Hauser and Vaccaro: SAC History Alums on the Board of Trustees

Like all Colleges and most non-profit organizations, Saint Anselm College has a Board of Trustees. These individuals oversee the institution’s budget, help shape and ensure implementation of the mission, approve new programs and support existing ones, and assist in raising the funds necessary for the institution to thrive. The Saint Anselm College Board has a number of history majors. One Thing After Another caught up with two of them, James L. Hauser, Esq., ’91 and John A. Vaccaro,’92 to ask about life on, after, and back on the Hilltop.

Q: What drew you to the history department when you came to the Hilltop? 

John Vaccaro:  I didn’t become a history major until my junior year. I received some great advice that your undergraduate work should focus on something that you are eager to learn about and have a passion for. Growing up in Boston, I was surrounded by history and spent a lot of time with my family exploring the area and experiencing the rich history the area offers. I wanted to learn more and to this day, I love to learn and experience history. I have been fortunate enough to visit many of the places around the world that I studied during my time at St. A’s.

Jim Hauser: I love to read and had a great AP American History teacher in high school who helped steer me to Saint Anselm.  I was  very focused on majoring in history when I came to Saint Anselm.

John Vaccaro ’92

Q: What class/experience/professor do you remember most from your time in the department?

Jim: I enjoyed taking Eastern European history with Pajakowski , Capowiski’s Civil War and War and Revolution courses as  well as Windhausen for Russian History. My memories of my history courses was of much reading and  writing, which continues to serve me well.

John: Professor Vincent Capowski’s US Presidency and Civil War and Reconstruction were my two favorite classes and still areas where I enjoy reading about today. Professor Capowski always returned graded tests in order of best to worst and addressed everyone by either Mr. or Ms. Today, when I recognize my sales professionals, I do the same thing in honor of Professor Capowski’s unyielding desire for his students to do their best.

Q: What was your career path when you left the Hilltop?

Jim: I went directly to law school at Loyola  University School of Law and then subsequently to Boston University School of Law for an LLM in tax law and then back to Boston College for a MBA in my late 20s while working.

John: I joined the investment business shortly after graduating in May 1992. Colonial Investments was one of the oldest mutual fund companies in the United States with a long and successful history. It was a great place to start and learn the business. The early years were spent doing what every new person does in our business – work long hard hours, study for your securities exams, listen, do what you are told and get paid barely enough to live on. I had a great mentor, who taught me early on, to get as many different experiences as soon as you can because the leaders of the future are going to need to know a lot more than the leaders of today.

I took that advice and took every “less than desirable” career development opportunity and started to learn. I developed my own liberal arts education within financial services. I have only worked for a handful of companies but have had countless different experiences. Eleven years ago, I joined Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company “MassMutual,” one of the oldest financial services companies in the United States, and have been fortunate enough to use my skills in helping our company achieve great success during turbulent times.

Q: What are you doing professionally now? 

John: I am head of MassMutual Financial Advisors and lead one of the largest and oldest distribution networks in the United States. I have a great team comprised of over 9,000 financial professionals located in every state and Puerto Rico. I also manage a team of over a thousand home office employees who are the best in the business. We have been helping people secure their future and protect the ones they love since before the Civil War. My kids ask me all the time, “Dad, what do you do every day?” It is a tough question to answer because the higher up you go in an organization, the less tangible things you do. My kids know that I spend a lot of time on the road meeting with the members of the organization that I lead. They hear me on the phone and nowadays checking my iPhone. They know I am always connecting with someone about something. However, my real responsibilities are to help set the strategy, be the messenger, eliminate problems and most importantly – recruit the best teammates possible and be there to support them. Surrounding yourself with the best possible people is a hallmark of an effective leader.

Jim:  I am a partner in a corporate law firm in Boston where we represent Venture Capital Funds and high growth technology and life science companies. I focus primarily on issues related to equity compensation and executive compensation matters.

Jim Hauser ’91

Q: How do you use the skills you learned in your history major? What was the biggest skill you had to develop after leaving college?

Jim: The ability to read and process large blocks of information and to organize my thoughts and ideas. My writing was a major area of continued development in law school.

John: Early on in my career, the ability to read quickly, learn the material, and be able to clearly communicate the main thesis of the material was critical. Every good employer is going to train you, but you must have the ability and desire to learn. In the investment world, understanding trends is critical to what you do every day. As my career evolved, my liberal arts education provided me with the ability to adapt to many different topics. I was a Chief Marketing Officer once and having a history degree was great for that role. This role was the chief story teller for the company. Studying history is all about reading a story that has already happened, but you get the opportunity to interpret those events. Everyone sees the same facts, but historians are all entitled to their own opinions on how these facts impacted people and places. In today’s economy, you need to understand how political, technological, and economic events will impact the business marketplace. A history degree provides you with the tool to understand those events and react to the changing landscape.

As a leader of a large organization, I continue to read about the leaders that shaped our nation. You can learn a lot of the good things they did, but I encourage you to pay particular attention to the things that they did poorly. You can learn a lot from the mistakes of the past. A bad decision is only a bad decision if you fail to react when you figure out it is a bad decision or if you have made this poor decision before – learn from and remember your personal history.

