were difficult.

 

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

While I was at Holy Cross I learned to be very disciplined about my time because I found that the school work load would sneak up on me if I wasn’t consistently setting aside time at the library.  In my industry it is very easy to be distracted by the creative part of the job and put the paperwork on the backburner.  Unfortunately that is probably the quickest way to go out of business, so in life as in school I try to set aside specific time dedicated to the paperwork.

 

What advice do you have for students on campus today?

Trust your instincts when it comes to your future.  Don’t force a career choice, or any choice for that matter, solely because it appears to be the most pragmatic.  If it doesn’t feel right it isn’t, and you should take the time to find what is right for you.  Also, pay attention to what interests you, even the things you think of as silly hobbies or the curiosities you take for granted.  Today more than ever there is value in being an expert in a specialized field, so why not take advantage of that?