Faith in Action Blog

Faith in Action Blog

On Sunday the College’s Office of Career Advisement hosted a Career Discernment Workshop in the student coffee shop. Leading the discussion were two graduates of the College who — having worked for some of the country’s most prominent corporations — were able to share their wisdom about how best to apply the benefits of a Catholic liberal education in the marketplace.

Mark Kretschmer (’99) speaks with students in the campus coffee shop.The first speaker was the College’s Director of Student Services, Mark Kretschmer (’99), who previously worked at Kinko’s Inc. After starting at an entry-level position, he was quickly promoted three times in his first six months, and at 23 years of age became the youngest branch manager in the Los Angeles market. As the branch manager for Kinko’s Granada Hills he was responsible for $1.5 million in annual sales.

In his presentation, Mr. Kretschmer shared lessons learned from his own entry into the workplace, stressing the importance of thoughtful preparation. “The discernment process is the hardest part of the whole job search, and it’s also the most important part,” he began. “The College has 1,976 graduates, and many of them are very successful in a wide variety of fields. Choosing the right field for you requires breaking the process down into steps and working through them.” He outlined what he defined as the four key steps of career discernment: self-assessment, exploring options, matching up one’s abilities and opportunities, and taking action.

Nathan Haggard (’99) speaks with students in the campus coffee shop.The second speaker was a classmate of Mr. Kretchmer, Nathan Haggard (’99). A systems engineer at Apple Inc., Mr. Haggard manages the technical relationship with some of Apple’s largest enter­prise customers such as Disney, Amgen, and Toy­ota. Before Apple, Mr. Haggard ran a digital-vid­eo consulting and production company for four years and taught video-editing classes at UCLA Exten­sion.

“In my job I sit around a table and talk with executives about their technological needs, their business needs, and what we have to offer,” Mr. Haggard noted. “Sitting around a boardroom table and discussing a complex subject feels exactly the same to me as what you do at Thomas Aquinas College. And it’s not like you do it every once in a while; you do it day after day for four years. So you are already way ahead of a lot of other people out there.”

Both professionals took questions from the students, offering their assistance and networking help as needed. “In the real world you get these complex ideas and these conflicting priorities, and you have to think about them critically, communicate with others, bring people to understanding, and work your way slowly toward a goal,” said Mr. Haggard. “I think this kind of education gives you a huge advantage.”

Paul McCown (’10)At its meeting on Monday, the City Council of Troy, Michigan, appointed a new member to its ranks — Paul McCown, a graduate of the Thomas Aquinas College Class of 2010.

A native of Troy (population: 83,000) with a longstanding interest in politics, Mr. McCown has served on the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals for the last three years. In 2015 he ran for the City Council in a competitive race, but came up short. A year later, however, a sitting member resigned, and the remaining members of the council undertook a comprehensive selection process to fill the vacancy. That process culminated in Mr. McCown’s coming before the Council for a public interview on September 19, which can be seen in the video below:

By meeting’s end, the Council voted to appoint Mr. McCown, who promptly took his oath and immediately began voting on city matters. His term will continue until next November, at which point he will be up for election.

Yet governance is only a part-time job for Mr. McCown, who, by day, is the CFO and executive vice president of Dataspeed, Inc., an engineering firm that specializes in the design and construction of autonomous cars and mobile robots. The 30-person firm has partnered with a wide range of clients including Ford, General Dynamics, and the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center. “Our staff consists entirely of engineers except for a bookkeeper and then me,” he laughs. “So I have oversight and responsibility for finance, accounting, HR, marketing, pretty much all departments except for engineering.”

After graduating from the College in 2010, Mr. McCown earned a master’s degree in economics and American politics at Pepperdine University and then returned to Michigan, where he held several positions in the financial sector before joining Dataspeed. Yet it is not his advanced degree, but his liberal education, he says, that has most prepared him for a career in finance.

“The formulas that I write and the models that I build, all of them are underpinned by logical thinking. You have to understand which pieces of the puzzle need to go where, what comes first, what comes later, if/then statements, all that kind of thing,” he explains. “Practicing deductive reasoning, thinking it, breathing it, drinking it the way we do at Thomas Aquinas College — that was really a game-changer for me.”

