VILLANOVA, Pa. – The Villanova alumni network is known for giving back, especially to current students who are trying to discern their own career paths. That generosity was on display on March 21, as four alumni returned to campus to talk about their careers in government and politics.
“A panel discussion was a great way to provide students with concrete advice about career options and paths,” said Jennifer Dixon, PhD, Assistant Professor of Political Science, who helped organize the event. “We were impressed with the range and nature of jobs among our alumni, and we were able to invite four speakers who work in distinct areas of government and politics. We really appreciated their willingness to share their experiences and advice with students.”
Nearly 40 graduate and undergraduate students in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences packed a classroom in Bartley Hall for the evening event, which was moderated by Dr. Dixon and included a lively question-and-answer session and a networking reception. The panelists included: Cecilia M. Cardesa-Lusardi, PhD, ’03 CLAS, Executive Director, Military Assistance Project; Erik Mitz ’17 CLAS, ’18 MA, Geospatial Analyst, National Geospatial Intelligence Agency; Brian Polk ’16 CLAS, ’17 MA, Program Associate, Ukraine, International Foundation for Electoral Systems; and Ryan Shay ’15 MA, Legislative Aide, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA). The panel also included Assistant Professor of Political Science Deborah Seligsohn, PhD, who had a two-decade career in the State Department as well as experience in an environmental NGO.
Among the many themes that came out during the discussion, the panelists expressed that there is a great breadth of jobs available to students of any academic background at the federal, state and local levels of government, and that current students should take advantage of the range of curricular, professional development and networking opportunities that Villanova has to offer.
Dr. Cardesa-Lusardi encouraged students to leverage the alumni network, noting that she is “committed to helping the next generation,” while Shay echoed her sentiment, saying that he would help in any way he could to help further their careers.
All of the alumni panelists shared some insight about how Villanova prepared them for their careers. Polk related that Villanova helped develop his analytical skills, and he encouraged students to participate in the many service learning opportunities at Villanova, while Mitz noted that his coursework and a research assistantship working with Geographic Information Systems at Villanova allowed him to develop the skills that helped him land his current position. Polk and Mitz each took advantage of the Combined BA/MA program in the Political Science Department to earn their master’s degrees in five years.
The panelists not only provided a trove of practical advice for the gathering of students, but they also helped reinforce the connections among students, faculty and alumni in the Villanova community.
“For the faculty, events such as these are rewarding because they allow us to see how our students have developed,” said Professor Markus Kreuzer, PhD, Political Science Graduate Program Director. “I might add that the panelists were delighted to help, and it was gratifying to see the high regard with which they hold Villanova.”
The panel discussion was sponsored by the Political Science Department, the Career Center and of the Office of Graduate Studies.