HUMANITIES ALUMNI STORIES
Jordan McDonald ’18 CLAS works at 3M as an Environmental & Sustainability Division Engineer and is pursuing a Master of Science in Sustainability Management at Columbia University.
In her time as a Humanities major, Jordan encountered a text by writer David Foster Wallace we commonly discuss in our classes and had this to say about its connection to her Humanities education: "David Foster Wallace’s 'This is Water' Kenyon College commencement speech has stayed with me since leaving Villanova. I keep a copy of the transcribed speech on my coffee table and often find myself rereading it to recenter my lived experience in compassion. The speech has remained a much-needed reminder for myself on the importance of the awareness of others and self. Whenever I am feeling bogged down by the day-to-day, I am reminded that my valuable Humanities education was the starting point and not the finishing point to unlearning and rewiring the 'default setting' of my unconscious mind."
Dr. Charles A. Gillespie, CLAS '10, now assistant professor in the Department of Catholic Studies at Sacred Heart University. After graduating from Villanova with a Humanities major, Charlie studied for a M.A.R. in Religion and Literature from the Yale Institute of Sacred Music and Yale University Divinity School. In 2019, Charlie completed his Ph.D. in Religious Studies at the University of Virginia.
Charlie said this about how the Department of Humanities helped him to find his intellectual bearings: "I deepened my passions for classroom conversations concerning God, beauty, truth, goodness, and creativity while in the Humanities program, and I very much consider Humanities my intellectual home. Humanities taught me how to read and discuss with wonder, how to see the desire to know and learn and research as an expression of what St. Augustine calls our restless heart. In fact, I've been in love with bringing together questions from across disciplinary lines ever since.
"My research and teaching investigate theology, the arts, and culture with a focus on the Catholic Intellectual Tradition, critical theories of aesthetics and interpretation, and theatre and performance studies. My senior thesis at Villanova looked at Balthasar’s Theo-Drama alongside the philosophy of play, and I kept thinking about God, persons, worlds, societies, and theatre all the way through my doctoral dissertation on Balthasar, drama, and credibility. I still do theatre as the founding member of an experimental “liturgical drama” troupe called Theatrum Sacrum, and I was lucky enough to be a catechist at the Youth Congress during Pope Francis’ visit to Philadelphia in 2015. I'm currently working on my first book, God on Broadway, under contract with Fortress Press. I am beyond blessed to get to pursue the intellectual life alongside my spouse, Tara Powers (herself a Humanities minor!)."
Humanities and Classics alumna Laura Spence Swain ’18 CLAS is currently working at a publishing house in Washington, D.C., after recently marrying fellow Humanities alumnus Ethan Swain ’18 CLAS. After graduating from Villanova, Laura was a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Moldova, Eastern Europe, where she taught English in the Germanic Languages Department at Transnistria State University. Looking back on her Fulbright experience, Laura says, “I think my Humanities background gave depth to my experience of another culture because it inclined me to think through its roots, rather than glazing over the architecture, the cuisine, the education system, or the politics simply as different expressions of some basic human impulses.”
Ethan completed an accelerated master’s degree in Commerce at the University of Virginia and is now a credit analyst at StreetShares, a financial technology company that lends to small businesses. For Ethan, “being a Humanities major taught me that my whole life—my faith, my marriage to Laura, the professional work I do, the normal responsibilities of adult life, etc.—is an opportunity for serving God and my neighbor. And that means that I order my life differently, I prioritize things differently. I’m much more intentional with my time. By effectively communicating what happiness really is, the Department of Humanities provides a template for a full human life.”
Ethan and Laura continue to value the deep friendships nourished in the Humanities community: “Our conversations may have changed, what we’re reading about or worried about or dealing with has changed, but the friendships I made in the Humanities Department are still my deepest friendships, and the conversations are still going on… and not just with Ethan!”
Jessica Swoboda ’15 CLAS is a doctoral candidate in the Department of English and Irby Cauthen Jefferson Fellow at the University of Virginia, after earning a Master of English from Boston College.
Here’s what Jess told us when we asked her to reflect on how her studies in the Department of Humanities have influenced her: “In what ways hasn’t Humanities influenced my life? My experiences in Humanities inform all that I do. As a current graduate student, I’m inspired to use course materials and research endeavors as opportunities to continue engaging with The Big Questions about God, the World, Society, and the Human Person. In the classroom, I’m encouraged to use writing, literature, and discussion as ways to help my students to see the value in asking such questions, how we can meaningfully engage in them, and how they can help us to make sense of who we are and how we want to live.”
Jessica is now writing up her doctoral thesis, “Forms of Attachment: Character, Attunement, Intersubjectivity,” which centers on the modern and contemporary novel. She studies how characters interact and move about fictional worlds and what these characters reveal to us about how literature participates in philosophical, political and sociological discussions on attunement, attention and recognition.
Keenan Lynch ’10 CLAS is an attorney currently serving as General Counsel of Dunne, Manning, Inc. Before receiving his law degree from the University of Pennsylvania, he worked in politics at the state and national level.
Ten years after graduation, Keenan still keeps his Humanities education close to his heart. “All of my Humanities Gateway courses and electives have stuck with me, because the cumulative effect of the curriculum was to bring the most important, interesting, and enduring human questions into clear focus. I have not stopped thinking about them since.
“The Humanities professors and courses deeply shaped the way I think. It is hard to imagine what it would have been like to build on a different foundation, but I doubt I would be where I am personally, professionally, and otherwise, had I not come by way of the Department of Humanities.”