Spencer Caron

Today marks the third time I unpacked my car to move into a new room at Holy Cross. Classes begin Wednesday, meaning I have a couple of days to gather my thoughts before my busiest semester thus far commences. Taking a fifth course will inevitably introduce challenges that I had not experienced during the last two years, but I don’t wish too over emphasize the negatives; I am tremendously excited for the upcoming semester on the Hill.

For one, I am directing all of my focus towards my major in philosophy and minor in neuroscience. I completed all of my common area requirements last spring, meaning I will be taking more upper level courses within my chosen courses of study. I am perhaps most excited about my Philosophy of Mind course, which will in itself bridge the gap between philosophy and modern neuroscience.
This coming semester is also special to me since I will be heading to Washington, D.C. in the spring. Semesters fly by, so I want to make a conscious effort to enjoy the day-to-day before I say goodbye to my roommate and good friends until next fall.

Amidst the work that comes with my normal academic courses I will be competing as a part of the Moot Court Team this fall and winter. This year’s case involves a female college professor who–upon being rejected from the law school, despite less qualified male applicants being admitted–was fired for speaking negatively about the state school system that both employed and rejected her. The case calls into question her first and fourteenth amendment rights. Out of the three cases I have seen since being a member of the team, this is the most fascinating. Lastly, I will be slowly-but-surely completing applications to different internships in D.C. I plan on applying to a handful of think tanks and a few publications. My top choices currently are the Cato Institute, the Federalist Society, and ReasonTV magazine. Regardless of the internship I am fortunate enough to get, I still have a busy, fun, and rewarding semester ahead of me. It is time to begin another year.

Throughout a given week, it is safe to assume that Holy Cross students are busy.  There is reading to keep up with, friends to see, and extracurricular activities in which to take part.  However, the month of April, in my experience, has to be one of the busiest times of the year.  Not only is work picking up as finals approach (faster than many of us would like to think about), but it is also the month in which next year’s courses are picked, study abroad details are ironed out, and rooming plans are solidified. Add a few scholarship options and internships deadlines into the mix, and it’s no wonder that Dinand seems a little busier than usual.

With this being said, I think campus as a collective is looking forward to warmer weather.  The change from grey and cold to a bit brighter and warmer invariably lightens the mood.  When walking to class is enjoyable rather than painful like it is in the dead of winter, it is a lot easier to think about the quickly-approaching summer plans.  While we are still waiting on this nicer weather, the event held in the Hogan Ballroom, “Halfway to Someday” this past Monday lifted spirits and rejuvenated sophomore students in a different way than the weather will.  This event, sponsored by Dean Zuckerman, Associate Dean for Student Affairs , included a catered dinner, a speaker from a recently graduated HC class, and a video compilation put together by a class of 2020 student.

The video included a handful of my classmates discussing where they see themselves a few years from now.  Some made mention of specific career paths they would like to pursue, but a majority referenced the type of life they would like to live.  Common to many responses was a desire to serve others and live a reflective, meaningful life.   During a time when day to day life can seem like little more than ticking off boxes, it was nice to hear my classmates talk about purpose, the very thing that drives students here to work as hard as they do.  The evening reminded me of the importance of savoring the last few weeks on campus, despite the laundry list of things that need to be accomplished before leaving.  After all, half of my Holy Cross career is completed in less than 30 days.  What better time than to take a second and reflect amidst the April rush.

 

From Thanksgiving on, study abroad is one of the most discussed topics on Campus among second year students.  While not technically an “abroad” program, the semester in Washington D.C. is one of the opportunities students discuss in the winter and spring months.  In my opinion, the Washington Semester is one offering that distinguishes Holy Cross from some other similar liberal arts colleges.

The program lasts for one semester.  Roughly half of the students accepted to the program go to D.C in the fall, while the other half attend the spring semester.  Holy Cross has deep connections in Washington, meaning the internships that many current students apply to are places at which other Holy Cross students have made strong impressions.  One can find a list of just some of the impressive internships that past Holy Cross students have had here.