My career sends me all over the country.  I quickly realized that my “authentic” Boston accent was tough for people outside this area to understand. I had to learn really quickly to pronounce my “r”s. You want people to listen to you for what you are saying and not for how you are saying it. 

Q: How did you end up on the BOT?  How do you see yourself particularly contributing in the next few years?

Jim:  I have been on the Board for approximately 7 years and am honored to have an opportunity to play a small role in Saint Anselm’s continued evolution as a Catholic, Benedictine liberal arts college. The College is on a great upward trajectory, but competes in an extremely competitive and crowded marketplace in New England. The College needs to continue to evolve and strive for excellence in all aspects (i.e., new majors, experiential learning and community service).

John:  I actually first served on the BOT in 1992 while I was Class President. Back then, they had a student and faculty representative. I have known Steve Ellis ‘69, another board member, since I was a student and had the pleasure of working with him at The Hartford. He and I had lunch one day and he said “Ok, it is time for you to get back involved.” The one thing you will realize with St. A’s is whenever someone from the college calls you – you do everything you can to say yes and help them out. As you graduate, you will be amazed at how strong of connection everyone has to the school. I love hiring St A’s graduates, especially history majors!

Q: I find it really fascinating that there are currently at least four former history majors on the Board?  Do you think it says anything in particular?  

John:  I will give Professor Pajakowski all the credit for this one!  I believe a history degree provides a tremendous amount of flexibility in the career you want to pursue. A history degree accelerated my career because I was a quick learner and an even better communicator. The ability to learn and then quickly teach others is a skill set that is not as common in the workplace as it should be. I encourage everyone to spend more time communicating and sharing what you learned. The successful 21st Century leader will be great communicators and they will need to understand all the different ways in which to connect with your clients, employees, constituents, associates and probably robots at some point in the future.

Jim: Although it may be a coincidence, I am sure it is due to the high quality of teaching in the history department!

Advertisements

Wirzburger Revisits the Past

Several months ago, Professor Matt Masur ran into History grad Tim Wirzburger ’13 on a flight to Minneapolis. The two caught up, and as is so often the case with our alums, we prevailed upon Wirzburger to give us some details on what he’s been up to these past few years. And boy did we find some surprising things!

Q: Give me a little of your personal background—where you are from and how you ended up at Saint A’s.

A: I grew up in Hanson, Massachusetts, a small town about 45 minutes south of Boston. During spring break of my junior year of high school, I went on a three-day college tour with my friend and our moms. We visited a school in Maine and then UNH. On then on the last day of the trip, we saw Saint Anselm College. I remember thinking, “I don’t want to go there, I’ve never even heard of it. You guys go, I’m gonna swim in the hotel pool.” But my mom forced me to come, and good thing she did! Within minutes of being on campus, I knew it was the place where I wanted to be.

Q: How did you end up becoming a History major? Did you start out in History or did you choose History at some point after you got to St. A’s?

A: I’ve always had a passion for history, and for years I wanted to be a history teacher. At some point during my sophomore year, I realized that I wasn’t interested in teaching anymore but I stuck with the History major. I already had half my History credits, including a couple from AP classes in high school. I then minored in Communication because I love writing. A History degree gives you lots of great tools that prepare you for the business world, even if you’re not in a “history” field. I learned clear and effective communication, strong research skills, critical thinking and analysis, presentation skills—all things that have helped me in my career so far.

Q: What do you remember about your History courses at Saint Anselm? Anything that stood out about them? Any courses that you especially enjoyed?

A: What I remember most is the diverse course catalog that the History staff offered. I took classes on the Cold War, Ancient Greece and Rome, Modern Japan, WWII, you name it. War and Revolution was a favorite of mine. I was really interested in seeing how war was conducted, understood, and written about and how it evolved from prehistoric times to the modern era. It was fascinating.

The other course that stands out is the Writing Seminar senior year with Professor Salerno. It was by far the most challenging and rewarding course during my time at Saint A’s. Putting all that time and energy into this project—all those late nights and hours at the library—to produce a thesis that I was really proud was a great memory for me. It felt like I had elevated my college education to the next level.

Q: You mention that History “helped [you] in your career so far.” What have you been doing professionally? How has History played a role in your professional activities?

A: Between my History degree and my minor in Communication, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in writing. I also wrote for The Crier and Portraits, the alumni magazine, which gave me a good taste of what it meant to interview people, work with an editor, meet deadlines, and so on. It helped me with my professional life. I worked for four years as the copywriter for the communications and marketing department at Arbella Insurance, and now I’m at a new company in another writing-intensive marketing role. Let’s just say, being a History major gave me plenty of writing practice!

Q: Tell us about your experiences as a World War II reenactor. How did you get involved? What do you do? Has reenacting changed the way you view the history of World War II?

