Alumni Reflect on How PULSE Program Has Shaped Their Careers

PULSE students gathered on Tuesday night to hear from several Boston College alumni who took the famed Person and Social Responsibility class. The alumni spoke about the positive experiences they had at their PULSE placements and how those experiences have affected their career paths.

PULSE is a two-semester course that contains both an academic and service component. The academic component is 12-credit course that completes students’ philosophy and theology core. In addition to the class, students must volunteer for eight hours a week at a placement to which they apply. Popular placements include Haley House, the West End House Boys and Girls Club, and Bird Street.

“No matter where you end up, you’re going to bring your PULSE experiences with you,” Hayley Trahan-Liptak, BC ’11 and BC Law ’14, said.

Trahan-Liptak talked about her position as an associate lawyer at K&L Gates, where she participates in pro-bono work with child immigrants. She said her passion for working with a social justice cause stemmed from her experience at her PULSE placement.

Alex Danesco, BC ’97, discussed his extensive experience working with children in his profession, especially his current job as the director of development and programs at MissionSafe, a youth center that provides educational assistance and violence prevention programs.

Estephania Gomez, BC ’10 and GSSW ’12, is now a social worker dealing with mental health cases, and works at Boston Youth Sanctuary, an after school program for children and families who have experienced trauma. Just a few years before enrolling in the graduate school of social work, she vowed that she would never seek a career in social work. Her experience in PULSE changed that. Gomez also touched on her Latin heritage and her Spanish-speaking skills that have been influential in many of her PULSE and professional experiences.


“No matter where you end up, you’re going to bring your PULSE experiences with you.”

—Hayley Trahan-Liptak, BC ’11 and BC Law ’14


Each member of the panel then recounted a vivid memory from their placements and explained how it has stuck with them since.

Gomez mentioned an encounter at her placement one day when she questioned a child about his future plans and if he ever intended to go to college. His response struck her. “Well, I’m going to be in jail,” he said to her.

The child said all of the men in his family had been in prison at some point, and Gomez was shocked by how sure this child was of his fate. This incident sparked her determination to work with children and be someone that tells them that their perceived future is not set in stone.

Trahan-Liptak recounted her experience with a Somalian refugee. When asking a refugee at her PULSE placement how many children she had, the woman responded that she thought she had four.

“She had so much trauma as a victim of abuse while she was living in refugee camps outside of Somalia, she didn’t remember all these things that had happened to her,” Trahan-Liptak said. “She blocked all of these things out of her memory. It’s something I think about a lot now, especially when ‘refugee’ is a bad word.”

Danesco talked about how PULSE influenced his career path was formed. Just before his graduation, he was offered by a leader at his PULSE placement to open a Boys and Girls Club across town—Danesco jumped at the offer.

“I spent the first three years of my professional career running that unit, and it was probably my favorite job I’ll ever have,” he said.

The panelists then addressed the question many passionate students in PULSE have: how to find a balance between following this passion for service while making a living.

Danesco reminded the students that nonprofit work can be difficult.

“There were definitely times over the years where you realize you don’t have some of the things your peers have,” he said. “But hopefully, the work, and the value of the work, balances off the lack of material gain.”

Trahan-Liptak, not in nonprofit work like Danesco and Gomez, gave a different perspective.

“I think a lot while I’m at work, ‘Am I doing enough? Are my pro-bono clients enough to justify the fact I’m representing a mortgage company?” she said.

Trahan-Liptak reminded the students that it’s about how they take the PULSE experience with them, regardless of where they go.

“As long as you take your PULSE experiences with you to whatever job, and you keep remembering them and come back and talk to people, you will be able to have some sort of impact on social justice,” she said.

Featured Image by Emily Fahey / Heights Staff