The program consist basically of three parts.  First, every student takes a public policy seminar.  Second, each student completes an internship. Third, each student completes a 40-50 page research thesis about their respective internship.  Irrespective of the nature of their work experience, it is easy to see how the Washington Semester would prove to be an invaluable experience for any student considering a life in law, politics, policy, academia, etc.  It shows a great deal of responsibility and academic promise if a student can manage an intensive seminar, a full time internship in D.C. and complete a substantial writing assignment.  Even students interested in public or global health should apply, as there are plenty of internships in Washington relating to health care and medical ethics, to name just a few.

Internships and career- related work experience are aspects of college life that can sometimes be stressful.  Over the summer, many students are looking for something paid.  The great thing about the Washington Semester is that it is built right into one’s academic year.  It is one’s only focus during one semester of junior year.  When else would it be feasible for anyone not local to the D.C. area to spend 14 weeks in one of the busiest cities in the nation?  The Washington Semester is just example of how strong the Holy Cross network is.  Take advantage of it if you find yourself here!

At Holy Cross, the “grace” period between arriving back on campus and being busy once again is as short as the winter break is long.  Many Holy Cross students joke about the lack of “syllabus week,” but many are ready to jump right back into their lives at HC after being on break for over a month.  Winter break, especially for sophomores, is a popular time for job shadows with HC alumni and service trips to underserved areas here and abroad.  Upon arriving back on campus, one hears chatter about every students unique break experience.

At the outset of the semester everyone is excited to take on their new classes and set a routine that will take them into the spring months. Last semester’s lunch and dinner schedule might not remain the same, but the fresh faces you see walking from class to class is a welcome change.  Familiar friends are eager to have another great semester considering many students have just sent their applications to the study abroad programs of which they hope to be a part their junior year.

Whereas the first semester of sophomore year felt a bit strange insofar as the “newness” of freshman year has worn off, the second semester of sophomore year brings with it a new sense of purpose.  One’s major needs to be chosen by the end of this year, and many students have either joined a new organization or become a well known part of one they were in last year.  Personally, I had a successful season as a part of the Moot Court team  (I encourage you to “meet the coaches” on the web page!) as my partner and I finished top 40 in the country at the National Tournament in Dallas, TX.  More importantly, the Moot Court team is something I have felt more connected to thus far this year.  Being involved on top of the workload can be a lot at times, but the personal rewards of staying with an activity year after year are invaluable.

After a very busy second semester, I was ready to enjoy a relaxing break in sleepy Belchertown, MA.  Just recently I cleaned out any messages pertaining to fall semester from my email inbox and cleaned out my backpack.  Until the New Year, I, and I believe most of my classmates, will be spending a majority of their time off relaxing with friends and family.  With this being said, Holy Cross students have a very generous break, meaning many choose to partake in something academic before classes resume.

A popular activity that I  and many other sophomores and juniors take part in is the Alumni Job Shadow Program sponsored by the Center for Career Development.  This program pairs you with a Holy Cross alumnus in a specified field of interest.  For example, I curated a short list of alumni that I would like to shadow in the field of law and I was recently matched with a woman who is the Presiding Justice over the Trial Court of the Commonwealth.  You contact the alumnus, set up a date and spend a full day witnessing what it is like to be in that field for a brief time.   I am very excited to meet my day host in early January.

Besides the Job Shadow Program, many students will be reaching out to professionals they know in their area for internships or just to ask career related questions.  Sophomore year is a strange time, for it is often times a bit too early to have decided precisely what field to which one would like to belong.  However, unlike freshman year, the winter break seems to long to simply relax for the entire month.  Therefore, it is suggested to do something career related no matter how “unofficial” since the semester is so busy that is renders career searching nearly impossible.  Holy Cross gives you a long break so use it both to recharge and hone in on your career aspirations!

Liberal arts students are good at adapting to changing times. Academic fields change and employers expect different skills now than they did just ten years ago. Holy Cross understands this, and allows students to design their own major if they so choose.  Offering the neuroscience minor is another way Holy Cross ensures that its liberal arts student body will be attractive job applicants.