A: It was something James Farrington (also class of ’13) and I had talked about doing for years and we stumbled upon a Boston-area group portraying the 101st Airborne, just like in the HBO series Band of Brothers. We joined them in January 2017, and we’ve marched in several parades, participated in both public and private battle reenactments, and have hosted living history events where people can check out the uniforms, the weapons, and learn more about the history of the war. We’ve also been lucky enough to meet several WWII veterans. I met an original member of the 101st who talked about freezing in a foxhole in Bastogne watching the line for German patrols. I also spoke with a naval special warfare veteran who was actually driving landing craft on D-Day and got teary-eyed telling us about seeing his buddy die on the beach. I even met a woman who grew up in France and lived through the Nazi occupation and remembers being liberated by an American unit. The living history is just incredible and has totally changed the way I think about the war. It puts a human element to it to realize how incredible “The Greatest Generation” was, the sacrifices they made, and how each of them still carries the war with them in their own way.

Q: I understand that you’ve recently moved to the Midwest. Where are you now? What are your future plans?

A: I actually just moved to Traverse City, Michigan at the end of August. It’s a beautiful little town right on the water with a thriving downtown with tons of restaurants, breweries, and outdoor activities. My uncle and his family live in a small town nearby which has been great. I just started working for Web Canopy Studio, a quickly growing company that’s doing some really cool work in the digital marketing space. This is my home for the foreseeable future, and I’m really excited about being here. I also took the summer to work on my novel. Writing has always been my passion, and I wanted to take some time off to travel and work on the book. It’s completed now, and hopefully I’ll be able to get that published. In the meantime, I’ll be enjoying all that Traverse City has to offer!

Q: You’re working on a novel? We’re intrigued! Don’t give it all away, but can you tell us one fact or detail about the novel that will make us want to read it when it is published?

A: Sure! It’s been a labor of love on and off for ten years. The concept of the story started when I was in high school, and I was really into The Da Vinci Code and that show Lost at the time, so you could say it’s inspired by those. If you like thrillers with multiple storylines and lots of twists and turns, you might like mine!

Perrone Named Jean Chair

In August, 2018, President Steven DiSalvo appointed Professor Sean Perrone of the History Department to serve as the first Robert E. Jean Professor of History and Government for two academic years. This endowed chair was made possible by a generous gift from the estate of Joseph Jean ‘53. The gift honors Joseph’s brother Robert. As part of the appointment, Prof. Perrone will work on a project titled: “Visualizing Historical Data: Opportunities for Students to Hone Historical and Computational Skills.” One Thing After Another sat down with Prof. Perrone to learn more.

Q: Can you tell us a little about the project?

A: My project involves mapping the payment of the ecclesiastical subsidy in sixteenth-century Castile, Spain. That might need a little explanation. Though the clergy were technically exempt from royal taxation, popes regularly granted monarchs a percentage of the ecclesiastical revenues in a given year. The kings then negotiated with their local clergy to determine the actual amount of the subsidy and the terms of payment. After an agreement was reached, clerical elites (e.g., cathedral canons in Castile) apportioned the subsidy among the kingdom’s clergy and arranged for the transfer of monies to royal coffers or directly to the king’s bankers. The local apportionment of the subsidy, however, burdened many clergy, and kings regularly provided discounts to over-assessed institutions, particularly monasteries.

Right now, I am working with students to finish preparing an Excel spread sheet on discounts to monasteries in the ecclesiastical subsidy. This data is culled from handwritten accounts located in the royal archive established by Charles V in 1540 in the castle of Simancas, Spain (see photo above). Over the past several years, I’ve been transposing the pertinent information from the accounts into Excel, and last year, computer science major Dan Kelly ’18 developed an easily searchable master Excel file on monastic discounts with assessment and discount data on individual monasteries as well as their latitude and longitude coordinates. Table 1, is a screenshot showing the assessment and discount data for some Franciscan monasteries. As can be seen in the table, the data is incomplete. We are missing the latitude/longitude coordinates for several monasteries, and the names of some monasteries are uncertain and their location (that is, city) unknown (see yellow highlight). In some cases, we’ve only been able to approximate the location of monasteries, using the coordinates for the city the monasteries were in or nearby (see purple highlight). With over one thousand monasteries receiving discounts between 1523 and 1558, there is a fair amount of material yet to process.

Table 1: Sample of Master Excel file on monastic discounts.

Perrone 2

Once the material is processed, we can upload it into ArcGIS to do spatial analysis. For example, using the incomplete data that we have, two computer science students, Caroline Parsons ‘19 and Pauline Yates ‘19, were able to visualize the percent of taxes discounted for Franciscan friars and nuns between 1544-1546 (see maps 1 and 2).

Map 1: Discounts to Franciscan Monks

Map 2: Discounts to Franciscan Nuns

Q: Why does this project matter?

A: By turning handwritten data into Excel data, this project makes the data more accessible to researchers. Then, even with incomplete data, these initial maps provide the beginnings for spatial analysis. For example, by comparing these initial maps, we can see geographic clustering of female and male houses. There were more Franciscan friars in the northwestern corner of the kingdom (i.e., Galicia) than nuns. We can also see that the area with the highest percentage of tax relief for both male and female Franciscans was in Old Castile (north central portion of the kingdom). The maps also make clear that the female houses received more tax relief than the male houses. But these maps also show errors and gaps in the data. First the errors. On map 1, the circle in Valencia (to the right of the map), and on map 2, the circle in Palma (to the far right of the map), indicate that incorrect latitude/longitude coordinates have been entered into the Excel Spread Sheet, because Valencia and Palma in the Balearic Islands belonged to the crown of Aragon and not the crown of Castile. Second the gaps. The archdiocese of Toledo in the middle of the map is blank. Franciscan friars and nuns lived in the archdiocese, but accounts in the royal archive only indicate the amount that those houses were discounted in the payment period of 1544-1546 and not the amount that they were assessed. Thus, we can’t calculate how much relief these discounts provided houses there. Therefore, the blank space on the map. This underscores a challenge working with the documents – they are often incomplete. In any case, the beauty of ArcGIS is that once we correct the errors and fill in the holes in the datasets, it will be relatively easy to update the maps.

