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Alumna discovered her passion at MCLA

06/04/2014

Caitlin Murray '10 of Harvard, Mass., took her MCLA degree to Brandeis University, where she graduated last year with a master's degree in public policy with dual concentrations in health and aging. Now, she's a research associate within the Healthcare Research Group at the Center for the Study of Services in Washington, D.C.

Although today she's enjoying her "dream career" in healthcare research, she never considered a graduate degree before she arrived on campus.

"I intended to get my Bachelor's degree and start a career right away," Murray explained. "But after a few years at the College, my academic interests really began to evolve. The professors I had challenged me to dig deeper, to investigate issues at a level beyond the classroom requirements.

"They exposed me to topics I didn't even know I was interested in, and they inspired in me a zest for the pursuit of knowledge. It is to them that I credit my Master's degree in Health and Aging Policy," she continued.  "Without their persistence and support, I would not have discovered my passion for topics like health care quality and accessibility, gender parity, poetry, Spanish language and culture, and everything in between."

As a MCLA freshman, Murray intended to major in English and study literature. However, a sociology course she took to fulfill a core requirement changed her mind, and she went on to take every sociology course she could find. By the end of her senior year, she realized she qualified for the women's studies minor.

"Going into college, I never would have expected that I'd graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology, and minors in English and women's studies. But, in hindsight, it couldn't have turned out any better," Murray said.

The greatest strength of a liberal arts education, she said, is that it introduces you to a range of different disciplines and perspectives, which enhances both an individual's frame of reference and depth of analysis.

"For me, this was illustrated when I went to write my master's thesis, which was on the topic of long-term care policy for the elderly. To fully and accurately analyze this issue, not only did I have to have an understanding of health care policy and finance, but I also had to know about the role of caretakers, who are overwhelmingly female, and the implications these policies had on them.

"Had I not majored in sociology and minored in women's studies, I might not have recognized the significance of this perspective, and the quality of my analysis would have suffered," she explained.

As an undergraduate at MCLA, Murray had many educational opportunities. This included opportunities to present her research at MCLA's Annual Undergraduate Research Conference several times.

Those experiences, she said, allowed her to step out of her comfort zone and improve her public speaking skills. She also participated in a number of service learning projects, which developed her organizational skills and solidified her commitment to civic engagement. 

While there are many reasons she chose MCLA - from the beauty of the Berkshires to the small student body and its accessible and personable faculty - perhaps most importantly, Murray said, MCLA is affordable without sacrificing the quality of education.

And, "MCLA has some of the best teachers I've been privileged enough to learn from. They've challenged me, fostered my creativity, supported my ideas, and inspired me to learn more."