Cait Phipps ’12 can’t really tell you why she decided to attend Alverno College. She tossed at least four recruitment brochures before she sat down to read one. “There was something that told me to look into it and then I just fell in love with the school,” Phipps said of discovering Alverno. “I didn’t even set foot on campus until after I was accepted. It just felt right.” It was the same feeling Phipps had when she decided to attend graduate school while receiving her B.A. in History and Religion. She began the application process for several schools but stopped when she received her acceptance to the Catholic Theological Union in Hyde Park., Ill. Like Alverno, it just clicked for her.
Phipps enrolled at Alverno with an Education major but during her sophomore year she had an anxiety attack and realized she needed to change … and wasn’t sure to what. “I’m a spiritual person, always searching for answers, so when I discovered I could take my personal struggle and use it with people of all religions, I switched to a Religion major,” she said. “I am not one to pick up on subtlety but, again somehow, I was put on the right path.”
Once Phipps switched to the double Humanities major, she knew she needed to seek a post-graduate degree for her career. At first, she didn’t feel secure in herself or her schoolwork, but at Alverno she learned confidence and leadership skills that developed her into a strong, productive team worker. “Before Alverno, I was a purely academic, isolated student. Then I grew into this outgoing person who is able to speak on my feet in front of a group. I am wonderfully prepared for graduate school.”
As part of that preparation, Phipps applied for admission and a scholarship, which required a GPA-equivalent. She heard the horror stories about transitioning from Alverno’s outcome-based program to a traditional graded program but wasn’t deterred. She finds it’s best to embrace barriers head-on and go in with a sense of fearlessness. To that end, Phipps was thrilled with the assistance Alverno provided. “Everyone was so helpful working to get my transcripts and grade equivalent submitted, and they really kept things moving. It was much easier and less difficult than what people said it would be. The Alverno community had my back, and now I want to make them proud.”
The Catholic Theological Union was impressed with Phipps and her submission materials from the start. They felt as if they already knew her from her transcripts rather than just a class list and a grade. “The admissions and scholarship offices loved the transcripts and the non-traditional approach from Alverno. They told me they wished all college narratives were as detailed as what Alverno provides,” said Phipps. In fact, she was informed of her scholarship before the grade equivalent was reviewed. The narratives proved to be a strong catalyst to help win the scholarship and, in fall of 2013, Phipps begins her studies for an M.A. in Intercultural Ministry.
Phipps is excited to jump into graduate school and her future, not that she’s held back before. She gave birth to her son, Konrad, just two weeks before the start of her year at Alverno and then for two semesters commuted from Illinois for her weekday classes. As part of her upcoming graduate work, she’ll spend most of January in Jerusalem at a work-study on religious dialogue. “I’d like to work toward breaking down barriers between cultures and religion and to bring people together through healing and peace.” After graduate school, Phipps anticipates she’ll work in a religious organization or a non-profit. Wherever her career takes her, it’s certain Phipps will embrace her calling at the most unexpected time.