Q: What is the role of students in the project?

A: Student researchers are essential to advance this project. I simply cannot do all the transcriptions and data processing by myself, and much of the progress with mapping made to date has relied heavily on Saint Anselm students. To meet this year’s goal of completing the databases on the ecclesiastical contribution for ArcGIS, I have hired three students. Two history majors, Brodie Deshaies ’21 and Mitch McLaughlin ’19, are currently finding the coordinates of the various monasteries using printed sources and Google Earth. We are hoping to identify the locations of at least 2/3 of the monasteries, which can be challenging as many no longer exist. A Spanish major, Braina Ruiz ’21, is learning paleography to help with transcribing data from the handwritten records (see photo) into Excel. Later in the semester, I hope to recruit some students from Professor Carol Traynor’s CS 210 Introduction to Geographical Information Systems class to help with preparing more maps.

Q: What benefit do students get from this project?

A: Through this research, students will perform vital tasks to advance the project and gain experience doing digital humanities research. Digital humanities is a new field that recognizes sources, tools of study, and methods of distribution far beyond the page or book, integrating computing and digital technologies in the study and spread of humanistic knowledge. All student researchers will develop collaborative skills by working as part of a team, while also honing both historical and computational skills. The skills obtained will vary by student task, but include:

  • becoming familiar with historical data from sixteenth-century Spain, understanding the basic types of primary sources for the project, and learning about transcription and crowd-sourcing
  • organizing data using controlled-vocabulary schemes to develop a process of metadata selection to create databases
  • mapping various data in GIS platform
  • developing content to display as a website or an online article, designing appropriate interface to convey the knowledge easily to users/readers, and allowing users/readers to access the information for their own research
  • using spatial and virtual presentations to interpret the past in conjunction with documents; students will begin to do original research and ideally see how their work contributes to knowledge and moves the historiography forward in an innovative way

Q: Sounds like you and the students are going to be quite busy!

A: The Jean Chair comes with course releases to permit an intense focus on the research and student engagement. The project is connected to the course I am currently teaching on Medieval Spain, and will also connect to a team-taught course on the Digital Humanities next year. Connecting teaching and research is one aspect of the Jean Chair. I’m very grateful to my colleagues and the College for giving me this opportunity. It is a real honor.

Horton from Graduation to the ARC

One of the best parts of teaching is finding out what interesting things our history alumni do with their lives years or decades after graduation. Recently, One Thing after Another heard about a fascinating archival and oral history project and tracked down the researcher. He turned out to be not only an Saint Anselm College history alum but also the current Assistant Director of the Academic Resource Center on campus, Benjamin Horton ’12. One Thing after Another asked him about the research project and what he’d been up to for the last several years.

Q: You graduated from Saint Anselm College as a history major in 2012. What do you remember most clearly from your time on the Hilltop?

A: In the summer between my sophomore and junior years, with the help of Professor Masur and other History faculty, I obtained a history internship at the Silvio O. Conte National Records Center in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.  I helped to run the reading room there and through this experience became interested in archival and genealogical research. This work allowed me to practice and teach archival and genealogical methods, culminating in an archival research project focusing on Irish immigration in the 19th century, conducted in collaboration with the National Archives of Ireland in Dublin. Many of the archival research skills that I learned working for the National Records Center have since become integral to my doctoral dissertation work.

During the Fall of 2010, with the guidance of Fr. Augustine Kelly O.S.B., I pursued a scholarship opportunity co-sponsored by the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities and the British Council, to take part in the Irish-American Scholars Program. This is a year-long full scholarship to live, study, and teach history on Falls Road in Belfast, Northern Ireland. This neighborhood is frequently referred to as “ground zero” for politically and religiously motivated violence between Loyalist Protestant and Nationalist Catholic communities. While studying at Saint Mary’s College of Queen’s University, I taught history courses in an under-resourced school on the “Peace Wall” that divides the two communities. I also served as a community liaison between Saint Mary’s College and the Protestant and Catholic areas of West Belfast.

When I returned to Saint Anselm College, during my senior year, I had the chance to intern at the Saint Anselm College Archives under the direction of the College Archivist, Keith Chevalier. These archives, which house artifacts and documents dating back to the 1880s, gave me firsthand knowledge and experience in researching the history of Saint Anselm. This experience proved among the most powerful of my four years at Saint Anselm as Keith taught me so much about the art of historical inquiry. He took great care to provide me with meaningful work and to mentor me, always taking the opportunity to tie my work with the history classes I was taking at Saint Anselm and the skills I was learning. This experience deepened my passion for the study of history and provided me with the tools I needed to be proficient in archival research methods.

