by Magdalena Dajka, ’20
During their four years at Thomas More College, students are steeped in the intellectual tradition of the West and in the beauties of Catholic culture; they receive an intellectual and moral formation that few institutions can equal nowadays. The education at the College enriches each student personally, but it also equips him to be a light shining for Christ in the darkness of the modern world. That world has all but abandoned truth, beauty, and goodness, and is warring against the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family. The alumni of Thomas More College use what they have learned here to combat the confusion and darkness of modern culture, witnessing to the truth of Christ in their different ways, whether it be through their jobs, in their interactions with people, or in striving to live out the duties of their states in life as well as possible. Some alumni are more directly involved in the political fight for the truth. One such alumna is Emily LaFata, ’18, who now works in Washington, D. C. for Alliance Defending Freedom, a non-profit legal organization that advocates for traditional values. In this interview, she speaks about her work and how her education at TMC has influenced her life after graduation.
Can you tell us a little about your family background and why you chose to come to Thomas More?
I am the oldest of 12 children, and I grew up in Northeast Pennsylvania. My parents homeschooled me, and though my curriculum was not strictly classical, I read and fell in love with many beautiful works of literature—first the Laura Ingalls Wilder series, and then the works of many authors of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries: Lewis, Tolkien, Dickens, Austen, Bronte, and others. I knew that I wanted to study literature in a program that would challenge me, and I was looking for classes where the ideas of the authors, rather than a modern hermeneutic, would be presented in the classroom and taken seriously. The curriculum at Thomas More College was highly recommended by family friends, so I applied.
Where have you been working since you graduated from the College?
In Fall 2018, I interned with the Communications team at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington D.C. Afterwards, I joined the Media Communications team at Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) in D.C. ADF is a non-profit legal organization that advocates for the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family, and for religious liberty.
What does your job entail?
I work on the Media Communications team at ADF, and in my current role, I help with both administrative and media relations tasks. On some days, I help with various administrative tasks and scheduling, on others I assist with logistics for events, respond to reporters and producers, draft quotes, book media interviews—I really just jump in wherever my team needs me. I’ve learned a lot about earned media and the work that goes into a PR lift, and I’m excited to continue to grow in my role.
How did your time at Thomas More help prepare you for your job?
The readings and detailed feedback from professors on writing assignments helped me to think and communicate with more precision and clarity. I grew more confident as I continued to write, and through practice and guidance I was able to develop my own writing style. I also worked for a year on the events team for Mercy Hall (the College’s beaux arts mansion in the heart of Nashua), and I learned from my supervisor about all of the details and preparation required for a well-executed event. I loved that job, and am happy to be continuing to help with events in my role now. And as I studied in Rome, I discovered that I love many aspects of city life—quite the change for a girl from the suburbs!
How did your time at Thomas More College help prepare you not only for your work but also for living a good life in the world?
There are three things in my life that were shaped by my time at Thomas More College: a new approach to leisure, my love for our patron, St. Thomas More, and a deeper understanding of the role of friendship. I used to think leisure was just “free time”, and I hadn’t given a lot of thought to the meaning of the word or the most fitting use of it. In my four years at TMC, I came to realize that study and the pursuit of wisdom are not just work—they are a beautiful form of leisure. I came away hungry to learn and to continue what will be a lifelong journey of pursuing wisdom. Also, I had the opportunity to study the life and writings of St. Thomas More in some of the classes and in my senior thesis. I loved reading his ideas about how we are called to participate in society and to order it for the better, and I admire his great intellect, his prudence, and his joy and kindness. I pray to him as I continue to work in D.C. and discern my own calling to serve God and others. Thomas More was aptly described by his contemporary Erasmus as “a man born and made for friendship,” and as I continue studying More in my graduate work, I love to contemplate his example and reflect on how true friendship can shape life. As I think of lessons I took away from college, they all have the same thing in common: they were a result of a friendship I had built with different professors and their patience with me in lessons and conversations, or from discussions that I had with friends and siblings about ideas introduced in classes or life in general. It’s no accident that the great philosophers all talk about friendship.
Do you have plans to develop your career or continue your education?
I’m currently pursuing my M.A. at Hillsdale College’s Van Andel Graduate School of Government, a liberal-arts based program designed for full-time professionals in D.C. I’m delighted to be studying the writings of the founding fathers and framers of our Constitution, and revisiting Shakespeare, Augustine, Aquinas, and the great Thomas More. In my career, I’m continuing to gain experience in both events and media communications, and I am working to move forward in that direction. I know that at some point, I’ll likely pursue a career in education, but I’m still discerning that path.
Would you recommend a liberal arts education to those who are contemplating working in your field?
Without a doubt, spending time with the greatest authors and ideas of the ages is helpful to anyone who wants to communicate and persuade for a living. Not all aspects of communications and PR can be learned in a classroom, but the liberal arts provide a solid foundation to build on. It was a gift to spend time with Homer, Dante, Milton, Shakespeare, and countless other poets and philosophers who shaped language and left a testament to the great power of the word. Studying the classics also made me more receptive to learning, which is a good habit to bring into the communications field.
Any other words of wisdom or advice?
My wisdom at this point in my life is sophomoric at best, but I’ll share a couple phrases that have helped me. During my senior year of college, Dr. Fahey exhorted all of the students at Thomas More to “do hard things.” I loved this phrase, and it inspired me to go far out of my comfort zone and beyond the arbitrary limits I once set for myself. For me, the challenge “do hard things” led me to seek out a career and life in an environment I once found intimidating, to work on mastering different technical skills, and to embark in a serious study of government and political principles. I certainly fail every day in my efforts, but I am encouraged by that phrase and by the words of Benedict XVI: “The world offers you comfort, but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.”