In the fall of 2007, I started a series on the Wagner Plan by sitting in on the First-Year Learning Community, “Perception, Illusion, and the Social Construction of the Self.” I followed the students of that Learning Community throughout their four years, from 2007 to 2011. In 2018, I checked in with a few of them and found out where their Wagner Plan education had led them, seven years after graduation. Their stories diverge and intersect in many ways. — Laura Barlament, Editor, Wagner Magazine
A grassroots political change-maker
Kyla Knight ’11 moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, in 2018, where she works as an engineer for Microsoft and as a user experience researcher for get-out-the-vote projects.
She has worked for a couple of different tech companies; she earned her MBA, focused on information systems and organizational behavior, from Baruch College. But a lot of her post-collegiate life has been devoted to grassroots political activism, especially for LGBTQ rights and marriage equality. Wagner, she says, set her up for this work by developing her confidence, knowledge, and maturity. (Read more about Kyla's undergraduate experience.)
One important moment came during Knight’s senior year, when she was part of the Wagner Moot Court team. At the American Collegiate Moot Court Association’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Tournament, she was assigned to argue on the topic of same-sex marriage. Her team made it to the semi-finals — a first for Wagner.
“It’s really important to me that the foundation of Wagner is holistic,” Knight says. “Since we live in such a turbulent environment, it’s so important to look at how you can give back. Wagner does such a good job of instilling that sense of value of giving back to the community.”
A psychologist focused on underserved populations
Kyle Glover ’11 moved to San Diego in 2018 and started a doctoral program in psychology. Since graduation, he has worked at a mental health outpatient facility and an organization that helps people with disabilities to integrate with their communities.
“When I was at Wagner, and I was an impetuous young man, I always thought I was going to be the greatest psychologist since Sigmund Freud, right?” He laughs and continues, “I’ve since tempered my expectations. I’d like to have my own practice, and I’d like to make my own unique contribution to therapy and psychology and to humans’ understanding of themselves.”
For Glover, his Wagner experience was profound in shaping his view of himself, his interests, and his sense of mission. “Things I learned there, especially with Professor Miles Groth and Professor Walter Kaelber, still stick with me, whether it’s psychology, religion, philosophy. … I’m going to try to apply them in order to assist people if I can.”
A working actor empowered to create solutions
Patrick Heffernan ’11 has been working as a musical theater actor ever since he left Wagner. He has been in three national theatrical tours and many regional theater productions, and he has taught at Wagner and choreographed Wagner College Theatre shows.
It’s a life of constant learning (he went to Germany last summer for vocal training, for example), juggling schedules, and occasionally waiting tables and teaching yoga on the side if necessary.
As a Wagner student, he learned to be resourceful, to integrate ideas, and to collaborate with diverse people.
“It’s so empowering [as a Wagner student] to see that you can be a part of the solution instead of having the solution given to you,” he says. “Wagner’s a place where the student is asked to step up and contribute and make the most of what’s being offered. Every class you take and every co-curricular experience feeds you and gives you information about yourself and about the world.”
A teacher outside of the school system
Samantha Siegel ’11 M’13 lives in Philadelphia, where she has started a business that brings yoga-inspired practices, which she calls mindful movement and meditation, to children and teens.
“My Wagner experience, both as a student and professionally, has given me the ability to be both a risk-taker but also extremely intentional as I move forward in creating a business in a new community,” Siegel says.
Siegel spent the first several years of her post-collegiate life at Wagner, taking on roles of increasing responsibility. First, she earned her master’s degree in education, based on her study of Wagner’s work in schools through the Port Richmond Partnership. Her analysis led to her appointment as the director of Wagner’s Center for Leadership and Community Engagement. Under her leadership, the center launched new programs that promote academic, leadership, and civic skills among Wagner students and Port Richmond High School students.
When Siegel decided to leave her job at Wagner, she sought out a close-knit community like Port Richmond where she could live and pursue some long-held dreams and ambitions. She found it in the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia. In 2015, she had taken a group of Port Richmond High School students to Philadelphia to work in Germantown’s community garden. “I looked around at this garden that was filled with people from all different walks of life, color, and it just blew me away,” she recalls. “And I said, ‘Something is really calling me here. I want to live here.’”
Siegel has worked in childcare, educational consulting, and writing. She is a member of a cooperative farm at Awbury Arboretum. She has also written a series of children’s books, and she incorporates storytelling into her teaching.
“I think the creative, innovative thinking and the ability to look for connections in places that you wouldn’t normally look is a skill that comes out of the First-Year Program,” she notes.