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Alumni show breadth of options to Arts and Sciences students

Winter break events
Laurie Johnston
Dan Gross ’89, economics editor at Yahoo, speaks with students and alumni during an Arts and Sciences winter break career event in New York City. Gross received degrees in government and history.

More than 75 students joined 31 alumni over winter break to talk about career options at a series of events sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences Career Services, Alumni Affairs and Development and the Career Connections Committee.

The events, held in Washington, D.C., and New York City, focused on careers in law, media, finance, government and public service, and featured alumni panelists sharing their experiences.

“It’s important for students to see examples of liberal arts graduates going into diverse, unpredictable directions with their careers,” said Christa Downey, assistant dean and director of Career Services. “Our alumni are doing interesting work and because Arts and Sciences students are not in pre-professional majors, they often struggle to see the possibilities ahead of them.”

In Washington, D.C., panelists talked about careers in government and public service.

“It is very important to choose a profession and job that is rewarding,” said panelist John Heimlich ‘91, vice president and chief economist for Airlines for America. “I have an interest in helping students channel their talents toward something that interests them.”

Heimlich said alumni connections can enhance professional relationships in a current job, as well as help to secure a first job. He said students should take advantage of resources in the career services office, such as the alumni database, and not be afraid to contact an alumnus for a phone conversation.

“Informational interviews are very productive and most of us are quite happy to help students or recent alumni,” he said. “Think a lot about your interests and how they might be pertinent to the person you’re contacting.”

In New York City, three events featured panelists discussing options in media, law and finance.

“I think it's absolutely fantastic that the alumni are so willing to get in contact with us, and I think it'd be a waste for us not to take advantage of that,” said Jennifer Kim ’17, who attended the law event. Although she’s not sure yet whether she’ll attend law school, Kim said she wanted to learn about the process.

She enjoyed the diversity of alumni on the law panel, in terms of gender, race and experience, adding that she learned the most from the youngest member of the panel, Jessica Agarwal ’07, an associate at Littler Mendelson.

“Her assurance that despite the hardships, she still didn't regret her decision and enjoyed her current work, as well as her discussion on working in social justice law, made me much more encouraged about the prospect of law school in general,” Kim said.

Carine Tabet ’16, an economics major, wanted to learn more about finance and “clear any misconceptions I had heard,” she said. She was surprised to see how many diverse majors could lead to a career in finance.

This is the fourth year that the College of Arts and Sciences has offered winter break career exploration events, Downey said, along with larger summer events.

“Connecting with alumni is one of the most effective ways for students to begin to visualize their futures and gain confidence in knowing that their research, analytical and writing skills will be highly valuable in the workplace,” Downey said.

The office also offers numerous on-campus events such as A&S Career Conversations and Career Specialist Office Hours during the semester.

“The one common denominator among our very diverse Arts and Sciences alumni taking part in these events is their genuine desire to help our students explore careers and network for job opportunities,” said Laurie Johnston, assistant director for alumni engagement and outreach in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Kathy Hovis is a staff writer for the College of Arts and Sciences.

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