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Holly Hess

Get to know Holly Hess, Carthage’s Purposeful Life and Leadership Coordinator.

Mrs. Hess bridges a collaboration between the Center for Faith and Spirituality and The Aspire Center by leading students, faculty, and staff to deepen their understanding of vocation. Learn more about Mrs. Hess in this Q&A.

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What drew you to Carthage and how long have you been here?

“I have been at Carthage since September 2021. I was drawn here by the new purposeful life and leadership coordinator position and the opportunity to build a unique relationship with the students.” 

What are the responsibilities of your position?

“I work between the Center for Faith and Spirituality and The Aspire Center, developing programs and creating opportunities for our students to ask and reflect on life’s big questions. I lead students in pondering questions like, ‘What does the world need?’ ‘What are my gifts?’ ‘How am I uniquely prepared to make an impact in my community and the world?’ and ‘What is my life calling me to do?’”

What is your favorite thing about working at Carthage?

“The students — no question. Carthage has amazing students who are engaged, curious, thoughtful, authentic…I could go on and on. It’s a joy for me to be able to work with our students. Our lake views are pretty nice too!”

What is your best piece of advice for Carthage students?

“Take advantage of the opportunities that exist here at Carthage. These four years are going to be a very unique time in your life. Join the club, ask the questions, take the class, meet new people, expand your view of yourself, and, if you are finding these things to be challenging, reach out to me. I’m here to help make your time here the best it can be.”

What’s something you’ve learned from working with students?

“I’ve learned that young adults are very thoughtful and engaging. Whenever I hear people express their concern for the future, I assure them that the world is in good hands, and I point to our Carthage students as the main reason for my confidence.”

What are you most proud of doing since starting at Carthage?

“I am proud to bring the People of Purpose series to Carthage this spring. It is a program that brings community members to campus to engage with students, share the story of their own path to purpose, and build bridges for collaboration between our students and some remarkable leaders in our communities. I’m also leading a campus-wide reflective program called 40Form this semester. It’s been very insightful to partake in this experience with students.”

What’s one thing that surprised you about working at Carthage?

“I am surprised by how quickly I felt enveloped into the community of our campus. The students, faculty, and staff here have been very welcoming. I’m in my first year in a brand new position, and already I’ve been able to develop relationships with people across campus. It’s a vibrant community and I’m really glad to be a part of it.”

What are you most excited about doing at Carthage this school year?

“I’m especially excited to help deepen our understanding of vocation and to have that concept infused in conversations we are having in classrooms and throughout campus. I want to help students embrace the idea that their experiences, who they are, what they believe, what they’re curious about, and what they are questioning is guiding them to their purpose. Sometimes finding your purpose is hard work. Sometimes we are called to do things we’d rather not. Sometimes the path to finding our purpose is paved with challenges that ultimately shape us. I want to help foster safe and inclusive spaces for all of our students to be able to have honest, authentic conversations about who they are and what they bring to the world.”

As Purposeful Life and Leadership Coordinator, how did you discover your purpose, and how did that lead you to Carthage?

“Throughout my career, I’ve been fortunate to have jobs that have allowed me to explore my sense of purpose. I’ve worked in the arts, social services, congregational ministry, leadership consulting, program development, and education. This unconventional path seemed more like a zigzag than a linear path at times but everything converged in a very cohesive way in my position here at Carthage. I often ask students, “What gives you life?” For me, serving other people gives me life and helps me to live my purpose. I especially find purpose as an advocate for the unhoused and fragilely-housed in my community of Racine, Wis. where I serve through street outreach, meal programs, fundraising, and advocacy. I also find purpose and joy in my family.”

What is the most rewarding aspect of your position?

“I get to work with students at all stages of their Carthage journey, from those who are still exploring what they want to study to those who are graduating and moving onto the next stage of their lives. It’s exciting to see that arc of personal growth and it’s very rewarding to see how the work we are doing prepares them to be leaders on campus, in their communities, and the world.”

Is there anything you’d like to say to the parents of Carthage students?

“Firstly, I’d say your kids have become terrific adults. As the parent of college-aged children, I understand the range of emotions this stage can bring for families. I hope parents find encouragement in knowing that their Carthaginian is seen and respected as a whole person here — not just a student, an athlete, an artist, etc. They are valued for the unique person they are, and we really care about them.”