Monday evening, October 16, the English department hosted an event for alumni to discuss career opportunities with students. Often, college students imagine a direct, linear path from "major" to "job," but the world doesn't actually work that way. As a recent article in Fortune magazine points out, with all of the technological, social, philosophical, and entrepreneurial innovation, old careers may die out or change, while new ones emerge. Therefore, the best sort of college experience is a broad, liberal arts education that will enable you to think, learn, and creatively adapt.
All three of the alumni who spoke had imagined a clear career path for themselves after college, but soon after graduating, they discovered something else that they had never even considered or imagined while a student. They now have exciting and fulfilling careers where they put into practice everyday the skills they learned from their humanities degrees -- skills such as writing, research, cross-cultural understanding, information literacy, attention to language, and especially the sort of intense critical reading and analysis that is the hallmark of a humanities degree.
Abigail Cream graduated in 2016 with an English major and a Spanish minor. Like many majors with a love of literature, she imagined a career as an editor for a publishing company. Indeed, some Wagner English majors have found opportunities at large firms such as the Hachette Book Group or Penguin Random House, but few college graduates find satisfying, longterm careers in this business. Instead, after experimenting with a couple of different jobs, Abigail was offered a position at a philanthropy called the Simons Foundation. The mission of the Simons Foundation is to advance mathematics and science. Although Abigail did not focus on math and science when she was a college student, what the Simons Foundation needs from people like her are culturally savvy communicators who can help them engage with and inform the general public. Abigail has found the the work intellectually stimulating and rewarding.
Thomas Scarcella graduated in 2015 with an English major and a journalism minor. He loved working as a tutor for Wagner College's Writing Center and saw himself getting his PhD in writing pedagogy to someday become the director of a college writing center. But when looking for an internship as a college student, he met someone who suggested trying out Standard and Poor's (S&P), the famous financial ratings agency. He never imagined himself working on Wall Street, but what Wall Street needs from people like Tom is someone who can read carefully, digest information, and write well. Since graduating, he has worked as an editor for an architecture and engineering firm STV, Inc. and is now at an international bond-rating agency, KBRA.
Zachary Weinsteiger graduated in 2014 with an English major and a minor in philosophy and religious studies. Thinking he might want to become an English professor, he began a graduate program, but quickly discovered that it was not what he expected. Shortly after, another Wagner alumnus introduced him to the world of non-profit organizations, and he got a job with Charity Navigator, a firm that evaluates and assesses charities. While telling his story, Zach pointed out the utility of the Wagner network and the importance of putting oneself out there, as Charity Navigator was founded by another Wagner alumnus. There, he found a perfect home for the skills he learned at Wagner College in researching, analyzing, and synthesizing information to enrich and educate the philanthropic sector.
In their conversation with Wagner College students, faculty, and staff, all three of them emphasized two basic points: (1) don't underestimate the skills you learned in your humanities major and how useful they are to a wide range of careers, and (2) be open to unexpected opportunities.