Hounds with Purpose is a space for alumni to share their stories of purpose and vocational engagement beyond their years at Assumption. This blog is created by the Center for Purpose and Vocation and the Career Development and Internship Center (CDIC) to better connect students and alumni through experiential storytelling.
Laying your Foundation at Assumption: How Assumption shaped my vocation as educator and mother
By: Megan (Flanagan) Hill’ 14, M.S., Professor of Practice Marketing
Two pivotal moments stick out in my mind for discerning my vocation as educator and mother, both of which occurred at 500 Salisbury Street during my undergraduate days at Assumption.
On the vocation of educator
As a first-year student, I came into Assumption knowing I wanted to teach. I took many education classes that I thoroughly enjoyed. This was because my professors inspired me. Their passion came to life in the classroom. With every class I took, I could not decide between elementary and secondary education. You see, I had a passion for English and always felt called to be an English major when I would go off to college. My vocational journey was not a straight road; it was a pathway with twists and turns, leading to where I am now.
As far as my path discerning which grades to teach, secondary education seemed interesting because I could combine the English major with teaching. Yet, elementary education also piqued my interest because I loved volunteering with children. Eventually, I led the kindergarten literacy program (Book Buddies) at Nelson Place School through the Reach Out Center at Assumption.
It is important to listen to those that know us best; for me, that meant finding inspiration in listening to my professors as well as my parents. As two professionals who came from the business world, my parents encouraged me to apply and interview for an internship in Corporate Communications after my sophomore year. Since I was an English major, my parents knew that companies, large and small, are always seeking those who can write well and articulate an organization’s needs. From there, I fell in love with marketing and communications. I returned to Assumption during the fall of my junior year determined to take as many marketing and organizational communication classes as I could, knowing this would be my path for work. This also helped me realize that I wanted to teach at the college level applying my meaningful professional experience to the benefit of my future students. In my last two years at Assumption, the Business Studies faculty continued to inspire me in two areas: by how they brought companies in real time to discuss and analyze in the classroom, and by how they inspired me to intern in four different industries prior to graduation. Assumption prepared me for the future.
Throughout it all, discovering my vocation meant reflecting and listening. Long before Assumption, I began reflecting on my passion for reading and writing. I knew this meant majoring in English. I also can recall reflecting on the teachers I had in the classroom, as well as my extended family members (aunts, uncles, grandparents, and even a great-grandparent who was a professor at a university in Ireland!). I listened and trusted my parents when they urged me to see how I would like corporate communications through an internship. I continued to listen and trust myself with finding my purpose not only in that internship, but also with the years to follow working in employee and executive communications, corporate social responsibility, marketing, social media and trade shows.
If you are a senior student feeling anxious about what comes after Assumption, let me tell you, I, too, was in your shoes. I remember frantically applying to jobs during my final semester. Crossing my fingers with every submission form, typed cover letter, and resume upload. In the end, I decided to contact my internship supervisors. My career launched by returning to United Technologies Corporation (now, Raytheon Technologies). As an intern in 2012, I worked for two teams in Executive and Employee Communications and Corporate Social Responsibility. Ironically, after graduating from college in 2014, I returned to work for UTC in Employee and Executive Communications writing articles for the company intranet, editing executive speeches and PowerPoint decks, and photographing company events.
The importance of listening to others continued to factor in my vocational journey; I was fortunate to have bosses who were mentors. They saw my potential and would pull me into high-profile assignments with higher responsibility that led to an increase in hours and commitment for the team. I can vividly remember getting a call from my boss the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend asking me if I could be in the office at 5:30 AM the next morning to work on something important with him and the team. It was a time-sensitive announcement that our team had just gotten assigned and 250,000 employees would read it by 8 AM. I’m incredibly thankful for having experiences such as these early on in my career. I was able to absorb what it took to be an effective leader and apply it for years to follow on different teams and organizations. While working for UTC in Employee and Executive Communications, my colleagues nudged me to apply for UTC’s prestigious Communications Leadership Program, a two-year fast-track program working in three areas of marketing communications across three regions of the country. It was higher than an entry-level position in both salary and responsibility and would also likely mean a position with the company following the two years. Associates in this program were marked as “high potential” and had access to executives and other mentors across the company. The year I applied, there was only one opening in my cohort they were hiring for. I applied, along with dozens and dozens of other applicants. From there, a day-long interview process took place where candidates were interviewed in rounds. I sat in the waiting room with a dozen others while another dozen exited their prior interviews. Although the stakes were high, I got the position.
When I committed to the two-year program, I had to indicate whether I’d be willing to relocate to North Carolina and/or Florida. Reflecting on the importance of trusting myself, I’m forever grateful to have listened to my gut instinct to speak up on my willingness to move to a different region for work. I loved to travel and was eager to live and work in another part of the country in my 20s.
My first position was working in Corporate Social Responsibility in Hartford, CT for nine months. Following my assignment in Hartford, I went on to work in internal communications and HR communications in West Palm Beach, Florida. I then spent my final portion of the two-year program in Charlotte, North Carolina working on the marketing team, specializing in social media and trade shows. After the program was over, I knew I wanted to move permanently to West Palm Beach, where I met my now-husband and some of my closest friends still today. There, I took a position with the global internal communications team under a subsidiary of UTC. It was fascinating getting to communicate daily with colleagues in India, China, and many countries within Europe.
