In a competitive job market, liberal arts majors may think their skills are not as much in demand as their professional school counterparts.
But in a field like government, a liberal arts education prepares students just as well, or even better, than a business or law degree.
This was the message of a panel on "Careers in Government" -- co-sponsored by Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Rebecca Bushnell and Career Services -- that took place Monday evening in Logan Hall.
The panel of five consisted of Penn alumni from the 1980s and 1990s who received undergraduate degrees from the College.
Each panelist was enthusiastic about working for the federal government in Washington, D.C., and about the value of their time as undergraduates at Penn.
David Aidekman, a 1997 graduate who is now the director for policy and programs of the White House Homeland Security Council, said that by having a career in government, one has a chance to work with "very talented, very smart people who want to make a difference."
He added that a Penn education "helps every day [on the job]. You can't succeed without a broad background."
"Graduating from here with a liberal arts degree means you know how the world works," said Scott Mulhauser, who received his bachelor's degree from Penn in 1997 and now works as a spokesman and speechwriter for Sen. John Breaux (D-La.)."Having Penn on there lends credibility to a resum‚."
The panelists agreed that in addition to the allure of their jobs, Washington is a great city in which to work.
Lydia Griggsby, who received her B.A. from Penn in 1990 and is now an assistant U.S. attorney at the Department of Justice, said she "got the Washington, D.C., bug, as everyone says."
Mulhauser agreed, saying, "Each time something happens, I tell myself it can't get any crazier," alluding to the excitement of working in the capital. "I've loved every minute of it."
In spite of all the positives of working for the federal government, the panelists noted some drawbacks.
1987 Penn graduate Susanne Mehlman said that government work can be frustrating because of gridlock.
Even so, compared to her experience working in the private sector, there is less bureaucracy in her current government job.
She added that it is "really gratifying to see an issue I've worked on debated on the House or Senate floor."
Students said they were not sure of the overall effect Career Services has on campus, but most agreed that Monday's panel was useful.
"It was interesting to see what kinds of decisions [the panelists] made to get where they are," College junior John Paul Remorenko said.
College sophomore Tom Haymore said that while he has visited Career Services "a couple of times," he didn't know "how effective they are at getting information out to the general population."
Associate Director of Career Services Peggy Curchack addressed this concern.
"We started to put together a concerted program to let College students know the range of possibilities out there," she said.
The event validated her goal, as approximately 75 students attended the discussion.
In her introduction to the event, Curchack mentioned the Penn Career Network -- a database of alumni contact information -- as a useful tool for students to utilize as they search for jobs.
There was unanimous agreement on the value of the alumni network.
"It's something you can look forward to as a benefit of a Penn education," said Philip Decola, program scientist for atmospheric composition at NASA's Office of Earth Science, who received his B.A. and Ph.D. from Penn in 1984 and 1990, respectively.
Mulhauser agreed, saying, "It's nice to have friends in a big city where you don't know anyone."Comments powered by Disqus
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