Assistant Dean and Director of Student Involvement Recognized for Her Commitment to Holy Cross Students

Since joining the division of student affairs in 2001, Brenda Hounsell Sullivan, assistant dean and director of student involvement, has made progressive and innovative strides in her field, which have earned her  many awards throughout her career.

Most recently, Hounsell Sullivan was named the regional winner of the Doris Michiko Ching Excellence in Student Affairs Award by the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) at the Region 1 conference, which encompasses the states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont; the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Quebec; and the United Kingdom, Belgium, France, Ireland, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

The award honors a student affairs professional at the mid-level whose outstanding commitment to the profession includes development of programs that address the needs of students, creation of a campus environment that promotes student learning and development, and support of an active engagement in NASPA.

This recognition showcases the ongoing impact Hounsell Sullivan is making on Holy Cross as a whole, but most vividly, on its students.

“Brenda’s impressive career has focused a great deal on leadership development, helping to cultivate future leaders who will make a difference in the world,” says Jacqueline Peterson, vice president for student affairs and dean of the students. “Her commitment to authentically support ALL students is remarkable.”

Each year, Hounsell Sullivan explains, she sees students come to Holy Cross with a wealth of diverse and rich academic and leadership experiences, and embark on a four year journey were they can enrich their minds in the classroom and integrate that academic work into their co-curricular experience. That is where Hounsell Sullivan and her staff come in.

With the College’s cocurricular cornerstones of reflective habits, multicultural competency, cura personalis (care for self and others), and community and citizenship kept in mind, Hounsell Sullivan and her staff provide workshops, conferences, programs and a large range of leadership positions aimed to enhance the student experience both in and out of the classroom, contributing to the students’ personal and spiritual growth.

“We continuously ask students to contemplate three key questions, ‘Who am I? Who do I want to become? Who do I want to be for others?’” says Hounsell Sullivan. “Ultimately, this allows students to better articulate their talents and goals and encourages overall positive well-being while at Holy Cross and beyond. In discerning who they are and what they value, we hope students are able to find an intersection of what they are good at and what they love.”

Among the many marks Hounsell Sullivan has left on Holy Cross, the most notable is the creation and development of the College’s Gateways orientation program, a nationally recognized, three-tier orientation.

“Gateways has become a signature program at Holy Cross and a model for many other institutions nationally,” says Peterson. “It is a program that is inclusive, welcomes all individuals, celebrates the institutions Jesuit identity, and embraces diversity of all kinds.”

Hounsell Sullivan facilitates one session in particular, called “Community 101: Sharing Our Stories,” where students learn how the College’s Jesuit, Catholic identity informs its mission. She then welcomes students into the ongoing Holy Cross story by taking them through an activity where they learn more about the diverse backgrounds of their classmates in the room and begin to reflect on the gifts they are bringing to the community.

From the onset of students’ time at the College, Hounsell Sullivan is fully committed to creating an environment where students feel welcomed and valued, where they can thrive unabashedly.

“Holy Cross students have the ability to embrace this community wholeheartedly with excellence,” she says. “I am often humbled by what our students accomplish while they are here and then continue to after they graduate.  I am blessed to be a part of it.”