SPUD: Student Programs in Urban Development

written by Declan Foley ’15

“Come into my office, I have something for you!” Nancy beamed, as she eased herself into her padded chair slowly but surely, anticipating her chronic leg pain – an artifact of 83 years of robust life experience.  As she moved from the kitchen to her private office, I could see Nancy knowingly smirk the entire way, thinking about her upcoming surprise.  “It’s the one I told you about last week,” she hinted, finally handing over a sealed envelope.  As if the situation did not already possess enough mystery, she playfully asserted not only that I must keep the contents a secret, but that only four copies of them were in existence.  My mind jumped from one idea to the next, searching for context clues that might hint at what was inside.  Perplexed yet full of curious intrigue, I slowly opened the envelope and pulled out a small photograph of Nancy in the recognizable kitchen we spent many Sunday nights in, the back inscribed with the month, year, and a personalized “Love, Nancy.”

Nancy is the director of the Salvation Army Meals Soup Kitchen SPUD site.  More than just a service figurehead, she is the woman who has not missed providing a single Sunday dinner at the Soup Kitchen in the past 25 years.  Well-respected by all and resolute with the disrespectful minority, she is the woman who finds a way to feed the members of the Worcester community that need it most.  She is the woman who served as a reference of mine for a volunteer opportunity, and aptly wrote “best friend” next to “role to applicant.”  Most importantly, it was Nancy that helped me realize that the relationship between intellectual pursuits and social justice is not dichotomous but complimentary.  

This significant duality pervades Jesuit institutions of higher learning; Holy Cross is no exception.  It was Nancy and my growing role in SPUD over my sophomore, junior, and senior years where I found the most inspiration for understanding the goals of Jesuit higher education, incorporating them into my personal set of values that I uphold today.  

When I joined SPUD as a sophomore volunteer, I performed acts of social charity: I set tables, prepared and served the food, and cleaned up after members of the Worcester community finished eating.  As my comfort level rose, I began to have small conversations with those who attended the dinners on Sunday who appreciated Holy Cross’ presence.  Though I appreciated their interest and still value these conversations today, their statements provoked feelings of dissonance; frustrated, I wondered what was the larger, institutional and structural reason for my presence at the site, and why did it exist?  Why did the same folks come and have the same conversations with me week after week, year after year?  What had I done to alleviate the social stratification that exists in the Worcester community that I was a part of?  

I was fortunate SPUD did not occur in a vacuum; as the years progressed on campus, I bore witness to the internal and external pressures students carry with them throughout the day, humbly striving to be their best self and doing so with a quiet confidence – a trait I firmly believe makes the Holy Cross student unique.  This culture of humble achievement persisted through all four years, but another fold was added with senior year, when I observed an increasingly intense focus on establishing a successful career upon graduation among my peers, and I began to question how I should define success.  

It was at a SPUD Intern meeting where Marty Kelly, chaplain at Holy Cross and staff leader of SPUD, had us reflect on Fr. Michael Himes’ “Three Key Questions” – “What brings me joy?” “What am I good at?” and “What does the world need me to be?” – which held particular significance for an intern team largely comprised of seniors.  It was at this moment, informed by the confluence of all things SPUD, when I realized that the real measure of a successful Jesuit education lies not in individual success but in how the individual uses their personal strengths to better others.  It was that night in Campion where I realized that I need to use my strengths in a vocation that affords the opportunity to be in solidarity with others.

My involvement in SPUD, under the guidance of Nancy, helped me realize that being in solidarity with others is what gives me joy, that my strength lies in others, and that my best way to serve this world is to uplift those around me as best I can.  The experience helped me realize that with each opportunity I have to interact with members of my communities, I am confirming the development of a moral responsibility.  It is this solidarity with others that paves my future as a “man for others.”  Importantly, I am simply the lucky one of truly countless Holy Cross students who could write about such profound experience if prompted – the reach of SPUD is remarkably profound.  SPUD is a defining volunteer activity for more than six-hundred Holy Cross students across forty different sites, every single year.  

I strongly implore those reading this to volunteer and meet your own Nancy, to have those conversations that bring you closer to others and complicate your perspective.  You will not regret it, and in this process of discernment you will find out what brings you joy, where your strengths lie, and how you can incorporate these joys and strengths into a life defined by personal fulfillment and service to others.

