Alexandra Molloy is immersed in academic life, not just because she is committed to her job, but also because she literally lives among the students at Tilton School in Tilton, New Hampshire—and she wouldn’t have it any other way. Molloy is director of strategic marketing and communications at the school, which is a college preparatory school for students in grades 9 through 12, as well as postgraduates. She oversees all external communications, some internal communications, as well as promoting the school and its mission. “I love being able to tell others about our school,” she says. “It’s small—the student body is just 250 students—but it’s truly a special place.”
Molloy previously worked in the corporate sector, but was eager to gain a position in academia. “Growing up, I attended a private boarding school in Maine,” she explains. “It made a tremendous difference in my life, both in preparing me for college and in preparing me for life in general. The skills I learned have stood me in good stead in a wide range of scenarios, such as time management, being organized, and planning ahead. I was a high-level student athlete, an alpine ski racer who competed nationally, so from December through April, I was only actually at the school about four days! I had to take my schoolwork on the road and take tests on the road. The school taught me how to manage my schedule and take care of myself mentally and physically. I gained priceless knowledge there that went way beyond academics.
“I knew I wanted to work in such an environment again and be part of helping other young people develop such life skills,” she continues. “However, jobs in boarding schools are not easy to come by. People tend to stay in those positions for long periods. I was very fortunate when this job opened up.”
Molloy notes that at Tilton, the administration and faculty really make a difference in the lives of the students. “They become like a second family, which was my experience in high school,” she says. “You get to know them in ways that are much deeper than the traditional school experience. One of the things that I love about this school is that we are so connected to the students. This is a complicated time in their lives. They are trying to figure out who they are and where they are going. Helping them navigate this challenging period is rewarding. It can be a difficult time, but the strong connections that are forged here really do help. I’m always amazed at the transformations I see from freshmen year to senior year. The confidence that the students gain is inspiring.”
Finding Their Strengths
Molloy admits that academic life 24/7 can present some unique circumstances that you have to work around. “It can be like living in a bubble,” she says. “We are a tight community, and you have to make sure not to just stay in this very comfortable place. However, the school is excellent when it comes to broadening the student experience and connecting us to the global community. Twenty-five percent of the student body is actually international students, so there is a lot of exposure to other cultures, including those from as far away as China and Turkey.
“When you live at a school, you also have to find ways to be ‘off duty,’” she adds. “When I’m walking over to the dining hall for dinner or attending an event in the evening, I’m technically not working, and I have to remind myself not to get engaged in work affairs just because I may see work colleagues or students. We all need our down time.”
Molloy feels that education will continue to shift toward more skills-based learning over time, so that students are better prepared for the jobs of the future. “Teaching will still encompass math, history, language arts and other traditional subjects, but I think we will see a stronger emphasis on skills that can be adapted to a variety of jobs. Some of the jobs that exist today may not be here in 10 or 15 years, so we need to prepare for that and give our students the foundation that they need. Things are evolving so fast that adaptability will be critical.”
At Tilton, the emphasis is already on helping students find their strengths, build self-confidence, and fulfill their potential. This focus has already led to some alumni creating unique careers, and in some cases, having a global impact. “We had one student who was passionate about basketball,” she says. “We encouraged this because she was so fulfilled by it. After college, she went to Rwanda where she has joined a program for impoverished girls and women that uses basketball to help them build self-confidence. It’s been life-changing for them, and allows her to use her passion to help others.”
Molloy is pleased to see another September arrive and the new school year begin, yet she also looks forward to graduation. “I love seeing our students go out in the world and to then hear about what they are achieving. I’m always so proud of what they are able to do.”