Q: After graduating, what did you go on to do?

A: When I was a senior, my advisor in the History Department, Fr. William Sullivan O.S.B., suggested that my passion for education in troubled urban environments could make a real difference in the world. I came across the University Consortium for Catholic Education (UCCE) programs, which provide graduate students an opportunity to teach for two years in under-resourced Catholic schools while pursuing graduate education.

I decided to attend the University of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education program in 2012 as a middle school history, English, and religion teacher at Holy Family Catholic School in St. Petersburg, FL. I also had the opportunity to do my practicum experience at John Adams High School in South Bend, Indiana and Elkhart Memorial High School in Elkhart, Indiana. These opportunities helped me improve my skills as a history teacher and to carry on my passion for serving students.

Q: You came back to SAC in 2014 as Assistant Director of the Academic Resource Center. What made you want to come back to the Hilltop in this role?

A: Some of my earliest childhood memories are of my time at Saint Anselm College. My father, an alumnus of Saint Anselm College’s class of 1977, and my mother, an alumna of the class of 1978, met at the College and were married on campus, something the College started doing for alumni in the mid-1970s. My father worked at Saint Anselm for forty years in various student affairs capacities and taught for the Humanities program as well as in the Department of Criminal Justice. As I grew up, Saint Anselm became an integral part of my childhood and the people I came to know there became like family to me.

I worked as a mentor and tutor in the College’s Academic Resource Center as an undergraduate. I also served as a history tutor and writing assistant. Spending long hours in the ARC as a student, this place truly felt like home for me.  When Professor LaFleur retired after many years in the ARC, I was excited by the prospect of returning to the Hilltop and overseeing the Peer Tutor Program. Working alongside Kenn Walker, Caitlin Albright, and Ann-Maria Contarino (my former Freshman English instructor, and one of the kindest people on campus) has been a true joy for me over the course of the past few years. The Benedictine monks of Saint Anselm Abbey view one’s work as the highest form of prayer. In the ARC, our professional staff seeks to embody this important aspect of the Benedictine charism in our interactions with students, faculty, staff, and alumni on a daily basis. Ultimately, it all comes down to love of Saint Anselm and love of our students.

Q: You actually join a number of former history majors who work at the College including Lee Joyce ’94 and Cassandra (Loftus) McCue ‘08 in Admissions (go here for a post about Loftus). Is there something about being a history major that inspires you or prepares you well for these types of positions?  

A: I certainly am humbled to work with other History majors like Lee and Cassandra. While I won’t speak for them, I think the thing that draws us all back here is the wonderful sense of community we have. The faculty and staff really have their priorities straight—a genuine emphasis on students and on serving the common good. As a History major, learning to read, write, and think critically prepared me to do my best in my professional role here.

Q: Now you are pursing your PhD in Higher Education and Leadership Policy at the University of New Hampshire. Your dissertation project “Perspectives on Change: The Coeducational Transition of Saint Anselm College, 1969-1979” seems to draw together your love of history and of education. Can you tell us more about this project?

A: My dissertation examines Saint Anselm College’s transition to a fully coeducational Benedictine Catholic liberal arts college between 1969 and 1979, using archival documents and oral history interviews with female alumnae, who experienced campus life firsthand during the 1960s and 1970s. I am interested in the factors that contributed to Saint Anselm College becoming a coeducational institution and the significant impacts on campus culture and environment.

During the 1960s and 1970s, Saint Anselm underwent an period of great change. During the 1960s, women were bussed onto campus from hospital-based residences in Manchester. Women were allowed on campus for restricted periods of time and their activities at the College were limited. Women were not allowed in the dining hall and had nowhere to gather outside of classroom buildings and the Coffee Shop.

In 1969, the College appointed Sr. Nivelle Berning O.S.B. as Saint Anselm’s first Dean of Women. This move marked an important period of transition for the College, as Joan of Arc Hall (or as it was known then, “The Nursing Dorm”) was constructed. Once women were admitted into the residential portion of the College, it changed campus culture almost immediately. During this period (the early 1970s), the College began to employ more female faculty and staff and to create activities and recreational spaces for female students. Bertrand Hall, Raphael Hall “The Studio”, St. Mary’s Hall, and Alumni Hall Streets were all renovated or constructed to make room for additional female housing during the early 1970s. These projects significantly altered the physical plant of the College and marked a period of the College’s investment in infrastructure and programming for female students.

With the admission of women into the Liberal Arts program in the fall of 1974, the College made its full transition to coeducation. The influx of women on campus not only increased the quality and number of applicants to the College but also made the College more financially stable. This period would define and sustain the College during an otherwise challenging period. Saint Anselm College was the first Benedictine College nationwide to transition to co-education.

Q: Working full time and getting a PhD must keep you really busy! When you get spare time, what do you enjoy doing with it?

A: My wife Alex (a 2011 Saint Anselm graduate) and I live in Manchester. We were married at Saint Anselm Abbey Church in 2015. Alex’s passion is small business, and in 2013, she opened Café la Reine on Elm St. in Manchester. It is a small downtown coffee shop. While Alex is usually the busy one, when the two of us aren’t working or writing, we enjoy giving back to the great Manchester community through a variety of service and business activities. We love Manchester and all of the wonderful things to do here. We also both love a good cup of coffee!

