As a soon-to-be graduate and alumna, one of the most influential individuals for me during my time at the University of Dallas was President Thomas Keefe.
During my semester in Rome in the fall of 2015, I became determined to find a job on campus back in Irving, even though I did not qualify for work study. I was as poor as everyone else in my Rome class, and because I was taking 18 plus credits per semester, I needed a job that was flexible enough to allow me to focus on my studies while still supporting my academic endeavors.
While examining a Bernini statue in the Villa Borghese, I sought out an unlikely individual to guide me on my next steps. I boldly approached a man to whom I had never spoken but who promised on the first day of orientation to be a mentor and father figure to my incoming freshman class. I told Keefe that I needed a job that could accommodate my rigorous academic course. Making good on his promise, the first week back in the spring semester of my sophomore year, I had a job as a student assistant in the Office of the President.
Throughout my three years as a member of the executive staff, Keefe was a constant source of encouragement. When I first began working for him, he instilled in me a sense of confidence. He offered me opportunities to learn the business of higher education and mentored me to become a valuable member of his team. Keefe showed me what it means to be a leader and taught me to never underestimate my value as a scholar or a young professional. He and his staff tasked me with projects both to challenge me and to demonstrate my talents as a creative thinker and problem solver. He had so much confidence in me that in the fall of 2017 I was offered a position on the advancement staff as a corporate relations partner. Keefe had prepared me all along to take on a role that seemed to me to be completely out of my comfort zone but was one that equipped me for the next steps in both my academic and professional careers.
I pride myself on being a confident leader thanks to President Keefe and to the executive and advancement staff members. From that first afternoon in the Villa Borghese to now, Keefe has made me feel like a valued member of the student and development communities. He became invested in who I was and made a commitment to my education and professional career. Beyond that, Keefe participated in my goals and aspirations, so much so that after receiving my acceptance into Boston College’s dual degree master’s program, he was one of the first people who hugged and congratulated me on such a major accomplishment — he was truly proud.
If I could leave a piece of advice to all underclassmen, it would be this: never be afraid to reach out and ask. I thought I was taking a chance that one afternoon in Rome, but in reality, I was offered something that is open to all students by someone truly invested in the community and mission of UD.
Keefe gave me the chance to become a part of a team dedicated to this institution. It has been a blessing to work alongside the executive and advancement staff who tirelessly and thanklessly give of themselves every day. This team is made up of individuals who uphold the moral, liberal and traditional values of this university and strive to develop and share who we are with the greater community. Like any team, not one person is responsible for wins or losses, but all work together to create an environment dedicated to the same goal: making UD one of the leading academic Catholic institutions in the nation. As I go to join the advancement staff at Boston College, I hope to take with me the principles instilled in me by a loyal group of people who were led by someone who changed the course of my academic and professional career, just as he’s done for so many others. Thanks PK.