In addition to his work as a public official and a corporate executive, Mr. McCown is, first and foremost, a husband and father, having wed classmate Jacinta (Alarcon ’10) in 2012. The couple has two sons, Paul Jr. (3) and James (1½), and due to arrive next February is the family’s first daughter, Rosie, named for the McCowns’ late classmate Rosie Grimm (’10).

Madeleine Lessard (’16) Madeleine Lessard (’16)A member of the College’s newest graduating class, Madeleine Lessard (’16) will formally launch her career on August 1, when she starts a position as an analyst for Economic Partners in Denver, Colorado. “The company values intangible assets of corporations,” Miss Lessard explains, such as patents, brand identity, and goodwill. As an analyst, she will be “taking in a lot of data and analyzing what’s most important, writing reports on it, and also editing reports from other people.”

While a student at the College, Miss Lessard worked in the Admissions Office, which proved to be fortuitous. When one of Economics Partners’ executives called Admissions Director Jon Daly to ask if he could suggest any candidates for an open position, Mr. Daly recommended Miss Lessard, who then traveled to Denver for a battery of interviews, culminating in her hire.

The position is “not what I thought my Thomas Aquinas College education was preparing me for,” Miss Lessard admits. “But then everything they asked me in my interview seemed perfect for a TACer. They asked me to define critical thinking, and they wanted to hear all about my math background. They were also interested in learning about the seminar method because they thought that was similar to the way they work together in their meetings.”

Additionally, the company will be sponsoring Miss Lessard as she studies for a Chartered Financial Analysts degree, which typically takes two-to-three years, or longer, to obtain, suggesting a long-term commitment. “I’m hoping that I love it, and they love me, and this is something I can stay in as long as I want to continue working,” she says.

Please pray for her success!

Maggie Tuttle (’10) offers networking tips to students.

Alumna Maggie Tuttle (’10), who works as a lead for Talent Solutions Support Services at LinkedIn, returned to campus on Sunday to present a workshop about how students and graduates can use the professional-networking site in their career search. “You can leverage the LinkedIn network and the data we have there to better understand what career options are available to you,” Miss Tuttle told students. Her 30-minute talk focused on how to use the service to discern a career, land a job, or select a graduate school.

The world’s largest professional social network, LinkedIn boasts more than 400 million users. The connections it makes available, as well as the ways it allows students to present themselves, can be advantageous to the College’s students and graduates, Miss Tuttle said. “Coming from Thomas Aquinas College, we have such a unique education and background,” which oftentimes requires explanation for those who are unfamiliar with classical liberal education. For graduates, she added, “letting those unique strengths and qualities come out” in one’s user profile, “is really important.”

Upon graduating from the College in 2010, Miss Tuttle began as a recruiter for Force 10 Networks, before moving on to a similar position at Balance Pro Tech one year later. She has worked at LinkedIn since 2012, where she helps to lead global initiatives geared toward increasing efficiency, strengthening partnerships, and improving customer experience.


Career Strategies Workshop

On Sunday the College’s Office of Career Advisement hosted a Career Strategies Workshop about job discernment, networking, résumé- and cover-letter writing, and interview preparation. Leading the discussion were three graduates of the College who — having worked for several of the country’s most prominent corporations — were able to share their wisdom about how best to apply the benefits of a Catholic liberal education in the marketplace.

Read more

When asked to submit a video that explores “various aspects of wood” for a contest sponsored by the International Wood Culture Society, filmmaker André Fox (’05) thought of two of his fellow Thomas Aquinas College graduates, Dominic O’Reilly (’12) and Alex Tombelli (’13). Mr. O’Reilly is the head winemaster at Topa Mountain Winery in Ojai, California, where he works alongside Mr. Tombelli, a winemaker and carpenter. By combining his two crafts, Mr. Tombelli has developed an innovative new form of artistry — carving oak furniture from discarded wine barrels — that is the subject of the above video.

