On the first night of his freshman year, Ryan Mulderrig enjoyed a farewell dinner with his parents and returned to Claver Hall on Upper Campus to find vacant rooms all around. Soon, the phone rang—his buddy from high school had just settled into Williams Hall on College Road and called to fill Mulderrig in on the night’s plans.
About an hour before, a few of Boston College’s newest undergraduates went out on the town in search of something to do. Mulderrig and his friend went to meet up with them. That night, the best-laid plans of freshmen boys went awry. With no idea how to navigate the T and little experience in the city, they gave up and headed back to Upper. They settled in on Claver Two for the night, and stayed up late in anticipation of freshman year.
That was Mulderrig’s first memory at BC, and it has stuck with him ever since. Now he works to give other BC students an ideal freshman year experience.
Today, a photo of the grown-up Claver men is perched on a bookshelf in Mulderrig’s office in Stokes South. For the last three years, Mulderrig, BC ’02, has worked in the Office of First Year Experience, and was recently appointed assistant director of the department, focused on student outreach.
Mulderrig was born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y. He attended Regis High School in Manhattan, the country’s only tuition-free Jesuit, Catholic school regarded as the best secondary school in the nation. At Regis, Mulderrig embraced the Jesuit values fundamental to the school’s curriculum, and planned on attending a Jesuit university after graduation.
BC was a natural fit for Mulderrig, who majored in economics. As a sophomore, he led a Kairos retreat. Within the Kairos community, Mulderrig felt at home.
“I met and formed friendships with invaluable leaders,” Mulderrig said. “We reflected on family and transitional changes, the kind of vulnerable information you tend to hide from everyone else, including your good friends.”
During his junior year, Mulderrig studied abroad in Cork, Ireland. There, he connected with his Irish roots.
“I went to County Mayo, where my family is originally from, and found the home where my grandfather was born and raised,” Mulderrig said. “My last name is unique, and for the first time, I was meeting other Mulderrigs outside of my family in the states.”
For two summers, Mulderrig interned at Morgan Stanley. He planned to work for the company after graduation, but the company’s offices in the World Trade Center were destroyed because of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. His post-graduate plans had dissipated.
“The events of 9/11 made me ask myself, ‘What is home?’” he said. “The idea of going back to New York after graduation was stressful to me. On graduation day, I didn’t know what to do next.”
Ultimately, Mulderrig decided to stay in Boston, where he worked at an insurance company for three years. Soon, he was hired to work at Fidelity Investments in Boston, and for the first time, felt proud of the work he did. Yet Rev. Michael Himes, C.S.C., a theology professor, and his famous key questions echoed in the back of Mulderrig’s mind. What brought him joy? What was he good at? What did the world need him to be?
“I was going to work every day fighting with investors, working with people who defined success by a bottom line,” Mulderrig said. “I respected who I worked with, but I didn’t see success the way they did.”
In 2007, Mulderrig was drawn back to BC when he had the opportunity to direct a Kairos retreat. He and his team spent weeks preparing for the retreat, which was scheduled for the last weekend in October. When the time came, everything ran smoothly. Yet on Sunday morning, something out of the ordinary happened.
“I felt God’s presence, as though I was being held in His hand,” Mulderrig said. “I was perplexed and confused by the experience, so I reached out to Professor John McDargh, who was my capstone professor senior year.”
McDargh helped Mulderrig come to the conclusion that it was time for a life change. Mulderrig enrolled in a masters of education program at BC, and worked as a resident director in Keyes Hall after he completed the program. The following year, he was the RD for Vouté, Gabelli, and 66, and rounded out his career in the Office of Residential Life as the RD for the Mods.
“The Mods are a headache, but they’re an amazing headache,” Mulderrig said. “I was real with my residents, and they were real with me.”
In 2014, Mulderrig began working in the office of First Year Experience (FYE), a department dedicated to helping freshmen and transfer students transition into the intellectual, social, and cultural community of BC.
“All of our programs are rooted in student formation from the Jesuit lens,” Mulderrig said. “We want our students to think about their experiences and see what patterns are emerging in their lives.”
FYE is in charge of several first-year programs. From summer freshman orientations, to 48Hours retreats, to the cross-campus journey of Convocation, FYE works diligently to ensure that BC’s newest Eagles are supported and inspired from the moment they first set foot on campus.
Mulderrig works with students on a daily basis. From academic advising, to discussing transitional challenges, to finding activities that fit student interests, Mulderrig maintains relationships with students from their first day to their last. He finds so much joy in the work he does that it does not feel like work to him.
“Graduation day is the most bittersweet day of the year for me,” he said. “It’s sad to think about this place without such wonderful people, but I’m reassured in knowing that a new group of Eagles will be making their mark here soon.”
When Mulderrig looks back on his undergraduate career at BC, he feels fortunate to have been instilled with the Jesuit values that helped him cultivate his whole person, and works to help current undergraduates cultivate themselves. From bonding with hallmates on the first night of freshman year, to reflecting upon what truly brings them joy, Mulderrig wants students to be authentic and attentive in their approach to college.
“We encourage students to develop habits of reflection,” he said. “We want them to adopt a conscious and intensive approach toward their four years on the Heights.”
Featured Image by Bernadette Darcy / Heights Staff