A Thank You to Families

photo by Dan Vaillancourt
photo by Dan Vaillancourt

As the fall shifts to winter, our office receives more and more application items: transcripts from high schools near and far, resumes and links to students’ YouTube videos, and to me the most heart-warming, lots and lots of letters of support. Working in admissions, counselors often get phone calls and emails from parents asking about the admission process, facts and figures on the College, safety on campus and in Worcester, career services, and residence life. One of my colleagues, in fact, wrote a post about the role of parents back in 2013.



For me, reading letters of recommendation from excited parents is really one of the highlights of my job (along with receiving notes from enthusiastic students, reading thoughtful and thought-provoking application essays, seeing the familiar faces of prospective students at events, discussing admission decisions with my colleagues, enjoying fantastic on-campus programs, savoring delicious food on campus…I could continue!).

As hard as we work in the Admissions Office to recruit students, and as hard as applicants work to finish the Common App, I would also like to recognize the support of families in this process. Parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles, and cousins can all play a role in a students’ college application process. Family members take prospective students to campuses for seemingly countless tours, information sessions, interviews, and Open Houses. They save the glossy college brochures and place them on the refrigerator next to old art masterpieces, recipe ideas, and cut-out news articles. They look over numerous drafts of personal statements and help their students decide which teacher to ask for their recommendation letter. They reach out to anyone in their own community who may have attended the student’s college of interest or know someone who did. The parents and other family members of students are their cheerleaders, their counsel, and their source of strength. Getting the opportunity to see such incredible examples of that kind of support in my work here at Holy Cross is a wonderful reminder of how important family is.

So I want to say thank you. Thank you to the families for bolstering your students throughout this process. Thank you for supporting them, for driving them (and arranging for planes and trains if necessary), for reading over their work a hundredth time, for reminding them that their off-campus interview is at 6pm, for bouncing off essay topics in the car, and for guiding them through a process that may at times feel overwhelming, complex, and nerve-wracking. We are so excited about the students who apply and enroll here, and we know it is in large part to your help!

Student of the Month: Suji Yi ’17!

sujiWe are proud to announce that our Student of the Month is Suji Yi! This month’s superstar hails from Leominster, MA and is a Chinese and Economics double major. We deeply value her dedication to the Office of Admissions and have included some words of appreciation from various staff members below:

One of our receptionists said, “She is very helpful and extremely knowledgeable about admissions and great with the visitors. She is willing to jump in and help where ever needed. She is always upbeat and cheerful…a true gem and a ray of sunshine.”

Another staff member wrote, “Suji helped me on a very busy Saturday pulling double duty as a Senior Interviewer and Tour Guide Coordinator. She helped with all the tour guides, plus she helped me at the front desk greeting and checking guests for their interviews. What a trouper! Suji is always willing to help out with whatever we ask her to do every week.”

A counselor told us, “The amount of time and energy Suji has devoted to this office is astounding. She volunteers four hours a week as a senior interviewer and another four hours a week as an admissions intern. She helps coordinate the tour guide coverage for group visits to campus and is the first to ask what else she can do to help. She is incredibly active on campus in other organizations, and yet, she is always ready and willing to help out in our office. Suji is an incredible representative of Admissions and the College. We are so grateful for having Suji in our office and don’t know what we would do without her!”

Another counselor wrote, “she spoke on panels for both Open Houses, has covered shifts for other Senior Interviewers, and continues to be a powerful component of our senior interviewing program.”

Still another counselor said, “Even being new to the staff here, Suji’s pivotal role in the admissions office is easy to see. From being the first to volunteer for events, to serving as Laura’s biggest helper and more, Suji embodies the engaged and academically motivated student we all articulate when describing the HC community to students on the road. Go, Suji! We would be lost without you!”

Repost from 2014: Thoughts on Early Decision

photo by Thomas Rettig
photo by Thomas Rettig

Today is November 15th, which is a month before our Early Decision deadline. As my colleagues and I turn our focus to the review of applications and begin our reading season, I thought it prudent to re-post a great piece from one of our students (and one of our Senior Interviewers!) about her admissions experience.  Enjoy!




When I became a high school senior, I knew Holy Cross was the college that I wanted to attend. Because I was so sure, I applied Early Decision to Holy Cross. Early Decision seemed very attractive to me; if accepted, I would know where I was going by the end of that fall. ED is, however, a huge commitment. If you know Holy Cross is the school for you, then go for it! That being said, do not feel obligated to apply ED, as it is a decision for which one has to be ready. It was the right decision for me, but it is not the right decision for all.

