Thank you to everyone who came out to the Alumni Panel yesterday! Hopefully you learned some great stuff and got to connect with our three wonderful panelists. A special thanks to Ella Sciocchetti for her photos and recap below!
This Friday, three alumni of the honors program returned to IC to share their knowledge and experiences with current students. Our distinguished guests included Melissa Littlefield ’00, Jesse Katen ’05, and Lily Shafer ’08. Here is what they shared with us and hopefully some of these stories will help give you guidance as you navigate your time at college and beyond!
Melissa Littlefield was a member of the first graduating class of the Honors program (which only had 27 students!) and she found a great mentor in Hugh Egan, the first director of the honors program. She fondly remembers having arguments with her professors in class and loves that the honors program gave students the opportunity to have conversations that could have a big impact. She strongly advocates finding a supportive community and network wherever you are. At IC she spent a lot of time getting to know the faculty in the English department and she advises us all to “take advantage of your professors, in a good way.” The honors program gave her an advantage and prepared her well for graduate school because she was willing to try new things and be in new situations.
Jesse Katen really loved the honors program because of the friends he made and the learning that occurred. He got over his shyness in his honors seminars and remembers thinking how he, “couldn’t wait until everyone else could shut up so you could say what you wanted to say!” I am sure some of us are familiar with this feeling today! During his college years, sometimes he would get so lost in thought and absorbing new information that he would get confused about reality. A professor enlightened him with this short story, “If you are walking around in Rome and you turn a corner then are suddenly lost, do you panic or say with joy, ‘I’m lost in Rome!’ and keep wandering?” Jesse loved the supreme joy and sublime awe of learning so he continued his education receiving other degrees and then eventually became a professor. He encourages his students to, “have the intellectual fortitude to hold thoughts in your mind for a while and then take the time to decide whether you are going to adopt whole or part into your values.” Our intellectual identity can be thought of as a structure of Legos; it changes from year to year. Jesse finished with a quote from Maya Angelou, “I want you to do it, and I want you to take it. Take it all the way!” and then gave this advice:
- Networking is not a verb. Make friends and develop relationships instead.
- Distinguish yourself, have a connection, seek out mentors that will be able to give strong personal testimonials.
- Be flexible enough to allow for the role of serendipity.
Lily Shafer always knew that she wanted to teach but she wasn’t sure exactly where that passion was going to take her. She grew up in Philadelphia and she worked at a pharmacy in high school. Because her community dealt with a lot of addiction, she learned to handle high stress situations and customer interactions. Lily was able to use this experience at IC to get a job at the help desk. Her academics helped determine her calling; as an English major she discovered that she was really good at explaining things. Her advice to English majors was, “You have a skill set you don’t know yet. You can talk and explain.” And for all you math haters out there, she wants you to think of algebra as the grammar of numbers; “Don’t hate math, it’s English in a different form,” she said. Lily spoke a lot about how learning can occur outside the classroom. She had to take on more responsibility when her boss at the help desk was out for months and in her subsequent jobs after college she learned how to manage up (manage your manager, which is like convincing your parents to do something). Lily moved on from these positions because she was unhappy and now has found a job that she loves. She was able to do this by making the most of every experience, looking for the value in everyday life, and having faith in herself.
We are very proud to have these alumni return and share their stories and advice with us. Remember to be open to happy accidents and realize that the jobs we may have in 10 years might not even exist now. Go out and follow your passions, find the people that support you, and when you are feeling down realize that sometimes the most productive moments come from personal difficulties.