Voices from our Graduates: Careers After Union

Stories and words of advice from just a few of our recent graduates….


Karena Cronin

 Recent Career Path

I’ve just moved back to the United States with my family, after living in Johannesburg, South Africa for the last 10 years. I am thus currently the Chief of Staff of our big move. However, previously, I was a Business Development Manager with Charities Aid Foundation Southern Africa (CAFSA), an organization which promotes philanthropy.  The organization is part of a global alliance, comprising seven offices worldwide including CAF America headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia.

What does the work involve?

 My role was to support the organization’s sustainability by positioning it as a thought leader in the philanthropy space. This involved co-creating and managing a national initiative focused on strengthening corporate employee volunteering in support of South Africa’s development called Beyond Painting Classrooms, writing and research on various dimensions of philanthropy (e.g. cross-border giving and employee community involvement) as well as organizing numerous learning forums which supported the civil society sector. Additionally, I managed a number of social development projects, including two US supported grant programs which provided skills to economically disadvantaged youth to enable them to earn a livelihood.

How did your time at Union prepare you for your current position?

 At Union, I came to see my world, American society, and international relations through the lens of power. Professor Lori Marso’s classes on political theory were particularly instructive about how power is allocated according to gender, race, class and nationality. While at Union, apart from campus life, I also had the opportunity to learn about power from experiences such as interning in Washington DC and studying abroad in Brazil. My understanding of power and privilege, along with solid skills in writing and critical thinking have helped me to navigate a career focused on strengthening civic engagement and human rights. At Charities Aid Foundation Southern Africa, it provided me with the necessary foundation to manage the organization’s research portfolio, keeping in mind the power dynamics which permeate philanthropy. My grounding in political philosophy at Union has also helped me navigate diverse working environments in South Africa, Europe and the United States.

What is your fondest recollection of majoring in Political Science?

 The professors in the department were all so passionate about their areas of expertise, and committed to cultivating curious and thoughtful minds. I will be forever grateful for the time and energy they expended in developing their syllabi, answering my questions, improving my writing, and thinking with me – not for me – about political and social issues that I was passionate about.

What advice would you have for current majors for life after Union? 

As a graduate of Union College, you will have many career options. While this can be daunting, know that it is also an extreme privilege. Remember that there is wealth in your social networks, and as you start the marathon of your career, stay close to the issues and ideas that excited you while studying Political Science at Union. Finally, as someone who recently left South Africa, I just have to say that you should check out Trevor Noah. Even if you don’t agree with him, he is providing fresh analysis of American politics and bringing to the fore an international perspective!


Aubree Heydrick

 What is your current professional title?

Legislative Analyst for the New York State Assembly

What does the work involve?

 The New York State Assembly is the lower house of the State legislature. As part of the Assembly’s central staff, each legislative analyst is assigned to one of the house’s standing committees. After serving two years as the legislative analyst for the Racing and Wagering Committee, I have just recently accepted a new position as the analyst for the New York State Assembly Standing Committee on Labor.

My job involves examining bills referred to the Committee, helping to develop new proposals, and collaborating with the Chair of the Committee, as well as key stakeholders, to advance legislation with regards to important issues that affect the private sector workforce in New York State. This includes planning Committee meetings, briefing Assembly Members and staff on various proposals, conducting extensive research, and drafting and amending legislation on topics such as minimum wage, equal pay, workers’ compensation and disability benefits, unemployment insurance, workplace safety, workforce development, the right to organize, and the State’s new paid family leave program. Another key component of my job is working on the annual New York State budget. For this, I am responsible for reviewing and analyzing budget proposals, making recommendations on policy issues, and negotiating a final budget with the staffs of the Executive and the New York State Senate.

 How did your time at Union prepare you for your current position?

I cannot emphasize enough how much the skills I developed as a Political Science major have aided me in my current position. Research, writing, analysis, and public speaking are all major components of my daily work at the Assembly. However, since graduating, I have discovered that the key to these skills is not just acquiring them, but rather learning how to use them in the most effective ways. Union College taught me how to conduct useful and relevant research, how to write in a clear and concise manner, and how to adequately communicate important information as well as your own opinions. Learning how to productively utilize these skills is an invaluable resource for the future.

What is your fondest recollection of majoring in Political Science?

During my time at Union, I participated in the Model United Nations course for three years. In addition to all the great experiences and stories that resulted from our annual trips to New York City for the national competition, I thoroughly enjoyed the process of researching a new country every year and learning more about international relations and policy issues on a global scale. Working on current, real-life topics also brought a greater understanding and relevance to our classwork.

