Alumni Peter Tapsak ’17 and Michael Hichborn ’99 spoke at a Life on Tap alumni networking event, sponsored by the college’s Career & Professional Development Office, on September 28. Speaking to a packed house, the two graduates gave students advice about working in the non-profit sector of business, sharing tips on finding success in this field.
Hichborn, who is the founder and president of the Lepanto Institute, told the students that his path to the non-profit world was guided by God. After graduating from Christendom, his interest lay in media, education, and the pro-life movement, moving him to open two Catholic schools, serve as a Director for the American Life League, and host a popular online pro-life video series. All of these experiences ultimately aided in Hichborn’s journey to founding his own non-profit, the Lepanto Institute.
Hichborn believes that majoring in political science and economics was instrumental in his journey.
“The depth of research that it takes in order to put together a report, and how to argue your points – that all came out of my political science degree,” said Hichborn. “Everything that I learned about how to back up a thesis, I learned here just through the course of my classes and just through the kind of research that you do here. When you are going through and researching your thesis, regardless of the major, you are going to have to prove and defend your thesis. If you say something you can’t substantiate, you will get called out for it. If I say something I can’t substantiate, I could get sued. What I learned here is so important.”
He encouraged students to bring their passion to whatever job they eventually go into, which first requires deciding what they are good at and then discerning what field best fit their skills.
Tapsak, who is the Program Director for the Institute of Catholic Culture, shared that he had a similar beginning as Hichborn, starting off unsure as to what field he would enter after graduation.
For Tapsak, a major step in moving toward in his career decision was first realizing what he did not want to do. After an internship at the Heritage Foundation, he realized his passion was not in politics but in mission-focused work instead. His involvement in several college events solidified his decision.
“The Chester-Belloc Debate Society and the senior philanthropy board played a direct role in what I’m doing today,” said Tapsak. “I was chairman of the Debate Society for a semester and then was a member of the philanthropy board. What I did in both of those roles was very hands-on and very practical and I still use the skills I learned in those roles today. You can trace a direct line from that work on campus to what I’m doing right now.”
The next step for Tapsak in discerning his career was working in advancement for the Cardinal Newman Society, where he learned many different aspects of non-profit administration. Following time there, he wanted to pursue further work promoting faithful education, which ultimately led him to the Christendom alumnus-founded Institute of Catholic Culture.
Tapsak and Hichborn shared some of the particulars of their day-to-day work life to conclude their talk. In the non-profit field, it is very common to wear many hats, they said. Tapsak spends much of time executing programs for the Institute, which includes moderating online classes and lectures each week, while Hichborn fills the role of lead researcher, videographer, and fundraiser in his job. Communication is key in keeping everything streamlined, and he and Tapsak both emphasized time management as essential to staying on top of the various duties of each role.
Tapsak emphasized the importance of taking the initiative and clearly articulating one’s goals and priorities in one’s career in order to find success. In the non-profit world, just as in the for-profit world, there are challenges that need to be overcome to find success. According to Tapsak, sometimes you cannot avoid these struggles — but you can at least be working on gaining personal clarity so you can be better prepared for when these challenges arise.
Christendom’s Life on Tap series provides students with the chance to learn from and speak to successful alumni about their careers. While discerning a career can be daunting, the Life on Tap series gives students opportunities to learn more about potential paths towards finding their vocation.
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This story was contributed by Elizabeth Ostrowski (’23).