In hindsight, this portion of my vocational journey shaped me to who I am today. I also relied heavily on my faith, always finding a Catholic church community as soon as I moved to both Florida and North Carolina. With both out-of-state moves, I learned how to be agile when it came to jumping outside of my comfort zone. I was thrown into a new city and had to learn how to work in a different area of marketing communications as well as learn how to live on my own (and make friends!) in a different region of the country. Through this experience, I was fortunate enough to meet colleagues and become friends with people who hailed from different regions of the country as well as different countries in the world (Ethiopia, Haiti, Colombia and Jamaica, to name a few).
Though life was constantly changing – just as I was getting settled into a city, it was time to uproot and move – I still craved learning. Throughout my time working in Corporate Communications, I knew undergrad wasn’t the end of my educational journey and that I wanted to teach. I was accepted into graduate school at Purdue University, with a specialization in strategic communications management. I was able to do my graduate program entirely remote given my frequent moves for work. Working full time while going to graduate school was a challenge, but I knew that if I wanted to teach in the future this was going to be a path well taken.
As my graduate program progressed while I learned the ins and outs of global corporate communications, the vocation of educator still weighed heavily on my heart. The question that kept reoccurring to me was “how I could best benefit my future students?” I knew that my future students would benefit most if I had experience on both the B2B and B2C sides of marketing. I eventually made a transition from corporate Business-to-Business, (B2B) marketing to Business to Consumer (B2C) marketing for a variety of venues (wedding sites, water parks, and golf courses) across South Florida. The experience in consumer marketing was entirely different and I loved getting to design advertisements, write copy for social media, sell advertisement space, work as the PR representative and manage events. At that point, I began to look for adjunct positions in my local region. It was then that I saw the job announcement for position as Professor of Practice in Marketing at Assumption. At the time, I was very happy with my life in South Florida – I had a great group of friends, loved the lack of winters with a myriad of outdoor activities, and recently became engaged with someone who also enjoyed living in that part of the country. Yet, I continued to listen to the still, small voice – what I can now reflect on as God’s encouragement –to apply to the teaching job at Assumption and move through the application process. Little did I know I would return full circle back to Assumption, to teach the same marketing and organizational communication courses I took and enjoyed as an undergraduate student!
On the vocation of motherhood
Another calling of mine is being a mother. I can still remember walking back from 10 p.m. Mass to North, our senior year dorm, and saying to my roommate, “Do you ever just feel like you’re called to be a mother?” She looked at me and then laughed! I had started to discern about my desire to become a mother in the future long before 22, but it was truly after spending time with God in the Chapel of the Holy Spirit and in a variety of retreats through Campus Ministry that led me to reflect on my greater purpose in this world, and to focus on a greater purpose outside of myself. Moving forward to my return to Assumption to teach marketing, in 2018 I served as the faculty lead for SEND Ecuador. On the trip, we had the amazing opportunity to meet many wonderful people in various communities in Ecuador. Among the people we met were many strong maternal figures. They were mothers in their late teens to their late 20s and 30s, to grandmothers, to even great grandmothers. Going on that trip and witnessing how fully committed these women were to their families in Christ prompted my husband and I to recognize we wanted to start our family sooner rather than later in our marriage. We are fortunate to have been blessed with our son Christopher, named after St. Christopher, the patron saint of travel. By the grace of God, we are expecting our second child at the end of July.
Through both of my vocations as professor and mother, I am continuously aiming to have Christ at the center, and this wouldn’t have been possible without recognizing what brought me to Assumption and what continued to be cultivated during my years at Assumption. In high school, my healthy father was diagnosed with a brain tumor and soft muscle tissue sarcoma cancer. This experience spring boarded my faith beyond attending weekly mass as a family. I yearned to grow deeper. Perhaps you also have been through a personal or family challenge, which has left you grappling with where to turn to, and it led you into your faith. The high school evening retreats I participated in led me to immediately volunteer with SEARCH on campus, which sends Assumption students out to lead retreats at middle school and high school parishes in the Worcester diocese. The Horizon (formerly START 2) and Senior Retreats provided me with contemplation of vocation in a community-building experience with my peers and in a meaningful personal way with built-in time to reflect, with time to “be still and know that I am God” –Psalm 46.
As the mother of a toddler and another child on the way, the vocation of motherhood brings me great joy. But it also brings difficulty, discomfort and the need to continuously rise out of situations one never thought of prior to having children. A vocation is not only about the joy it brings, but it also is about the dedication and commitment that are required to follow the calling. Being committed to my son, to my husband and to God, calls me to be aware and to respond to difficulty and discomfort. As I write this, my 14-month-old was up 8 times throughout the night. My husband is a great support. We both can attest to the raw transformation as well as the raw beauty we went through in our first year as parents. Yet, I continuously find myself praying more and turning my situation over to God. I can rely on my love for Christopher and the support of my husband as well as my faith life to deal with the stressors that come with following my vocation.
Assumption provides numerous opportunities to seek the “bigger picture” of one’s calling. My advice for students would be to take advantage of these –your professors and mentors, volunteer service opportunities, internships, Campus Ministry retreats and SEND trips— and to continue to think about who you are as a person not only in your four years, but also in the years after college. Don’t wait until the spring of your sophomore year to go on that retreat you are thinking of which is what I did – and now I wish I went sooner. Take advantage of time off during a break for a service immersion trip to think beyond with what you are comfortable; volunteer to consider a passion or discern a vocation. Teaching children how to read at Nelson Place School is something I now carry out in my day-to-day life as a mother. Thoughtfully considering how my classes align with the outside world and how to bring material from the world into the classroom is how I lead my classroom as an educator. I’m grateful for all that Assumption has provided in the study of my vocation. Today I can see the full-circle impact it has had on my life.
Author of the blog post: Professor Megan Hill
Editor: Sydney Huckabee