About a month after I had submitted my application, I was deep into an American Government paper when I heard my phone ring. The caller introduced herself as a Holy Cross Admissions counselor, and I immediately worried that I had forgotten something on my application. Before I had the chance to react, the Admissions counselor told me I had been accepted to the Class of 2017! My initial confusion switched to happiness, delight, and pride. I excitedly thanked the woman on the phone a million times, and then called my family and friends to share the great news. It is a moment I will never forget.

Despite my elation, it is important to recognize how applying Early Decision impacted the rest of my senior year. Although I enrolled in Holy Cross in late December, and I felt relieved of a tremendous amount of stress regarding my college choice, I did not let this affect my academics. If anything, it inspired me to continue to prove that I belonged at Holy Cross. With that, I worked to finish my senior year on a high note. If you are accepted ED, please do not let “senioritis,” “the senior slump,” or whatever you may call the lack of focus during senior year of high school get to you!

On the back of the Sader Nation T-shirts for the Class of 2018 reads the following quote, “From this point on, there is no turning back, no copping-out.” Spoken during the 1970 Commencement by Father Swords, the President of the College, these words symbolize the commitment I made to Holy Cross and my personal growth when I chose to enroll here. Never do I regret my decision to come to Holy Cross, and I believe that if you make the same commitment I did, neither will you.

(initially posted by Meghan Body ’17 on Friday, November 21st, 2014)

Open House Thank You

To my fellow colleagues, who tirelessly spent hours sending emails, reserving spaces, organizing volunteers, and stuffing folders;

To students, who cheerfully gave tours, spoke on panels, greeted guests, and hosted prospective students;

To our faculty and staff, who willingly came to campus on a chilly Sunday morning to answer questions and share information about the College;

To the members of the Physical Plant and Campus Dining, who made sure that Mt. St. James looked its very best and that we all got something good to eat;

To those who visited us and took the time out of their busy schedules to learn more about the Holy Cross community;

I offer a sincere and grateful thank you.




Family Weekend at Holy Cross

Rev. Philip L. Boroughs, S.J., president of the College, chatting with Holy Cross families. Photo by Shannon Power Photography
Rev. Philip L. Boroughs, S.J., president of the College, chatting with Holy Cross families. Photo by Shannon Power Photography

Happy November! The fall seems to be flying by us in the Office of Admissions: staff are returning from their travels, gearing up for our second Open House, and preparing for the next part of the admissions cycle: reading season.

The fall semester seems to be flying by for students on campus as well! Although it was last month, we asked a student to tell us more about her experience at Family Weekend, and Maddy Smith was happy to help us! Here is her story: 





Family Weekend always seems to come at the perfect time each year.  Your pantry seems to be running low, you realize that you have forgotten all of your winter sweaters, and you mostly just want a hug from your mom.  Have no fear, Family Weekend is finally here!  Although I am a spring athlete at Holy Cross, my fall season still has many weekend tournaments at various colleges.  This year, Family Weekend coincided with a lacrosse-filled weekend…but thankfully, my parents were still able to be involved!  We spent Saturday and Sunday morning at Hamden Hall playing Quinnipiac and Dartmouth College (playing three different teams!).  During a brisk fall game, it’s the best to come off the sidelines and get wrapped in blankets by your parents’ arms!  Although, I wasn’t able to spend time with my family on campus this weekend, it was great to spend time with them at my games.

Luckily, in traditional Holy Cross fashion, there were plenty of families around on campus! After our game on Saturday, we came back to Mt. St. James in the afternoon, where we found families enjoying various tailgates and the football game.  Although my parents couldn’t make it back to campus to enjoy these activities, I was welcomed into tailgates and given great post-game treats!  As the afternoon continued and the temperature started to fall, students returned back to their houses and residence halls.  Many students went out to the great restaurants of Worcester with their families.  I joined two friends and their families for dinner at Volturno, one of the pizza restaurants in town!  So, even if your own family isn’t able to make it to Family Weekend, you’re sure to find many families that are more than happy to let you join in the fun! 


Crusader fans hanging out before the game! Photo by Shannon Power Photography
Crusader fans hanging out before the game! Photo by Shannon Power Photography                        
More folks enjoying Family Weekend! Photo by Shannah Power Photography.
More folks enjoying Family Weekend! Photo by Shannah Power Photography.