Santa Clara University

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Meet Alumni

Alum of the Week

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Tom and Liz McDermott Hare

We had the great fortune of meeting each other at a Casa alum gathering at SLU. Sharing the profound impact our own experiences in El Salvador had on each of us helped us form a strong, lasting bond. We both agree that our time at the Casa helped us decide to pursue the careers we have and deeply impacted who we are as individuals, as a couple, and as parents. The unspoken challenge from the Salvadorans to engage others with humility continues to affect the way we live our lives on a daily basis.

The Casa program offers college students an opportunity to experience the rawness and fullness of life at levels some people never experience in their entire lives. The program gives students the gift of learning to truly live in the present – something that if mastered early will deeply impact every day of a person’s future. We frequently look back on our time at the Casa to remind us what is truly important in life - in the words of Dean Brackley, “that is life itself and love”. Few other college experiences not only offer these lessons, but also make it virtually impossible to leave without truly understanding their meaning. We recommend the Casa to anyone with the desire to simply experience life.

After graduating from SLU, we returned to El Salvador, this time together. We worked in several communities establishing programs or supporting existing efforts to improve nutrition in school-aged youth and access to computer technology in schools. The non-profit we established, Connect Education International, continues to serve the children in La Javilla and San Ramon under the exclusive leadership of Salvadoran community members.

Driven by the desire to understand the structures and policies at work in the communities we came to know in El Salvador, we pursued our master’s degrees in Development Management and Policy at Georgetown University and Universidad Nacional San Martín in Buenos Aires, Argentina. We were fortunate to have the opportunity to travel throughout South America – whether it was by rowboat on Lake Titicaca or with the Organization of American States observing elections in Colombia. Throughout the entire experience we drew on our Casa experience to engage with communities where possible and to listen to the stories of those we met along the way.

After completing our studies, we moved to Washington, D.C. where Liz worked on foreign policy issues in the U.S. Senate and Tom managed legal reform programs in Latin America for the American Bar Association. We experienced firsthand the way issues such as the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, social violence in Mexico and Central America, and post-war development in Afghanistan are discussed and addressed by governments. In these instances we were able to draw on our experiences in El Salvador to better understand and advise decision makers on issues that had real consequences for people in communities like those we had come to know.

We are now in St. Louis, MO where Liz is the Director of Programs for the World Soy Foundation and also manages the American Soybean Association’s nutrition and market development programs in Latin America. Tom recently completed his Ph.D. in Public Policy Analysis. He is an adjunct professor at SLU and consults for community and international development clients. We continue to be challenged and humbled by our Casa experience, whether through engagement to improve nutrition in communities in Central America, or by studying the impact and solutions to violence in communities throughout the hemisphere.

Overall, the Casa experience continues to give us life and helps to bring greater meaning to our relationship, parenthood, and our work. We hope our two children, Grace and Patrick, are able to experience something like the Casa one day.

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