Alumni Profiles

Photo of Michael Ehrenreich

Alumni Essays on the Benefits of a PLS Education

In 2005, PLS alumnus Kevin Becker (PLS 1988) collected a series of short essays by PLS graduates reflecting on the value of their unusual education. The contributors followed a variety of paths after leaving PLS -- pursuing careers in law, science & medicine, the humanities, and business -- yet all made a similar discovery: their experience in the Program of Liberal Studies had a transformative effect on their lives and vocations.

Read alumni essays in We Called It PLS (PDF).

Additional Student and Alumni Profiles

"Beyond providing me with an incredible undergraduate experience, many lifelong friends, and a lasting love of reading, PLS helped solidify my passion for human development and gave me the skills I needed to be successful as I pursue that passion." Read more about Graham Thomas, Class of 2012

"Strong Bodies Fight that weak bodies may be nourished." This is the motto of the Bengal Bouts boxing team, which has been supporting the Holy Cross missions in Bangladesh for almost 80 years. Mark Weber tells the story of the Bengal Bouts and Bangladesh in his documentary film Strong Bodies Fight. Read more about Mark Weber, Class of 2009

“The International Criminal Court must avoid the twin extremes of cultural relativism on the one hand, and radical universalism which applies international law independent of particular circumstances on the other,” argues Patrick Corrigan in his senior essay. Read more about Patrick Corrigan, Class of 2007. Read more about Corrigan Update 2009

"You have to make a decision on your course of studies for the next three years. You have gathered all the information you could get and considered your choices from every angle, but there seems to be almost too much info. . ." Read more from Michael Ehrenreich, Class of 1960

"PLS provides you with such a breadth of information and knowledge. It really teaches you to analyze and think critically about everything. It revolutionizes your brain. . . " Read more from Anna Rodriguez, Class of 2007

"How has a PLS education helped me in my career? Certainly, an exceptional liberal arts education is not vocational training. Instead, my reading, writing and communication skills have been enhanced by my PLS experience. . . " Read more from Richard Spangler, Class of 1977

"I arrived at Notre Dame looking for something to do with my time as an undergraduate student. What I found in the Program of Liberal Studies was a major that came to consume and transform my life. . . " Read more from Pat Manning, Class of 2007

"I am not a poet by any means, but Professor Fallon’s Lyric Poetry class continues to have a considerable effect on me. In the beginning, I felt completely lost and incompetent in the class. . . " Read more from Claire Sobczak, Class of 2008

"We were talking about what we were going to do after college, and my classmates were discussing pursuing your dream versus doing what's 'practical.' A lot of people choose a path that's secure and practical, which is certainly understandable and noble. But it can be easy to put off pursuing a dream, and the longer it stays a dream, the more difficult it can be to attain. I had this moment where I decided: I'm going to try to pursue the one thing I'll always regret not doing." Read more from Kelly Gleason, Class of 1998

"Young folks should consider this: Your professional life is slated to be about ten to fifteen times as long as your college years. You should choose a major not based on the notion that you will have one skill to be employed repeatedly for 40 to 60 years. . . " Read more from Thomas Schwietz, Class of 1954

Additional Quotes

“It’s difficult to imagine an undergraduate course of study to better prepare a person for the rigors of law school and legal practice than PLS.” John Breen, PLS ’85; J.D., Harvard. Professor of Law, Loyola University Chicago.

“[PLS] will give you the courage and creativity to pursue the kind of career that most people don’t even know exists.” Kelly Gleason, PLS ’98; Ph.D., East Carolina University. Maritime archaeologist with the National Maritime Sanctuary Program and discoverer of the Two Brothers, the 1832 shipwreck that inspired Moby Dick.

“The deepest questions about transcendence and the reasons for living were not just conversations among friends after class, but part of our common studies.” Rev. James McDonald, C.S.C., PLS ’79; J.D., Catholic University of America. Associate Vice-President, U. of Notre Dame. 

“I wanted to study something that I could take with me and improve upon for the rest of my life…All through my career, my grounding was my PLS education.” Kevin Becker, PLS ’88. Investment banker and CEO, Kiski Alpha Partners.

“Why would an ambitious young writer—and that’s the only kind who has a chance to succeed— choose PLS?...Brilliant writers are brilliant not for having the answers, but for having the questions: the provocative questions that define both their age and our humanity.” John Zygmunt, PLS ’77. Playwright.

“Bottom line, PLS gave me an edge over other folks in my field at almost every turn in my career. It ended up being the most practical thing I could have done to get ahead.” Ginger Zumaeta, PLS ’90. President of ZUMGI—a strategic marketing firm—and  winner of three Emmy awards for television promos for NBC affiliates.

“In PLS, I acquired a discipline of the mind…[and] my faith was renewed, purified and informed.” Janice Peterson, PLS ’81; M.D., Indiana University. Catholic missionary physician in Ethiopia.

“[PLS] holds a mirror up to ourselves and to our fellow people…and that ability to critique my own ideas and those of others in light of what has come before has been invaluable.” David Yeager, PLS ’04; Ph.D., Stanford. Assistant Professor of Psychology, U. of Texas at Austin.

“In truth there was no other program for me at this university but [PLS], because no other major could match my insatiable curiosity to learn something about everything—philosophy, theology, science, drama, poetry, music, etc.—and to learn a lot about some of the most important things.” Martha Jiménez, PLS ’83; J.D., U. of California Boalt School of Law. Legal, Health, and Social Services Director, Los Angeles County, 1st District.

“What I think PLS allows people to take away is a strong framework for making life decisions: a feel for what paradigms are and the ability to compare ideas and make decisions about companies they’re going to join, companies they’re going to found, and companies they’re going to fund.” Michael J. Schierl, PLS ’84; J.D., Harvard. Venture capitalist and founder of Julius Capital Partners.

“It astounds me to this day how deeply [PLS] has shaped my intellectual life.” Kenneth Taylor, PLS ’77; Ph.D., U. of Chicago. Henry Waldgrave Stuart Professor of Philosophy, Stanford University.

“You can never go wrong having the Great Books of the Western world sort of in your hip pocket in terms of making decisions,” says Tom Franco ’74, a partner at Clayton, Dubilier, and Rice, LLC (CD&R), a private equity investment firm based in New York City. “A lot of business is making judgments and having the context to do that, so I would say that a liberal arts background is a welcome addition to the investment decision making process.” Tom Franco '74

Adam Frisch ’07 “It was a challenging transition and required a lot of effort,” he said. “But I think my course of study at Notre Dame was really character-forming. A lot of who I am is because of the program.”