Leah O’Brien ’08
I live on Beacon Hill in Boston and I’m the Marketing Manager for Boston magazine. I’m responsible for creating, managing and executing special events and programs. It’s very different kind of marketing since I have to always keep in mind our publisher’s brand but also create custom programs for our clients with their brands in mind – everyone from JetBlue to Infiniti to BMW. Before this I was with Phoenix Media Communications Group, which owned Phoenix Magazine, a weekly alternative newspaper, and previously owned WFNX Radio but recently sold them. I was their promotions manager. One day I got a phone call there that led to this job.
I think St. Mike’s gave me such a great education and I have such an amazing network here in Boston through my contacts. I’d like to connect more with other alumni in our area because it strengthens all of our positions in what we do; and there’s so many of us here, we should work together. It’s fun living down here since some of my former roommates I still see each other all the time. A close group of girlfriends lived together senior year and we still talk together on a daily basis. Whenever they do the alumni networking events down here, I try to go to them to, but since I work in events of course, my nights are often booked already. This is definitely a career position for me I’d say – something I definitely would like to continue doing as my occupation.
St. Mike’s always felt like a second home, and I always appreciated the people there, particularly my professors. One thing I remember really distinctly is when I walked into the Hoehl Welcome Center for a tour. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming and excited I was there, and throughout the time I was at St. Mike’s that feeling never left me. At St. Mike’s it felt like they really wanted me to be there, and it felt that way with both friends and professors.
I was an English major with minor in Gender Studies and Journalism. I also did a lot of extracurricular activities. I was on the Programming Committee with the Student Association, so we did special events and programs and came up with student activities, working on everything from getting more students to hockey games to planning Centennial events. And basically, that’s what I do for my job now!
A lot of things I did in college outside of class have been relevant to my work even if less directly. I’ve found that laying out the yearbook as yearbook editor is quite similar to laying out a magazine. Even my English theory classes had a lot to do with what I do as an events planner now because they were about coming up with good ideas, and that’s what I have to do for my clients. At the time I didn’t know what I would be doing for a career, but it still was valuable preparation in being challenged to think creatively.
I grew up in Danvers, MA, and spent a lot of time figure skating, so I often would go up to Vermont for a competition, starting about age 7 or 8. And I really fell in love with the area – everything from mountains to the lakes to the people. St. Mike’s is the only place I applied to in Vermont – all the rest were out west or down south – but I went up there and fell in love with St. Mike’s too. I’m a skier and I always got the Smuggs pass. But my favorite was the Cultural Pass – we took full advantage of that, me and my roommates. We went to lots of performances and we loved it.
One favorite professor of mine was Nat Lewis in English, particularly his “Las Vegas” class that he taught when I was there. I was just talking about him the other day to my current boss, because I thought it was just such an interesting way to teach a class by looking at a city as reflection of our country and exploring how we can look at so many literary theories from just one place like that. Also, we read so many really interesting books. I took another of his classes that I loved too. He was an awesome professor who made you think in so many different ways. You flexed your brain when you were in that class, and that’s something that comes in handy in a lot of jobs.
I’d tell current students to just enjoy it, because it goes by quickly. You shouldn’t be afraid to think, and Saint Mike’s helps you to understand that fact, and also teaches you to think well. I did everything from the Wilderness Program to the MOVE program. At St. Mike’s you have so many opportunities to develop who you are as a person, to experience so many other things. It’s really the whole package.
I had a Little Sister through MOVE, and then we did a couple things with Habitat for Humanity, and I loved the Wilderness Program. I went ice climbing and kayaking, whitewater rafting, and it was a lot of fun. I wish I still did more things like that now but it’s harder once you’re out of college and working. But me and my friends, we’ve started paddle-boarding and we go on hikes and we ski still, but it’s not as intense as it was back at St. Mike’s. Our time there started good habits and hobbies for later life. The point is, there’s so much St. Mike’s puts in front of you, and you’re not really going to have so many chances to take advantage of all they give you later in life. I mean, when else in your life will it be your normal routine to see fantastic shows, go ice climbing and sit around and talk about literature?