In the summer you’re likely to find us downtown enjoying lunch with friends. We also both enjoy fishing, kayaking, and being outdoors with our pup, a standard schnauzer named “Keefe.” Alex first met Keefe when she was volunteering at the Manchester Animal Shelter in 2015. Since then, we adopted him, and he has become part of the family.

Caitlin Completes Captioning at the Coffee Shop

Hi everyone! My name is Caitlin Williamson. I’m a senior History/Secondary Education double-major, and for the last three years I’ve been a student assistant in the History Department. As a department assistant, one of the projects I’ve had the opportunity to work on is captioning the photographs in the Coffee Shop (aka “C-shop”). C-shop is plastered with photographs depicting the history of the College, but until recently, there was no information to go with them, leaving visitors ignorant of what they were looking at. It has been a pleasure working on this task as well as for this department, and I am so thrilled to see this project finished before I graduate! 

Q: How did the coffee shop captions project get started?

A: This project was started years ago, before I was even a student here. Prof. Salerno teaches a course on Public History (then called Applied History) in which students take on a public history project of their own. Two students (Eric Boumil ‘14 and Tim Anderson ‘15) noticed that there were many photographs of the history of the college in the Coffee Shop, but there were no captions or any way to identify the people, places, and things that were in these photographs. The project was large and therefore could not be finished in one semester, and so Kristen Van Uden ‘16, a department assistant took it on. When I was hired in my freshman year in 2015, I worked on the project with Kristen, and upon her graduation, it became mine. This years-long project was finally completed this September 2018.

Q: What was the most difficult picture or type of picture to identify?

A: Without a doubt, the most difficult type of picture to identify was one that had absolutely no information left with it. This is my PSA: now, more than ever in the digital age, please pay attention to how you leave information with your photographs! Think of the poor student in the future who has to research your photograph with no information attached to it! In all seriousness though, the most difficult ones were those of landscapes or with no people in them. It was possible to figure out pictures with people in them, since someone could recognize them. While some of the landscape pieces had identifying markers that could give us a general idea of when the photograph was taken, sometimes we could only pin it to the decade. Additionally, there was no way to tell why the photograph had been taken. As beautiful as these pictures are, they were the most difficult to identify. 

Q: What kinds of sources did you find to help identify images/information?

A: I relied on a variety of resources during this project, the most important of which was Google. Google was my best friend throughout this entire project. There are images of quite a few notable alumni hanging on the walls, and sometimes a simple Google search of their name would connect me to information. However, that was not always the case, and more specific details were at times much harder to find. The old College catalogs, some of which are digitized (with the rest located in Geisel Library), were very helpful, as they listed every student who attended the College in a given year, as well as other information about the College. Additionally, the College magazine, Portraits, had a lot of information about the history of the school that was invaluable.

A number of people were also incredibly helpful. Keith Chevalier, the College Archivist, possesses an amazing wealth of knowledge about Saint Anselm College and was a huge help when a photograph was particularly difficult to identify. Additionally, members of the monastery were able to identify some of the photographs over the course of this project.

Q: What did the project teach you about the history of photographs, the history of the College, or the highs and lows of public history projects like this?

A: I really enjoyed how much I learned about the history of the College while doing this project. I feel like everyone on campus knows the basic story, but being able to dive deeper and really know how we were founded, what student life used to be like, and see all the changes that happened on campus over the past 129 years, made me feel so much more connected to Saint Anselm College than I would have been without doing this project. A few of my favorite things I found out during this process: early in the College’s history, we had an ornithological (bird-watching) society, and it was the most popular club on campus; women were at first only allowed in the nursing program, before being allowed in the liberal arts program years later; and Saint A’s didn’t have a football team through the last half of the 1900s due to low enrollment because of World War II (the team was reinstated in the 1990s). And we have alumni who have gone on to become professional athletes, notable school administrators, and even an Olympic bobsledder!

I also learned a lot about public history. I discovered that many people will not notice when there are no captions, or not notice when some seemingly magically appear on the walls. That was definitely a low. But I also experienced the high of figuring out a caption for a particularly difficult picture, learning something completely new about the College, or even having someone say “oh yeah, I noticed there are captions now!” when I mentioned to them the project I was doing. I’m sure my friends were bored with me pointing out the new captions each time they went up, but I’d just like to thank them for cheering me on (and taking the time to read a couple!).

Q: What other activities are you involved in on campus?

A: In addition to working in the History Department, I am an Ambassador for the Office of Admission. I give tours and conduct interviews with prospective students, and I love every second of it. I feel like my tours have gotten better because of my work on this project. I feel more connected with the College, and I also have quite a few SAC fun facts in my back pocket to tell families. I’m also involved with the Meelia Center for Community Engagement. I’m a coordinator for Access Academy, which is a program where refugee, immigrant, and underrepresented students earn high school credit by taking a class at Saint A’s taught by students of the College. I teach Public Speaking, and my students blow me away with their dedication and skill every semester. If I’m not in the History Department, Admission, or Meelia, you may find me at a club meeting, in the library, or cooking in my apartment with my roommates.

