Looking back at my first year as a student at Holy Cross, I credit much of my amazing experience to the Montserrat program. From my incredible professor to my peers that would quickly become my friends, Montserrat served as reassurance that Holy Cross was where I wanted to be.
Last year, I was lucky enough to have been placed into Professor Ryan’s seminar in the Divine cluster, called “Identity, Diversity and Community.” My classmates all lived in the same dorm as me, so it was a relief to be able to meet other students right away and see familiar faces around campus. A majority of my current friend group came to be through our Montserrat, since the class size is small, which allowed us all to easily get to know one another. I also had the opportunity to get to know my professor, and between a whole year of being her student and attending office hours, I was able to form a strong bond with her that made my adjustment to college all the more comfortable. My Montserrat seminar also included what is called a Community Based Learning component, an opportunity in numerous Montserrat seminars that allows first year students to volunteer in the city of Worcester. Through my CBL, I had the chance to volunteer with a kindergarten class at a local elementary school, which was such a fun experience. Not only did we get to engage with Worcester, but we also reflected on our volunteer experiences which changed my perspective of community service for the better.
The Montserrat program offers six different clusters to first year students, each cluster having various seminars. These classes all provide unique experiences for students with an abundance of benefits. Each class lasts for the entire first year with each semester focusing on a different theme. For the most part, these classes are also taught by the same professor. The consistency in schedule, classmates, and professors allows students to become comfortable on campus through academic and social aspects. The welcoming atmosphere established by Montserrat ensures a smooth transition to college life for first year students as well as the opportunity to bond with faculty members, which may be intimidating to most upon entering college. Having a class limited to only first years as well as students that live in the same dorm buildings is also vital for contributing to this atmosphere and strengthening social connections among peers. The seminars themselves also offer great benefits for students. The material taught enables students to expand beyond standard curriculum and learn about topics that would not be otherwise covered. For example, my two seminar themes were “Exploring Difference” and “Modifying Technology” in which I was able to learn about disabilities in society as well as ethics of genetic engineering. Both of these themes offer curriculum outside of core subjects, which offered a unique perspective on worldly concerns that could be carried on throughout the college experience. The seminars consist of real-world applications that not only contribute to the well-roundedness of a liberal arts student, but also change how first years see the community around them.
Community is a substantial component of the Montserrat program. The CBL opportunities offered by some seminars reinforces the aspect of community between Holy Cross students and the citizens of Worcester. Many students choose to continue their volunteer work with their community partner throughout their Holy Cross careers from having a positive experience through Montserrat. The program also establishes a sense of community on campus through cluster events. These events include performances, presentations, or activities relevant to the theme of the entire cluster that students attend. Cluster events bring together all students of various seminars under that one cluster, allowing students to meet many more peers that they are also living with. This unifies first year students in a way that they become a community on campus, furthering the comfortable and welcoming atmosphere the Montserrat program strives to achieve.
The Montserrat program here at Holy Cross aims to introduce first year students to life as a college student and serves as a unique component of the school. I, along with many other Holy Cross students, am the student I am today academically and socially because of the foundations built by Montserrat.
~Lindsay R. ’23