Of course there are majors that seem to most naturally pair with a neuroscience minor, but having a working knowledge of the brain is indispensable for anyone as the field of neuroscience rapidly influences more and more disciplines.  Very few psychologists can avoid neuroscience altogether, and the average medical doctor need at least be in tune with neuroscience discoveries so as to be informed about mental health issues and treatments.

Personally, I have declared a philosophy major with a neuroscience minor.  While the pair may seem perplexing at first, there is no doubting the fact that both disciplines ask many of the same questions.  What can make us happy? To what extent do we have free will? and many other intriguing questions are posed and sometimes answered by both disciplines.  From a more practical standpoint, those who pair the neuroscience minor with a humanity or art will graduate with the ability to read and write critically and solve empirical problems.

The neuroscience minor is fulfilled if a student takes six approved courses from three different disciplines.   One can fulfill the minor in many different ways.  I plan on taking biology, psychology, chemistry and philosophy courses to fulfill the minor, but some of my classmates are including more physics and computer science in their course load. The decision is up to you, but something all neuroscience minors will have in common is an understanding of a rapidly expanding field that will prove to be an important input in many of society’s mental health and social problems.

Moot Court is relatively new to the undergraduate world, only being offered in a competitive setting starting in 2001.  Compared to Mock trial’s long legacy of being a popular prelaw activity at the undergraduate level, it is no wonder many do not know exactly what Moot Court is.  Put simply, Moot Court is simulated Supreme Court argumentation in which “advocates” use real United States Supreme Court case law to argue a position regarding a fictitious case.  The American Moot Court Association creates an engaging case every year, left intentionally controversial in order to foster robust debate come competition time.

Holy Cross prides itself on being the seventh strongest Moot Court team in the country.  This is due in large part to the bright students which the college attracts, but the team is lucky enough to have two HC alumni who are practicing attorneys as coaches.  Moreover, members of the Holy Cross moot court team have a track record of attending some of the nation’s top law schools such as Columbia and Notre Dame, to name a few.

Joining Moot Court at HC has many benefits, but two particularly compelling reasons are the fun you will have travelling and competing with the team, and the acquisition of a deeper understanding of what life in law school might be like.  To comment on the former, I have found my trip to Colorado for an invitational tournament hosted by Colorado Christian University to be one of the most fun experiences of my time at HC thus far.  To be able to compete against other great schools as see another part of the country free of charge was truly remarkable.

Lastly, law school tuition costs an exorbitant amount of money per year, and one would rationally want to ensure that it is something one wants to embark upon before taking on this debt.  With this being said, Moot Court at the undergraduate level is perhaps the best litmus test for whether one should apply to law school since the exact activity is something in which many law schools require students participate throughout their post graduate education.   Thus, joining the Moot Court team is a win-win; if one enjoys their time immensely, then they can apply to law school with a more settled mind.  If the activity is not appealing, then one has ample time to deliberate applying to law school and investigate other fields.

 

 

All students at Holy Cross are bright and academically motivated. These two criteria are prerequisites for being accepted to the College. With this being said, Holy Cross offers a College Honors Program for a select group of especially curious students aimed at offering  more chances to further explore their academic interests. The program includes two seminars and a handful of honors colloquia. The culminating aspect of the program is a self-selected senior thesis project completed with the guidance of a Holy Cross professor.

Being invited to the Honors Program is something that comes as a surprise to many second year students.  One comes into the college excited to do well and find classes about which they are passionate.  Even without knowing that the Honors Program exists, some rising sophomores will be pleasantly surprised to find an invitation to apply to the program in their email inbox.  One should work hard and become involved in the community regardless, but knowing that an invitation to an exclusive program comes as early as the beginning of sophomore year is one more reason to immediately invest one’s self in the Holy Cross community

If one is fortunate enough to get accepted to the program, one is able to work towards completing a graduate school level thesis concerning a topic of their choosing.  The thesis can be related to their major if one so chooses, but this is not mandatory.  Important to note is the fact that the Honors Program does not award one many “perks”.  In other words, there is not necessarily a palpable reward for being a part of the program.  Instead, one is able to explore one’s academic interests more rigorously and in more depth.  That particular question that has been raised in many classes, or a difficult topic one is struggling to form an opinion about can serve as fodder for a thesis.  One is hard pressed to think of a more rewarding undergraduate academic experience than producing a thesis one has worked on for a full year.  Thus, first year students have more than enough reason to dive head first into their studies and fully explore the questions they may have.