Q: Do you see yourself integrating a project like this with your students when you teach? 

A: Before doing this project, I would have said no. Local history isn’t something that is often studied at the high school level. But having finished this project, I would love doing something like this with my students in the future. Although my students may come from many different backgrounds ethnically, religiously, linguistically, financially, etc., one thing they will all have in common is belonging to the same school community. I think local history is tangible in a way that US History or World History, broadly, isn’t to students who don’t have a passion for it. I think a project like this would also suit the high school classroom, because a lot of the time I hear from people “I never liked history, it was just memorizing a bunch of dates and facts,” and I want to shout from the rooftops that no, it isn’t, it is so much more than that! A project like this shows people just how much more the study of history can be. That it is important, valuable, interesting, and worthwhile.

Warth, American Studies, and NH-INBRE

The History Department has two majors —History and American Studies. American Studies is an interdisciplinary major that allows students to learn about the United States from multiple perspectives, including history, literature, politics, art and music, religion, philosophy, sociology, and criminal justice. One Thing After Another sat down with American Studies major Katherine Warth ’21 from Rochester, NY to talk about the major and her summer research project.

Q: What made you decide to be an American Studies major?

A: I’m really interested in American History, but I wanted to be able to take a range of classes in different departments during my time at Saint A’s. The American Studies program allows me to take the American history classes I love while also exploring different fields like sociology, politics, and art history. It’s the perfect fit for someone interested in interdisciplinary studies!

Q: What has been your best experience in the major thus far?  

A: My best experience in the major so far has been being a part of the history department family! All of the professors in the history department are so kind, intelligent, and passionate about history. [One Thing After Another is blushing!] It’s been a true pleasure getting to know them! They all always have open doors to students and are great people to go in and talk to if you need a little extra help with a paper or just want to have a chat.

Q: What do you do when you are not doing classes and research?

A: When I’m not doing classwork or research, you can almost always find me in the lower church working for the choir. Music has been an important part of my life for as long as I can remember, and one of the first things I did after arriving on campus freshman year was audition for choir. I currently work as choir manager so I spend a lot of my time sorting music, preparing paperwork, and designing whiteboards (@sacchoirwhiteboards on instagram). Working and singing for the choir is one of my favorite things I do on campus!

Q: You got paid to do research this summer and presented your findings at a regional conference.  How did you get involved in the project?

A: After taking a social statistics course in Fall 2017, my professor reached out to me to see if I was interested in doing stats for a research project during summer 2018. After learning more about this research project—a statistical analysis of data collected on postpartum depression—I decided to submit a formal application for a NH-INBRE grant. The NH-INBRE program provides undergraduate students in New Hampshire with grants to perform biomedical research both during the academic year and over the summer. After receiving this grant, I officially became a part of a research team of four students and two professors!

Q: What did your research involve?

My research primarily used statistics to analyze data on postpartum depression and other postpartum experiences. Data used for my research was collected by Saint Anselm College nursing professor Dr. Deb McCarter at Catholic Medical Center in Manchester, New Hampshire. Analyzing this data meant first transferring women’s responses into a SPSS, a computer statistical analysis program, filing and labeling, categorizing, and giving values for each variable. Next, I conducted descriptive statistics (mean, median, frequency), created graphs (histograms, pie charts), and conducted advanced analysis (Analysis of Variance, Repeated Measures Analysis of Variance).

Q: What were you trying to find out or prove or disprove?

A: In my research, I was trying to prove that women’s experiences with postpartum depression influence their breastfeeding intensity or the number of times a day they breastfeed in comparison to other feedings. I found out that postpartum depression does in fact impact breastfeeding intensity, with women experiencing moderate to high signs of postpartum depression having a significantly lower breastfeeding intensity than women with low signs of postpartum depression. My poster with all of my findings is hanging on the third floor of Gadbois if you’d like to know more!

Q: What impact did your research have on you and what impact do you hope it will have on others?

A: This research had a significant impact on me as a woman who may someday have children, I felt really connected to what I was studying. It also helped me understand what many women go through after giving birth which has equipped me to better support friends or family members through the process. I’m hoping that my research will have an impact on nursing practices, encouraging nurses to do additional screenings for postpartum depression, diagnose, and begin treatment as soon as needed. I also hope that people who see my poster or hear about my research will become more aware of the significance of postpartum depression and the serious consequences it can have on millions of mothers all over the world if left untreated.

Q: Where did you present your research and what was that like?

A: I presented my research at the annual NH-INBRE conference at the Mount Washington Resort this August. I had a great time presenting my work and hearing about other students research at this conference! I got to present at an open poster session, which gave me the opportunity to have one-on-one conversations with people about my research and how it’s significant. I got a really positive response from everyone who stopped by! Lots of mothers and fathers came by and shared their own stories about their experience or their partner’s experience with postpartum depression and breastfeeding intensity, which really showed me how my research impacts everyone. Everyone knows someone who’s had a child, and it was great to hear feedback from people who’ve had experiences with childbirth. Hearing other students present their research also inspired me in my own work. Seeing students who are so passionate about the research they’re doing really showed me what the scientific community is all about. Overall, this conference was a wonderful experience that helped me learn a lot about my own research and expanded my knowledge of many other areas of scientific research.