What advice would you have for current majors for life after Union?

Soak up as much knowledge, experience, and advice from your professors as you can! They are offering you important skills and key insights that will become critical tools when you begin searching for your first post-college job and building a career.


Christine Liang

Recent Career Path

I am a Special Assistant at the Bureau of   Democracy,Human Rights and Labor at the United States Department of State.

What does your work involve?

My work involves coordinating all of the activities for the office, which includes scheduling meetings, coordinating between our office and others, and serving as the assistant for the office of Western Hemispheric Affairs. Working in the Department of State headquarters in downtown Washington, DC allows me not only to work on the issues specific to the office, but also to be involved more largely in the flurry of activity at the State Department.

How did your time at Union prepare you for this position?

When I was at Union, I did not appreciate how much the writing skills I was developing would help me out in the work world. My job demands that I analyze issues and provide concise written briefs – without all the writing and research the professors at Union taught me to perform I would not be able to succeed in this position. Most importantly, though, Union taught me how to learn and be passionate about the issues which I am studying. Prior to starting in this position, I was an intern for the Turkish affairs  office in the State Department, and I had to learn quickly about issues pertinent to Turkey. In my current position I have had to absorb information about Cuba, Mexico and other areas in  the Western Hemisphere. My time at Union was crucial to learning how to absorb information quickly and become passionate about those issues.

What is your fondest recollection of majoring in Political Science?

I have so many wonderful memories of majoring in “Poli Sci.” Whether it was establishing my four-year plan with Professor Angrist, spending hours on end chatting with Professor Cidam or listening to Professor Dallas weave together politics and economics, I miss interacting with and learning from all of the wonderful Political Science professors. If I had to pinpoint one specific aspect of Political Science at Union, though, I would have to choose the term in Washington, DC. Aside from all of the amazing adventures we went on with Professor Lobe, this term really helped me put my interest in Political Science in a career perspective. Working on the Hill and talking to people in DC allowed me to cement my interest in foreign affairs and begin to see how my studies fit into the larger fabric of Washington.

What advice do you have for current Political Science majors for life after Union?

Take advantage of all of what professors have to offer! Make sure you talk to them, get to know them, and get their advice. They will be able to point you in the direction of great opportunities which will enrich your Union experience. Talking with professors helped me to discover the Washington, D.C. term and the West Point conference. Both of these opportunities allowed me to hone my communications skills and be more comfortable in my current position. Don’t take your time at Union for granted, it will fly by!


Sean Mulkerne

sean-mulkerneRecent Career Path

Senior Associate in Research, Monitoring and Evaluation at Palladium International Development

What does the work involve?

I advise international development projects funded by developed nations on how they define and measure their successes and failures. My work is intended help teams use data to debate and refine their approaches to helping those in poverty. I work closely with implementation teams, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, to shape the design and theory of the programme, develop a framework of indicators tracking success, establish a system of data collection and reporting, and set an agenda for research, learning and programme improvement. Most of the projects I support are funded by the British government and are intended to support government reform and civil society participation. I am typically abroad about one-third of the year, most frequently visiting countries including Tanzania, Rwanda and Bangladesh.

How did your time at Union prepare you for your current position?

My experience in the Political Science department, even as a first-year, inspired me to focus on international politics as a central professional interest. I found the subject matter extremely engaging, and Union gave me the opportunity to apply it through an internship at a human rights organization in Washington, DC, in my junior year, and again with Model United Nations as a senior. My professors at Union were also very encouraging of my decision to pursue graduate study in international relations, and pointed me in the direction of the London School of Economics, which I later attended. I also think that Union inspired the interest I now have in the politics of development – how political arrangements affect the lives of poor people positively and negatively.

What is your fondest recollection of majoring in Political Science?

I really enjoyed Model United Nations, particularly the final conference in New York. It was a really fantastic experience meeting students from across the country who were knowledgeable and passionate about the subject, debating real problems from different perspectives. Similarly, Union sponsored my attendance at the Student Conference on United States Affairs at West Point, where I discussed and wrote about terrorism with very bright students and professors. I was a great fan of the Pizza and Politics sessions held in the department classrooms and Minerva Houses (which I hope still continues!). Of course, I also really enjoyed discussions in my seminars in the advanced courses, and handing in my dissertation.

What advice would you have for current majors for life after Union?

Networking is extremely important – nearly every significant career move I have made since I finished my studies has been the result of forming a strong connection with someone who later offered me an opportunity. Those connections are developed as a result of diligence and confidence, so producing high quality work in professional situations is very important.