 

How good is the food? Is a common question asked on all of the tours and overnight stays that Holy Cross offers. While food may not be one of the first things that comes to mind when considering which school to attend, once one has curated a short list of viable college options, food becomes a potential deciding factor.  With this being said, Holy Cross’s dining has consistently been getting better over the last few years.

As a freshman, I asked a senior student in my Chinese class how the current dining experience compares to when he was a freshman.  He said that the difference is massive.  He highlighted specifically the large increase in the number of choices one has on a daily basis.  I only have two years to use for comparison’s sake, but I too, have witnessed an improvement in selection and quality of food. 

Kimball, the main dining hall, has to represent the overall dining experience at Holy Cross since that is where a majority of students eat the most meals.  Over just one year, Kimball has significantly increased the vegetarian and vegan options, cut down on their use of sodium, added many great options to the salad bar and started offering new, unique entrees.  Moreover, Kimball is using ingredients normally found in expensive health food store such as tempeh, farro and quinoa.   A healthy option that has been improved is the salad bar.   This year the salad bar has regularly offered avocado and hummus, two very popular options. 

Of course, Kimball is still offering the crowd favorites such chicken parm, steak and cheese and improved grilled chicken.  No matter what type of food to which one is referring, Kimball has committed itself to a healthy and sustainable initiative that looks to source more local ingredients, use more whole foods and less oil and salt.  This is great news for Holy Cross as an institution, and those students considering attending. Holy Cross’s academics set it apart from other schools, but the food is in no way a weakness.

Many Holy Cross students joke about how they erase a large mass of emails before reading them just to keep their inbox somewhat organized.  However, Holy Cross students are more likely to be interested by a great majority of emails, especially in the first few weeks on campus.  Sure, there is the type of email that simply never pertains to your particular interests, but from personal experience, checking my email has been one of the most important parts of my day.

For Sophomores, the emails often times will contain new information. Maybe they had never heard of a club or activity as a freshman on campus, but now feel excited to join right away. The more common sentiment among sophomores is that deadlines for a litany of exciting programs are quickly approaching, be it the Honors Program, SPUD, or the widely popular study abroad program.  

While freshman students should surely be thinking of these programs and opportunities, the sophomore class is in the midst of completing the paper work and thinking long and hard about what programs are right for them.  The freshman class is finding out that every hour that passes, brings with it at least five emails.  Within those emails is an almost endless list of programs, clubs, activities to be a part of, and resources to make use of.  There seems to be a few main mantras on campus.  One being that it is best to take part in a lot of things freshman year in order to explore interests, both old and new.   Others say that freshman year is a time to get into a routine and that joining extracurricular activities brings unnecessary stress.  While there may be merits to both schools of thoughts in isolated cases, I have found that common sense and introspection lead to a healthy balance.

More specifically, a freshman student may find out quickly that four classes do take a lot of time out of the day.  One may also find that their roommate is their new best friend and love the hour or so before bed when the day is discussed.  This means that there may not be enough time in the day to accommodate a laundry list of extracurriculars.  So, a simple way to go about getting involved and attending the information sessions sent via email is to think critically about what one really wants to be involved with, and how many hours of expendable time they have in a given day.  If this means a freshman student can join one extracurricular, then that is perfectly fine!  Many Holy Cross students are very busy.  But a more defining feature of a Crusader is how meaningfully they are engaged in their activities, whether they belong to one extracurricular or many.

 

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Spencer Caron '20

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