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Holy Cross reflects on transition

Laura Vilim | Tuesday, April 27, 2004

As the 2003-04 school year draws to a close, students and faculty at Holy Cross College are beginning to look back on a year of historical change that brought about the transition of the junior college to an institution that now offers a four-year baccalaureate program.The introduction of the four-year program – the first in the college’s 36-year history – has been largely successful in its initial year from both administrative and student perspectives. According to Justin Watson, the program’s director, the implementation of the new academic track has gone smoothly for the first class of 15 students due to the outstanding faculty at Holy Cross.”The courses have gone well, but then we thought they would,” Watson said. “After all, our professors are both experts in their fields and dedicated to teaching, so coursework plays to HCC’s strength: the faculty.”However, it has been more difficult to define the program in terms of making it distinct from those of the other four-year institutions in the surrounding area, Watson said. One unique component of HCC’s baccalaureate track is that enrolled students do not choose one major but instead receive a liberal arts education by taking the same set of multidisciplinary courses with some electives. This standard set of courses is then supplemented with required participation in a study-abroad experience, an internship and a service-learning project.”What have been challenging are the aspects of our program that make it distinct, such as the emphasis on career development and internships,” Watson said. “That’s something we didn’t have as much experience in, but through a recent $750,000 Lilly Grant, HCC has hired Tim Ryan to head the College’s new Lilly Career Development Center.”Like Watson, Holy Cross students have also found the addition of the baccalaureate program to be successful, and they welcome its further development. Students admitted to the four-year track are pleased with the new opportunities that are now available to them, and those earning associate degrees appreciate the smoothness with which the new program as been implemented.”The four-year program is a natural outgrowth from the two-year program, and I think this is what our student have most appreciated,” Watson said. “The four-year program has many of the same positive HCC attributes as does the two-year program, primarily faculty and staff whocommit themselves to an active role in the individual lives of the College’s students.”Holy Cross sophomore and newly elected student body president Joseph Lafferty is one of only five students who have been accepted to the baccalaureate program thus far. Lafferty said the application process is much more complex than it was for the Associates Degree because of the demanding nature of the four-year track. However, he looks forward to the new challenges with which he has been presented.”I was always interested in hearing about Holy Cross becoming a four-year school since I was a freshmen, and when they [the Holy Cross administration] finally made the decision, I knew the program would be right for me,” Lafferty said. Sophomore Michael Flaherty, who will be Vice Student Body President for the 2004-05 school year, has also been accepted to the program and, like Lafferty, is looking forward to taking part in its unique aspects. “When I enrolled to Holy Cross as a freshman, I heard a rumor of a four year program being created,” Flaherty said. “I talked to a few mentors and decided that this innovative program was exactly what I wanted to engage myself in. All the programs here at Holy Cross are unique, but the close bond that the students and faculty have here is not like any other college I have ever seen before.”Lafferty and Flaherty have both chosen to focus on business, marketing and advertising for the next two years, areas of study that can be more deeply experienced through internship opportunities.”By completing the baccalaureate program, I have access to services which will help me find an internship, develop job search skills, and find a job after graduation,” Lafferty said.Lafferty and Flaherty agree that other students, including those who will obtain an associates degree, have also embraced the program as a means of improving the educational options available at Holy Cross. “Other students’ reactions I am sure have been positive,” Flaherty said. “We love it here, and we love to see this school branching out and becoming bigger and better.” As for future goals for Holy Cross’s program, Watson said that the number of admitted students will be kept small intentionally for the next few years, but that over time the program will expand and perhaps increase the enrollment at the college. “We will grow our baccalaureate program, but we will do it methodically and deliberately,” Watson said. “The goal was never to simply increase our enrollment; the goal was to create a vibrant new program, and we know that takes time.”