Developing both “hard” and “soft” skills for the job you want – even through an employer outside of your field of interest – is also critical. For example, those interested in working in international relations would likely benefit significantly from learning a second language. They may also wish to learn about specific tools and approaches used in the specific organizations they are interested in joining, in order to convey interest and capability to potential employers. New graduates should also seek out opportunities for public speaking and presenting their work, as being able to convey ideas clearly and effectively is a valuable skill.

Finally, many roles in international relations will require a graduate degree of some kind, but given the costs involved, I would recommend trying to build work experience for a year or two beforehand. Professional experience of all kinds will shape your career interests and goals, and it is worthwhile to explore different career options before focusing in on a particular field.


2015 New Faculty and Staff Headshots

Liza Taylor

Recent Career Path

Political Theory Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow in the Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts at Loyola Marymount University

What Does the Work Involve?

As a Political Theory Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow in the Bellarmine Society of Fellows at Loyola Marymount University, I teach a variety of political theory courses within LMU’s Department of Political Science, including Foundations of Political Thought, Contemporary Political Theory, Modern Political Theory, and special topics seminars in feminist theory. I also regularly participate in the Bellarmine Society of Fellows Seminar, devoted to training and critical reflection on liberal arts and Ignatian pedagogy in addition to research and professional development. In addition to my teaching responsibilities, I am working on a number of scholarly articles in the broad areas of contemporary feminist theory and critical race theory. One of these engages in a close rereading of Susan Moller Okin’s controversial essay, “Is Multiculturalism Bad for Women?” Another presents the concept of coalition coming out of 1980s U.S. women of color feminism as a central one to contemporary political theory. A third article presents “coalitional pedagogy” as an inventive approach to teaching and learning about social justice and critical feminist theory in the 21st century.

How Did My Time at Union Prepare Me?

My time at Union has been invaluable to my development as a teacher-scholar and has proven particularly helpful within my current position at a liberal arts college. Not only did I discover my passion for philosophy, political theory, and feminist theory at Union College, but I was encouraged there to see the interdisciplinary connections across my various “home” departments in philosophy, political science, and women’s studies. This interdisciplinary focus has informed my entire post-graduate course of study and continues to  shape my approach to teaching social and political thought. My time at Union also exposed me to the exciting opportunities engendered through a liberal arts education. My teaching philosophy reflects many of these core principles. The meaningful relationships I developed with my professors at Union have provided models for how to engage with my students at LMU. In many ways, Union taught me how to be both the scholar and the teacher that I am today.

Fondest Recollection of Majoring in Political Science

My fondest memories of majoring in political science almost all center on experiences I had in Lori Marso’s various political theory courses. It was in those courses that I not only gained a firm grasp of key canonical thinkers and ideas, but where I also gained the confidence and interest to push back against canonical texts from a feminist perspective. A particularly fond memory on this front would have to be defending my junior research project on Simone de Beauvoir’s treatment of narcissism in women against a room full of male philosophy professors and students. Marso’s seminar on feminist political theory (out of which the Beauvoir paper first emerged) was pivotal to my development as a scholar. It was also pivotal in shaping my teaching philosophy. Marso modeled the course after a graduate seminar, putting considerable responsibly on the students for leading discussion and unpacking the texts we read together. I realized after that class that if I could figure out a way to live out as much of my life as possible in spaces such as that one I would be a very happy person. It was at that moment that I decided to pursue a Ph.D.

Advice for Life After Union

For current political science majors, I would encourage all of you to revel in your liberal arts education. Unless you plan to be an engineer or a doctor, there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t take every class that catches your interest (and indeed even still if you do plan to be an engineer or doctor!). Step outside of your comfort zone and explore as much as you can both within and outside of the major. Get to know your professors! They will likely be some of the best mentors you will ever encounter. As you get ready to leave Union, explore the various ways in which you can take your interests and passions and turn them into a career path.  Have frank discussions with your mentors at Union about how to navigate those waters. Do internships in the summers or internship programs during the academic year. I was considering both law school and graduate school when I was a senior. It was in honest conversations with Lori Marso that I was able to think through what both paths might look like for me. The mentoring at your fingertips at a school like Union is something that should not go unused. Coming out of Union, you are all well prepared for life after college. Know that, and now spend time thinking about the variety of ways you can pursue a meaningful and happy life.


andrew-churchill

Andrew Churchill

Recent Career Path

First-Year Associate at Sullivan & Cromwell, NY.

What Does the Work Involve?

