COLORADO SPRINGS. Four years ago this month, in May 2013, Colton Calandrella donned his Pirate green cap and gown and graduated from St. Mary’s High School. At graduation he was awarded the Spirit of Mary Award and the Theology Student of the Year Award, evidence of the importance of faith in his life. As he graduates this month from Olin Business Business School at Washington University in St. Louis, Calandrella is again being recognized, this time as one of the top business majors of 2017, but he continues to give all of the credit for his success to God.
Last week, Calandrella was one of 10 business majors featured in a CNBC.com story titled “These Are 10 of the Top Business Majors Graduating This Year.” (You can read the story at www.cnbc.com/2017/04/25/these-are-10-of-the-top-business-majors-graduating-this-year.html.) Earlier in April, all 10 had been named to the Poets and Quants for Undergrads list of 100 Best & Brightest undergraduate business majors of 2017. (You can see Calandrella’s whole Poets & Quants profile at http://poetsandquantsforundergrads.com/2017/04/09/2017-best-brightest-colton-calandrella-washington-university/)
In his “Best & Brightest” profile, Calandrella said that for him a business degree is about “getting stuff done.” He said now that he knows more about how the world functions, he can go out and help improve it.
“I knew I wanted to major in business when I worked with a local nonprofit and realized that the best way to assist the poor in our society is to empower them through high-quality employment,” he said.
While today Calandrella gives all of the credit for his success to God, early in his high school career that might not have been the case. Calandrella had what he called a “crisis of faith” during his freshman year in high school. He said he had a lot of questions about Catholic ideals, like why women are not allowed to be priests and how intelligent design can respond to evolution.
“I failed to see the reasoning behind the vast majority of Catholic teaching,” he said. “I considered myself strongly agnostic.”
Yet the answers to these questions were addressed during Calandrella’s sophomore year theology class. He said that the course’s combining of Church history with a rigorous apologetics emphasis was largely responsible for his return to the faith.
“Never before had anyone bothered to explain the logic and reasoning behind so many Catholic traditions and beliefs, so to hear a rational, step-by-step explication of why Catholics believe what they do was an invigorating jump-start to my faith,” he said.
Calandrella said the academic approach that St. Mary’s theology courses take to presenting the subject allows students to adopt the faith as their own. The theology instruction at St. Mary’s continued to inform and fuel his faith journey.
“Learning about critical issues such as the death penalty, subjective and objective truth, World Religions, and Christology provided the spiritual and mental nourishment that, along with some faithful influences sustained my faith journey which reached a major milestone when I was confirmed my senior year,” he said.
The theology education that Calandrella received at St. Mary’s High School has continued to serve him well at Washington University. Relying on the knowledge and thought processes he learned at St. Mary’s has allowed him to answer questions from peers and professors in a reasonable and loving way.
“I believe witnessing my faith to others is a critical component of living a Christian life. Especially in a secular academic environment, I have had my beliefs questioned on countless occasions, owing partially to the fact that I am open about my Catholicity,” he said. “The director of the Catholic Student Center here at Washington University in St. Louis, Father Gary Braun, and the campus ministers, Sister Linda Flick and Mark Zaegel, have all commended me on the quality of my grasp on Catholic doctrine and apologetics, and I always tell them I owe a great deal of that to my theology teachers back at St. Mary’s.”
Now Calandrella is on the cusp of graduating from college and embarking on his next journey. Upon graduation this spring, Calandrella will work with Teach for America as a special education teacher in a high school in the Chicago Public School District. Once he completes two years serving with Teach for America, Calandrella will return to Bain & Company, a global management consulting firm where he interned during the summer of 2016. In the long term, he hopes to start his own business.
Poets & Quants is an online community dedicated to those interested in undergraduate business school education. To compile this year’s Best & Brightest students, Poets & Quants reached out to 55 leading business schools, starting with programs listed in its exclusive 2016 Best Undergraduate Business Programs ranking. Overall, 49 programs responded, with faculty and administrators choosing two students per school based on “academic excellence, extracurricular leadership, personal character, innate potential, striking personal narrative, and overall impact on the program.” Due to the popularity of the 2016 feature, the number of student profiles was doubled to 100 in 2017.
(Amy G. Partain is communications associate for St. Mary’s High School.)