Alumni Spotlight: John Sebastian

A Path to Higher Education

John is currently the Vice President of Mission and Ministry at Loyola Marymount University. He graduated from Georgetown in 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in Medieval Studies and English, which was combined with a Master’s program in English. Since leaving Georgetown, John earned a Master’s degree and a PhD at Cornell, both in Medieval Studies. He then began teaching in Loyola New Orleans University’s English Department, where he particularly enjoyed teaching about medieval drama and literature.

By connecting his research and teaching to the mission of a Jesuit university, John eventually became Vice President of Mission and Ministry at Loyola New Orleans, before taking on the same position at Loyola Marymount. In his current role, John develops programming and outreach, and works directly with faculty to animate and promote the Jesuit mission. 

While he was at Georgetown, John decided to major in medieval studies after taking several courses in his freshman year; he liked that it allowed him to study a little bit of everything––history, art, music, and literature. He recommends taking courses with Profs. Moran Cruz, Lamm, and Wickham-Crowley, all of whom are still very active in the Global Medieval Studies Program. John’s parents initially questioned his choice of major, but John believes the soft skills MVST helped him develop––interdisciplinary thinking and the ability to adopt different perspectives to address complex problems––were incredibly valuable in the job market (this is backed by data, too!). John would advise current medieval studies students to be aware that there are limited opportunities in academia for medieval studies, but to remember the flexibility that medieval studies and the liberal arts skillset can give them. For example, one of his fellow graduates went into consulting because medieval studies helped her write and communicate well, and John’s own education prepared him for working within a university administration. 

Outside of his coursework, John spent his time in DC working and exploring the art, music, and culture the city has to offer (especially $10 Kennedy Center student tickets). Once students are back in DC, he recommends Dumbarton Oaks––only a 15-minute walk from Georgetown––and the medieval art collection at the National Gallery. John worked at Lauinger Library and the Folger-Shakespeare Library, where he got to handle special collections and rare manuscripts. He also worked in the Financial Aid Office and the Provost’s Office, and even helped maintain the first medieval studies website at Georgetown, which was called the Labyrinth. 

In his free time, John loves to read books and watch movies about the medieval world; he especially enjoys reading Margery Kempe, who wrote the first English autobiography and who gives a glimpse into the life of a 15th century English laywoman. For stories about the Viking age, he reads Singrid Unset’s works; for movies, he recommends Destiny, which is about the Muslim philosopher Averroes who brought Eastern philosophy to the West. Dante’s Inferno (2007), a retelling using Victorian paper theatre, is another of his favorites. Overall, the medieval period is deeply ingrained in every aspect of our culture, from books to movies to Assassin’s Creed––which makes medieval studies relevant and well worth studying even today.