The video, which earned an honorable mention award in the category of “Wood & Humanity,” includes an original score by another alumnus, Jake DeTar (’11). Mr. Fox, the owner of André Fox Productions, shot all the photography and edited the documentary. His work can also be seen on the College’s recently released video, Praying Twice: The Thomas Aquinas College Choir.

Dr. Samuel Caughron (’96)

“I am not a great decision-maker,” admits Dr. Samuel Caughron (’96). “My approach to big life decisions is to pray a lot, to get as much information as I can, to wait until the last minute — and then to make a decision and go with it.”

It was during his Senior Year at the College that Sam first began to think seriously about what to do after graduation, and that decision did not come easily. He initially considered entering the seminary but, after much prayer, discerned that his vocation lay elsewhere. He then contemplated becoming an educator, but realized he did not have a teacher’s temperament. Finally he found himself torn between two competing desires — to follow in his father’s footsteps as a physician, or to tap into his entrepreneurial talents and enter the world of business. (While a student at the College, he ran a small software company.)

Ultimately he opted for both. As the president and managing partner of the MAWD Pathology Group in Kansas City, Missouri, Dr. Caughron is now a physician and a businessman, treating patients, managing the company’s operations, administering its medical laboratory, and overseeing a staff of over 50 employees.

Read the full profile.

Good Fruit Grower magazine
Featured story about David O’Reilly (’87) in Good Fruit Grower magazine

David O’Reilly (’87) is the subject of a featured article in Good Fruit Grower magazine, which declares that the alumnus vintner “has perfected the art of producing high quality wines and matching them with stories that resonate.”

The article describes how, through this combination of superior craftsmanship and creative storytelling, Mr. O’Reilly, owner of the of Owen Roe winery in Washington’s Yakima Valley, has achieved great success in the competitive wine industry. It also notes that he “graduated from Thomas Aquinas College, a small, Catholic, liberal arts college in southern California,” where “he studied the great minds of Aristotle and Plato,” and “left believing he could do anything.”

While this education, as author Melissa Hansen admits, “has little to do with winemaking” per se, O’Reilly sees it as a natural fit for his line of work. “A number of graduates from the program are winemakers,” he says. “That’s not surprising, because we studied the true, good, and beautiful, the same essence of agriculture. A winemaker is really a glorified farmer.”

The full story is available via the Good Fruit Grower website, as is a PDF of the entire issue. 

Nathan Haggard (’99, standing) and Justin Alvarez (’97, seated) were two participants in a recent on-campus panel for students interested in business and technology. Mr. Haggard is a systems engineer at Apple, where he manages the company’s technical relationship with some of its largest enterprise customers, such as Disney, Amgen, and Toyota. Mr. Alvarez is the founder of The Alvarez Firm, a law corporation based in Camarillo, California. Read the full story.

“Bl. John Paul II,” by James Langley (’85)“Bl. John Paul II,” by James Langley (’85)“We are having an epic, all-day event for the canonization of Bl. John Paul II in Denver,” reports Andrew Whaley (’05).

Mr. Whaley is the owner of Calix Coffee, a consulting business, as well as the manager of the Tolle Lege Coffee Bar & Bookshop at the Augustine Institute in Greenwood Village, Colo. In that latter capacity he has organized a tribute to the late Holy Father that will begin at noon on April 26, and then continue into the early morning of April 27 for Bl. John Paul’s canonization.

According to the Denver Catholic Register, the celebration will begin with a group discussion of Pope John Paul II’s “Letter to Artists,” after which various local artists will display their works depicting His Holiness. That evening, Mr. Whaley will moderate a panel discussion about John Paul II’s life and legacy, followed by a musical performance featuring another Thomas Aquinas College graduate, Elizabeth Wood (’11). Then there will be readings from one of Karol Wotijyla’s plays, until around midnight,. “We’ll keep vigil and pray until the live feed starts,” says Mr. Whaley — at which point all eyes will turn to video of the canonization in Rome.

All are welcome. If you care to attend, please RSVP by e-mail or call 303-937-4420.