As a first-year litigation associate at a law firm, my tasks range from writing briefs to reviewing documents.  At any given time, I am on four to five different teams/projects.  There are also opportunities to travel.  I have already spent considerable time on-site at a client’s office in Delaware, but some of my co-workers have gone to far more exotic places.

In terms of subject matter, I have focused on criminal defense and investigations.  My pro bono work has focused on education law issues.

How Did My Time at Union Prepare Me?

The small class sizes at Union taught me to take ownership over my work and required adequate preparation.  The numerous extracurricular activities at Union, including those offered through the political science department, taught me to budget my time.  Honing these skills allowed me to succeed in law school, which increased my options after graduation.

Fondest Recollection of Majoring in Political Science

My fondest recollections of majoring in political science include the trimester I spent in Washington D.C. interning for my congresswoman as part of Union’s D.C. program and participating on Union’s Model United Nations team during my junior and senior years.  Going to D.C. gave me valuable work experience, access to think tanks and government agencies, as well as access to all of the city’s cultural offerings.  Participating on Union’s Model U.N. team made me a better public speaker and introduced me to issues in international politics that I had not focused on in my other political science classes.

Advice for Life After Union

Unless you are 100% sure of your career choice, try to seek a path that provides you with various options.  For example, I followed Professor Hays’ advice to attend a law school that offered me a scholarship, instead of a more expensive school.  Fortunately, this choice will allow me to make career decisions that are based on factors other than student debt.

Also, whether you choose to attend another school after Union or join the workforce, I encourage you to listen to those around you—especially those you do not agree with.  You often learn more from a perspective that differs from your own.


jordan-goldman_linkedin

Jordan Goldman

Recent career path

Associate, Corporate Department in the New York office of Paul Hastings LLP, an international law firm.

What does the work (professional or academic) involve, and how did your time at Union prepare you for it?

I represent companies in merger, acquisition, private equity and joint venture transactions. My role varies from deal to deal, but usually includes drafting transaction documents, negotiating key terms of those documents with clients and opposing counsel, and conducting legal due diligence. The extensive writing required by the courses I took at Union prepared me well for law school and life as an associate in a law firm. Critical thinking and writing are what I do and the quality of Union’s academics, particularly in the Political Science department, gave me the tools required for my chosen career. In addition, the small class sizes and expectation that all students would participate in class taught me how to put forth and defend a position, skills that are invaluable in law school and as an attorney.

What is your fondest recollection of majoring in Political Science at Union?

My fondest recollection of majoring in Political Science was defending my senior thesis at the Steinmetz Symposium. Professor Zoe Oxley supervised my thesis, entitled “The Effect of Public Approval Levels of Congress on Midterm Elections.” Several of my professors, my family and about 20 friends were there to support my defense. It was a fun way to end my academic career at Union.

My favorite course in the Political Science department was the introductory course on Constitutional Law, taught by Professor Bradley Hays. Although memorizing 80 or so Supreme Court cases (with dissents!) was daunting, it was one of the more interesting courses I took. Professor Hays was new to Union then but quickly became a mentor to me. Plus, that knowledge of cases helped me immensely when I took Constitutional Law again in law school, a welcome bonus.

What advice would you have for current Political Science majors as they think about life after Union?

My advice to current Political Science majors is four-fold. First, enjoy your time at Union. Never again will you have as much time to delve into topics purely to satisfy academic curiosity, and Union is a great place to do so (in addition to being a fun place in general). Second, make sure you know what your next step will be after you leave Union. Whether you begin work right away or apply to graduate school, understand the pros and cons of each choice and make an informed decision. Your professors and academic advisors can help you figure out the next step. Third, find a balance between not being pressured to follow a certain path and being “lost” after graduation. You’ve already made a substantial investment of time and money into your education and you should have a plan of attack, but diving into something that isn’t a good fit and which can be quite expensive is just as bad as having no plan at all. Finally, don’t be afraid to reach out to Union alumni. We are happy and flattered to field questions and in my experience Union’s bond goes far beyond the four years we all spent in Schenectady. In other words, Let’s Go U!


kelsey-macelroy-photo

Kelsey MacElroy

Recent career path

I am currently in my second year of a three year JD/MBA program at Cornell University.

What does the work (professional or academic) involve, and how did your time at Union prepare you for it?

