Liberal arts at work
By Maureen Pratt ’02
first corporate job was with a large management consulting
firm in Washington, D.C. In my first week I was asked to report to the Pentagon
to support a political appointee with speechwriting and public affairs. Sheer
panic. Would I get lost? (Yes) Would I say something silly? (Assuredly). What
is the difference between the Marines and the Navy? (Water, and a whole lot
|Maureen Pratt ’02
I was amazed by how much I learned and
grew as a communicator while working in the Pentagon. My clients were very
tough – and my writing and thinking skills were called on every day.
I had been fortunate to attend a
Benedictine high school where I was introduced early to the liberal arts, and
the teachers there promoted my natural curiosity (and spiritual growth, which
led me to my choice of a Catholic college). When I learned that there were
colleges that actually taught (and applauded!) such skills, I was hooked.
I chose English as a major on my first
day at St. Norbert and never strayed from that path or regretted it later.
like my experience at the Pentagon bring me back to my favorite William Faulkner quote: “A writer needs three things: experience, observation, and
imagination, any two of which, at times any one of which, can supply the lack
of the others.” These words can be applied to more than just writing. In a
perfect scenario, we are drawing from all three of these activities in our daily work. I have learned so
much about balancing those three ideas at work, and have benefited tremendously
as a result.
am frequently called on to lend a hand in deciphering complicated, dense
topics. But for me this is an exciting challenge. I’m
now working in corporate communications at Bechtel, a global engineering and
construction company with more than 50,000 employees around the world. With
hundreds of large-scale infrastructure and construction projects around the
globe and a diverse workforce, critical
thinking skills are key.
Often, my speeches, papers, and reports
are reviewed more than 10 times before being considered “final.” And as any
writer will reluctantly admit, falling in love with your own words is common. These
writing projects bring me back to the painful, yet important days of Advanced
Critical Writing during my senior year at St. Norbert. I remember being
incensed when Stan Matyshak (English) tore apart several papers during the
first few months of the semester. His words echo in my mind: “If you aren’t
deleting at least one-third of your words in a single paragraph, the paper is
too wordy.” This class taught me to lessen my grip on the personal aspect of
writing – to detach from the words as only mine and recognize the value of
At St. Norbert we
are trained to seek truth through collaboration, learning, and listening. For
me, this natural curiosity is what drives my professional life, and gives me a distinct
perspective that my colleagues may not share. I remember when I chose my degree
while sitting in a warm and welcoming office on the third floor of Boyle. I
knew that a liberal arts degree would challenge me and drive me to look at the
world in new ways. Turns out those lessons never stop coming.