At Holy Cross, Professors Become Mentors

Through interactions both in and out of the classroom, Holy Cross students are surrounded by faculty members invested in their success

With small class sizes and faculty members committed to their success, Holy Cross students develop close bonds with professors, both in and out of the classroom — a cornerstone of the Holy Cross experience. From guiding students in independent lab work to fueling their passion for a new field, Holy Cross professors inspire students to reach far and support them along their journey.

Mohan Chen '19

Mohan Chen '19 sits with Vickie Langohr, associate professor of political science. Photo by Tom Rettig

Mohan Chen '19, a political science and computer science double major with a minor in Middle Eastern studies, started working with Vickie Langohr, associate professor of political science, after taking one of Langohr's classes. Chen then sought out Langohr as a research advisor last summer, when she did independent summer research on graffiti in the Middle East.

"Professor Langohr has always been the person I look up to at Holy Cross. Her insights into the events in the Middle East are incredible, and her fluency in the Arabic language is very impressive. She has impacted me in many ways, especially academically — she inspired me to continue my studies in the Middle East. After working with her over the past few years, I learned to think more critically and to push myself to ask more. She'll even send me links to articles she thinks I'll be interested in, or information about an exhibition in Boston that I may want to check out."

Bethania Jimenez '21

Bethania Jimenez '21 meets with Jorge Santos, assistant professor of English, in his office. Photo by Avanell Brock

Bethania Jimenez '21, a psychology major with a concentration in Latin American, Latinx, and Caribbean studies, had Jorge Santos, assistant professor of English, as an advisor during her first year on campus.

"Our talks were kind of a space where I could just reflect on my time at Holy Cross because so much was happening during my first year. It gave me an opportunity to talk about what was going on and how I was doing. It was also helpful academically. Professor Santos advised me to take anthropology classes because he said 'Oh, I think you might like it,' and I've loved the classes that I've taken."

"Once in a while I'll pass by his office and say hi and just talk. He still reaches out and makes sure everything is going well. For Halloween last year, he invited all his advisees to go and decorate his office together."

Zachary Sowerby '19 and Hannah Nguyen '19

Hannah Nguyen '19 (seated, far left) and Zachary Sowerby '19 (standing, right) meet with Neel Smith, professor of classics, and other members of the Manuscripts, Inscriptions and Documents Club. Photo by Avanell Brock

Zachary Sowerby '19, a classics and music double major, and Hannah Nguyen '19, a classics major, have both worked with Neel Smith, professor of classics, for the majority of their time at Holy Cross. Both Sowerby and Nguyen have interacted with Smith in a variety of ways — from participating in the Manuscripts, Inscriptions, and Documents Club to planning the popular Classics Day.

"This year, Professor Smith is my thesis advisor," says Sowerby. "My thesis consists of doing a lot of digital work with the corpus of musical notation that survives from ancient Greece. I can't say higher words of praise for his advisory and mentorship capacity. There's a lot of stuff that I know I want to do, but I don't always have the expertise. Every week I come to Professor Smith with a question like, 'How do I code this?' And he always has an answer for me."

For Nguyen, it's all about Smith supporting his students.

"Professor Smith believes that his students are capable," she says. "And he will not allow you to think otherwise. He was my advisor for the manuscript hackathon, which I've done the last two years. When I first started doing it, there were times where I felt like I didn't know what to do and he just showed unbelievable faith in me. He could feel out the situation. If he knew I needed the support, he would give it to me in a heartbeat. But if he thought it was something that I could take on, he would let me know. I always knew that I had that support — and I still do, to this day."

Cole Howard '22

Cole Howard '22 meets with Ara Francis, associate professor of sociology. Photo by Avanell Brock

Cole Howard '22, who is undeclared, is in the Montserrat class "Death and Dying" with Ara Francis, associate professor of sociology. As a part of the class, students have the option to spend time at a hospice center or nursing home with people who are nearing the end of life. Through the often difficult subject matter, Howard has looked to Francis to guide him through not only the topics at hand, but the whole of navigating his first year at Holy Cross.

"Professor Francis has been great at being able to talk about the topic and challenge those different sides, but also teaches us to challenge ourselves. She's pushed me in ways I never thought I would be able to. My grandmother actually passed away in December, and she was on hospice prior to that. We were learning about hospice in class, and Professor Francis knew that this happened. So I think our relationship kind of grew because of that — knowing the fact that I was dealing with something personally and doing all this work on the frontlines, in a nursing home with someone. I can go and talk to her about anything."

Abigeal Lynch '19

Abigeal Lynch '19 works with Kenneth Mills, professor of chemistry, in his lab. Photo by Avanell Brock

Abigeal Lynch '19, a biology major with a concentration in biochemistry, has been working in the lab of Kenneth Mills, professor of chemistry, since her first year on The Hill. In that time, Lynch has honed her research skills while Mills has helped her expand her network in the field.

"I joined Professor Mills' lab as a first-year student, so he's been my research advisor for four years. He trusts you a lot so you can be really independent, which is good because if you're going to graduate school, that's the type of relationship you have with your advisors. He's been at the College for a very long time, and he still very much talks to his old students or members of lab. He always stays connected, which is nice because I know that when I graduate, it's not over. I'll always have him to ask for advice."

Michaela Halloran '22

Michaela Halloran '22 (left) and Francy Mata '19 (center) attend joint office hours with Kendy Hess, Brake-Smith Associate Professor in Social Philosophy and Ethics, at Acoustic Java Roastery & Tasting Room in Worcester. Photo by Avanell Brock

Michaela Halloran '22, who is undeclared, is taking the course "Capitalism in Context" with Kendy Hess, Brake-Smith Associate Professor in Social Philosophy and Ethics. She often attends Hess' unique group office hours, where she gets more than just advice about in-class assignments.

"I had to write an essay that was unlike anything I'd ever written before. So I went to Professor Hess' office hours basically for a week straight. Starting out, I had no idea what I was going to do. Every day, it got easier. I learn some of the best things at Professor Hess' office hours. It's not always talking about an essay or assignment — we go off path and talk about what we're learning in class or a question I'd asked in class that didn't get fully answered. It shows that she really cares and wants to make sure she really answers my questions. It makes you feel pretty special."

Marcellis Perkins '19

Marcellis Perkins '19 shares a laugh with Robert L. Green, assistant professor of religious studies. Photo by Avanell Brock

Marcellis Perkins '19, a sociology major with a minor in philosophy and a concentration in Africana studies, looked to Robert L. Green, assistant professor of religious studies, as a mentor after taking one of the professor's classes. Since then, Perkins has gone to Green for advice and conversation on an array of topics — from grad school to basketball.

"On the first day of class, he came in and was super serious and he said, 'If you do the work, you'll pass; if not, you'll fail.' It scared some students, but for me, it made me sit up in my seat. I felt like I was being challenged in a different way. Once the semester was over, we exchanged emails over the summer and he gave me book recommendations."

"Now, when I need a straightforward opinion, I know I can count on Professor Green. He really pushed me to apply to grad school, and I just got into a program to study higher education. He saw something in me — and I can't do anything but appreciate that."