As a JD/MBA, I am taking a diverse set of classes in both the business school and the law school. While my business school classes require a quantitative mindset, my law school classes are far more qualitative and theoretical. The liberal arts education I received at Union and, more specifically, the structure of the Core Curriculum prepared me to adapt to the breadth of courses I am taking as I pursue this dual degree. I was able to broaden my horizons beyond the Political Science department to take courses in economics, hard sciences, and math. Due to these experiences, I was able to build a strong foundation in a wide variety of disciplines that have been invaluable in my graduate work.

What is your fondest recollection of majoring in Political Science at Union?

My fondest recollection was turning in the final version of my senior thesis. After months of hard work, all-nighters, and countless revisions, I felt a profound sense of accomplishment when I handed Professor Hays the bound version of my thesis. It was certainly a challenging experience but I grew immensely as both a writer and a critical thinker.

What advice would you have for current Political Science majors as they think about life after Union?

The best advice is to diversify your skill set by taking advantage of the wide array of course offerings. Even if you are a political science major, considering taking a class outside of the social sciences departments, such as a computer science course, that might be beneficial for life after Union or that just interests you generally.


caroline-tulip

Caroline Tulp

Recent career path?

I recently started working as the Southern Africa Program Coordinator at the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES).  Last year I lived in Laos working for Pencils of Promise, a small NGO that builds schools and implements educational programs.

What does the work (professional or academic) involve, and how did your time at Union prepare you for it?

My organization works with Election Management Bodies across the world to help governments conduct democratic elections. We also work with civil society organizations (political parties, ngos, media, etc) as appropriate to help this process. As a Program Coordinator for Southern Africa, I support our teams on the ground in Zimbabwe and Zambia to implement our programs, which include anything from making sure the voter registration lists are accurate to implementing an SMS (texting) tool so people can text a number and receive a response with the location of their polling station.

Union helped prepare me for this position in so many ways its hard to narrow it down, but I think most importantly, Union forced me to think critically and defend my views.  I participated in Model UN and the DC term, which both really pushed me to think outside the box and do the research needed to have intelligent discussions with senior persons at organizations. This is extremely important as I have to present and discuss current events in Africa at our team meetings.  Also, I did the Central Europe term abroad which introduced me to traveling and working in developing countries, and I got hooked!

What is your fondest recollection of majoring in Political Science at Union?

When I did the DC term with Professor Lobe one of my favorite memories was before we even went to DC.  The entire group was invited to his house before we left for DC for a dinner party.  It was not only great to meet everyone before the term began, but it also showed the strong connection that Union professors have with their students. We played games in his basement, met his kids, and ate dinner all together. It was a great way to start the term.

What advice would you have for current Political Science majors as they think about life after Union?

1) Know that you can switch careers. Don’t freak out if you don’t know what you want to do for the next 10 years. I worked at PricewaterhouseCoopers for 3 years in auditing before I made a career shift to international development. Its hard to do, but it is absolutely possible and I know a few other people who did it as well.

2) Use the Union network. To get my job at PwC and also at IFES, I networked with Union alumni and it is amazing how far the chain goes. Everyone was so willing to help when they knew I was also a Union alum. Because Union is so small, that connection goes much further than campus.


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Kelsey Mulvihill

Recent career path?

Associate Account Strategist, SMB Sales, Google

What does the work (professional or academic) involve, and how did your time at Union prepare you for it?

My work at Google involves partnering with small businesses advertising through Google AdWords to provide strategic advice and share performance-enhancing suggestions to improve their return on investment.  My time at Union prepared me for the work that I am doing now by exposing me to various disciplines captured under the liberal arts umbrella. Although I did not major in advertising or sales, I developed both my written and oral communication skills and studied a wide variety of unrelated subjects through my First Year Preceptorial and Sophomore Research Seminar, Math and Science classes, and the English, History, Sociology, French, and Political Science classes that were definitely more in my comfort zone.  I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to have had such a breadth of knowledge and experience shared with me during my time at Union from professors and students across all disciplines.

What is your fondest recollection of majoring in Political Science at Union?

My fondest memory of majoring in Political Science at Union was being able to work with Professor Oxley on research that she was conducting for a book that she was co-authoring. Her work on gender in politics inspired me to write my thesis on women in judicial elections and become involved in the judicial campaign of a local woman running to be the first woman elected in her judicial district (she won).

What advice would you have for current Political Science majors as they think about life after Union?

Don’t be afraid if you don’t know what you want to be when you grow up. I’m already on my second profession and I’m not even sure yet.

But really…

Write down a list of 10 things that you care about and start brainstorming ways that you can incorporate these things into your daily life, both personally and professionally. This list may change over the years, but focus on things that make you truly happy and you’ll enjoy going to work each day.

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