Judith Anderson (LAS certificate 2010), Meghan Reynolds (MALAS 2006), and Jacob Schultz (MALAS 2007) shared expertise from academia, business, and government experience
May 10, 2023
For many students, the transition from attending university to embarking on a career can be abrupt and overwhelming, like taking a leap off a tall cliff into unknown waters. Preparing for these early professional endeavors with so little experience leaves students scrambling for resources that can help them.
In April of 2023, three Center for Latin American Studies alumni returned to their alma mater to offer the most invaluable kind of resource to current students facing the transition to a career: the expertise of people who have walked the same path before them.
Over the course of three days, Dr. Judith Anderson (Associate Professor of Ethnic and Race Studies, CUNY Borough of Manhattan Community College), Ms. Meghan Reynolds (Senior Director of Growth Marketing, Oura), and Mr. Jacob Schultz (Deputy Director, Office of Transportation Policy, U.S. Department of State) shared expertise and wisdom from their respective fields—academia, business, and government—to students interested in pursuing an international line of work.
In addition to class visits and a panel with all three alumni, breakout sessions focused on the intricacies of each field: Dr. Anderson guided students aiming for success in academia, Ms. Reynolds and Mr. Schultz offered insight on doing business in Latin America, and Ms. Reynolds conducted five mock interviews for students looking to practice their skills.
But on a more fundamental level than learning “how to” and the hands-on practice, interacting with the alumni opened students’ eyes to the types of jobs they might be able to pursue with their degree.
“The LAS alumni sessions gave me a chance to see the range of opportunities that a MALAS education can provide me post-studies,” said MALAS first year Jane Perez, who also volunteered to moderate the Global Career Panel. “With our visiting alumni’s varied career fields, my peers and I were able to understand the demands of their fields, how we can join these work forces, and the variations of them that would be the best fit for what we hope to accomplish as professionals.”
Dr. Anderson reinforced the importance of tailoring your academic experience to your professional goals. “Your degree isn’t your job title,” she shared with students. “You have to develop skillsets within your degree that will translate to your future careers.”
The most important skills that the alumni highlighted, no matter the field, were intercultural competence, language skills, and interpersonal skills. “More than ever it’s so important to be able to know how to talk to someone face to face, even if it’s uncomfortable,” Mr. Schultz shared.
For Ms. Reynolds, these “soft” skills stand out in a world increasingly driven by data analysis: “Data is important, but you need political, economic, historical context around data to understand it and explain why.” Dr. Anderson summarized it best: “Soft skills are really ‘do or die skills.’ They get you the job. They get you the promotion.”
Ultimately, thanks to the time and attention our three alumni volunteered, students came away from the experience feeling less daunted by that inevitable leap to a career. “By learning about cultural fluency in business, graduate scholarships, and language in global networking, my MALAS cohort feels more prepared for transitioning into professionals and academics in the upcoming year,” Jane reflected.
If you’re a Center alum interested in serving as guest speaker or mentor, please email firstname.lastname@example.org