Q: Will you be continuing to do work on this project, or do you have plans to work on another research project?

A: I’m continuing to work on this project during the school year, mostly preparing to present at the Breastfeeding and Feminism International Conference in South Carolina in March. I also am working on formally writing up the results of my research and sending it to be reviewed for publication so that more people can read about what I did and learn from my research. I also have the honor of working as a research assistant in the history department next semester. I will be doing research with Professor Moore on the post-presidential career of Jimmy Carter, reading and analyzing documents from this time period. I’m very excited to do this research as I’ve been interested in Jimmy Carter since watching Argo in middle school and because it gives me an opportunity to do historical research outside of the classroom!

Q: Other than research, what are you most looking forward to this year at SAC?

A: I’m most looking forward to going on a winter break service and solidarity trip through campus ministry in January. I’m going to Bethlehem Farm in West Virginia with a great group of students, and I’m very excited to have the chance to do service through Saint A’s for part of my winter break.

We’re #96! We’re #96! . . . . Now What?

Now that the dust has settled and we’ve collected our t-shirts celebrating the fact that Saint Anselm College has broken into US News and World Report’s list of the top 100 liberal arts colleges in America (tied at #95), it’s time for a sober assessment of what our newfound status actually means. As recently as two years ago, Saint Anselm College was ranked #115. Last year, the college reached #106. Are we that much better than two years ago? What’s going on?

The short answer is that while we may be getting better, we’re not getting that much better that fast. In large part, our rise in the rankings has to do with modifications that US News and World Report (USN&WR) has made to its calculations. The weights in the ranking formula break down into the following manner:

Outcomes (35%)

  • social mobility (5%)
  • graduation and retention rates (22%)
  • graduation rate performance (8%)

Faculty Resources (20%)

  • class size (8%)
  • faculty salaries (7%)
  • full-time faculty with highest possible degree in field (3%)
  • student-faculty ratio (1%)
  • proportion of faculty that is full-time (1%)

Expert Opinion (20%)

  • peer assessment (15%)
  • high school counselor assessment (5%)

Financial Resources (10%)

Student Excellence (10%)

  • standardized test scores (7.75%)
  • high school class standing (2.25%)

Alumni Giving (5%)

These weights represent a change from last year:

  • Outcomes were upgraded from 30% to 35%. This was done by adding the social mobility category (5%) which is based on the graduation rates of those with Pell Grants. Graduation and retention rates were lowered from 22.5% to 22%, and the category of graduation rate performance was raised from 7.5% to 8%.
  • Expert opinion was downgraded from 22.5% to 20%. In the case of liberal arts colleges, this was mainly because the high school counselor assessment was nudged downward from 7.5% to 5%.
  • Finally, Student Excellence was pushed down from 12.5% to 10%. This change was accomplished by eliminating the acceptance rate (1.25%) and reducing the weight of standardized testing as well as class standing.

These changes undoubtedly played to our strengths and downplayed our weaknesses. First, we have always done rather well with outcomes. USN&WR measures this category rather narrowly, but in other rankings—Forbes, Money Magazine, and The Economist—which look at postgraduate experiences, Saint Anselm College always ranks fairly high in return on investment. In other words, our alumni go on to get higher-paying jobs than one would expect from looking at their backgrounds. Second, diminishing the value of the high school counselor assessment probably did us no harm; Saint Anselm College has a very good regional reputation but is largely unknown outside of New England. Third, lightening the weight of the student excellence category probably helped. Saint Anselm College is not terribly selective, while the test scores and class ranks are above average but not spectacular.

There’s no denying that the USN&WR rankings are problematic. They are a strange mix of fact and personal opinion. USN&WR claims that “hard objective data alone determine each school’s rank” but it relies on “expert opinion” which is hardly hard or objective. Moreover, the weight assigned to each category is arbitrary, the product of somebody’s opinion. One Thing after Another is not terribly original in pointing out these problems; one can find many criticisms of the rankings.

Having said all that, Saint Anselm College has earned this recognition, even if that recognition is based on faulty premises. The faculty, by and large, is conscientious and strives to do its best by students. For example, in recent years, the History Department has made a number of changes to the major—including the introduction of new courses, an emphasis on student research, and a stress on internships. And our department is not alone in making such changes. On paper, we are not a selective college. Nonetheless, we obtain good classes because half of our students come from Massachusetts which has the best public schools in the nation (New Hampshire, from which another quarter of our students hail, ranks very highly in this category as well). And we can see in the classroom the good results yielded by Admissions. The curriculum, while not without its defects, still provides students with a broad liberal arts education along with an appreciation for learning. Our alumni go on to lead valuable, productive, and fulfilling lives. Several years out, our former students earn more than graduates from our peer institutions. This blog knows all of these things first hand; One Thing after Another has taught at the college for over fifteen years, and it remains in touch with many alums. It is often satisfying to contemplate the works of our students and graduates. This blog won’t claim that Saint Anselm College has discovered some magic formula for success, but what we do here generally seems to work. We take above-average students and make them better. As we strive to improve, let’s keep in mind that we seem to be pretty good at undergraduate education; it might not be the worst idea to double-down on what we do best.