Michelle French-Holloway is associate professor and chair of business administration. Before coming to the Mount, she worked in the music and television industries, in the nonprofit sector and in the fashion industry. Her varied work experience shaped her mission to help students answer questions about who they are and what are they meant to do in this world.
Tell me about your new book.
It’s called “A New Meaning-Mission Fit — Aligning Life and Work.” Early on in my career I had the experience of doing work that I did not particularly enjoy and I started to wonder, who am I and what am I meant to do? Those existential questions became my dissertation and then led to this book. In it I interview people who have found the fit between who they are and what they do. I discovered that they are really happy in their work – off the charts happy. As a business person, it is invaluable to figure out how can you be a whole person and understand how your strengths and interests can be economically viable for you, even as you go through career shifts.
Why is teaching at the Mount a good fit for you?
The founders of MSMU, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, have dedicated themselves to help women become all that they are capable of being. Part of the reason why it is such a good fit is that I help people figure out their highest purpose and answer, “Who am I? Where am I going? And how will I get there?” And for all students, at the end of the day it’s important to learn skills and information and equally vital to learn to identify their meaning in life.
What’s one of your favorite assignments?
One of my most fun assignments is to have students write their personal mission statement. I ask, “What are you meant to be and do in life?” For some it’s an assignment, but for others it’s an existential experience, and asking the question opens up a whole thought process that leads to evaluating their entire life and making interesting connections. Students say, “No one ever asked me this before.” Teaching them how to grapple with the question and how to set one-year, five-year, and ten-year goals around it is fun. Your life is bigger that the job you get after school, bigger than your career. All students from grad school to associate degrees can benefit from this process. A 40-year-old manager still needs to ask themselves the same life purpose questions as an 18-year-old.
What’s the best piece of advice you give to your students?
When I got into the working world, I realized that interpersonal skills are what make a difference. In all organizations, people with similar technical skills rise to the same level, but those who also possess soft skills move up in the organization successfully. My whole person approach equips students with the interpersonal and intrapersonal skills to help them lead effectively.