Graham Thomas

Photo of Graham Thomas

"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."

When I arrived at Notre Dame in 2008 I had a budding interest in both business and development work.  Because of this I was unsure of a "non-practical" major like PLS, but the opportunity to read through the literary cannon and spend each class period wrestling with some of life's most profound questions was too intriguing to ignore.  In the PLS program I was engaged in every single class, learning how to think quickly on my feet and articulate complex ideas succinctly, supporting them with evidence lest I be challenge by another one of my well-prepared peers.  I was able to pursue other opportunities to gain business experience by participating in the Arts and Letters Business Boot Camp, securing an internship with the NYC triathlon in NYC during the summer, interning with a finance firm in London while studying abroad, and researching economic development in Johannesburg, South Africa through an ISSLP. 

Immediately after graduation I joined the Boston Consulting Group as an Associate (as a side note all 3 students hired by BCG from Notre Dame that year were A&L majors), in their New York office.  In many ways BCG gave me a "PLS of business" experience as I worked on cases for companies in industries spanning retail and consumer goods, pharmaceutical, private equity, and even education technology.  I also covered projects ranging from two week due diligences to several-month growth strategy cases to 9 month merger integration projects. I was able to learn the hard skills of financial modeling and presentation design on the job, and my PLS background gave me the skills I needed to excel at consuming massive amounts of new information about a new industry and company at the start of each case.  I also consistently relied on my PLS-honed ability to sort through piles of research and reading to extract important information and distill it into a few key words or images for client presentations.

After two years at BCG I got the opportunity to go on secondment with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and pursue my passion for development work as a member of the finance and strategy team.  At the Gates Foundation I was involved in a variety of projects, including leading the effort to model the updated cost to globally eradicate polio for the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.  After months of international consensus-building, we determined that completing global eradication would require an additional $1.5B, which kick-started a broad resource mobilization effort.  After a little over a year with the finance and strategy team I switched over to the Integrated Delivery team as an Associate Program Officer, focusing on their internal strategy and primary health care systems strengthening. 

Starting in the fall of 2016 I will be heading to Cambridge to complete a joint MPP/MBA degree at the Harvard Kennedy School and the Harvard School of Business.   As I prepare to return to school, I fondly reflect on my time in the PLS program at Notre Dame and eagerly anticipate experiences which are yet come.  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.  By learning "how to learn" instead of focusing primarily on content knowledge during my undergraduate career I am confident that I will be able to adapt and thrive in future environments and contexts no matter where life leads me. 

Program of Liberal studies alumnus uses big data to fight inequality in education

For his entire academic career, Sean Reardon ’86 has sought to use his passions — the humanities and quantitative research — to make a difference in the field of education. One of the nation’s leading experts on educational inequality, Reardon researches how opportunities and outcomes vary in the United States for students of different racial, ethnic, or socioeconomic backgrounds. Reardon’s path to his current position, Professor of Poverty and Inequality in Education at Stanford University, is long and sprawling. It includes stops on a South Dakota Indian Reservation, a New Jersey Quaker school, and further academic work at Harvard and Penn State — but it all began at Notre Dame. Read More

McDonald Student Center for Well-Being

PLS professors emeriti Walt Nicgorski, Phillip Sloan, Michael Crowe, and Katherine Tillman enjoyed an evening reminiscing with a group of former PLS students, including alumni Mark Gallogly and his wife, Lise Strickler, Fr. Jim McDonald, C.S.C., Kevin Casperson and his wife, Stacy Hennessy, and Skip Livingston. The group gathered to celebrate the new McDonald Student Center for Well-Being which was established by Mark Gallogly and Lise Strickler in honor of Fr. Jim McDonald, C.S.C. Read More

Notre Dame receives $10 million gift to support mental health services for students

Mark Gallogly and Lise Strickler

University of Notre Dame graduate Mark Gallogly and his wife, Lise Strickler, have made a $10 million gift to the University to endow the Rev. James E. McDonald, C.S.C., Center for Student Well-Being.

“The health of our students is an utmost priority, and the McDonald Center will enable us to more effectively and comprehensively support their mental and other health needs,” said Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., Notre Dame’s president. “I am grateful to Lise and Mark for their extraordinary generosity and their decision to honor my brother in Holy Cross, Father Jim McDonald." Read More

Video: PLS Alumnus Brings the Great Books to Investment Banking

“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 graduate of Notre Dame’s Program of Liberal Studies and 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.” Read More