Students Connect with English Alumni in New York City
By Sarah Gibbons | Thursday, May 25, 2017
Thursday, May 25, 2017
On April 21, fifteen senior English majors, along with professors Janis Greve and David Fleming, traveled to New York City for the English department’s first-ever Career Roundtable through the College of Humanities and Fine Arts’ New York Professional Outreach Program (NYPOP). The group took advantage of the many UMass Amherst English alumni in the New York City area and NYPOP’s classroom space on 23rd St. in Manhattan. The roundtable was a great success—lively, informative, and intimate. Alumni guests and students alike report the gratifying exchanges it produced and warmly express a desire to keep such efforts going.
Students from Professor Greve’s English 491C Working Yourself Up, Professor Fleming’s English 494EI Writing, Identity, and English Studies, and other UMass Amherst English courses took an early Friday morning bus from Haigus Mall to the NYPOP space in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, arriving with enough time to explore the nearby High Line and other sights before the afternoon roundtable. Then, at 3:00 pm, students gathered in at NYPOP to listen to UMass Amherst English alumni Stephanie Meyers, ’05, Associate Director of Strategy and Social Media at Inc. Magazine; Nicholas Miriello, ’09, Senior International Editor at Vice News Online; Amy Brady, Manager of Grants and Development at the Bard College Graduate Center; Dana Pungello, ’04, Director of Communications at the National Academy Foundation; Matthew DiGirolamo, ’01, Chief Communications Officer at L’Oréal USA; and Tom Spain, a 1983 American Studies graduate of Yale and Editorial Director at Simon & Schuster Audio.
Each panelist spoke for about 10 minutes about their paths since college. They then divided up in pairs and sat with small groups of students, engaging them in discussion and dialogue about life after UMass and English. There was even time at the end for one-on-one conversation and networking. Throughout, the alumni were generous with their time, advice, and business cards, sharing stories and contacts and listening thoughtfully to the students’ questions. Their main message, reiterated again and again in multiple ways: a humanities education at UMass Amherst is the best kind of preparation for many of today’s most interesting and promising careers.
In post-trip comments, students remarked on the diverse and unpredictable journeys that the panelists had taken from college to career and said that hearing from actual UMass English alumni with actual jobs made the coming transition from school to “the real world” seem more concrete and realistic. Students were also struck by how hard the panelists had worked since college, how important networking was in their professional lives, and how many twists and turns their careers involved. Above all, students appreciated hearing how valuable the skills of English majors are—those ingrained habits of reading, writing, critical thinking, and creativity.
After the roundtable, students were on their own Friday night and Saturday morning, though they were encouraged to take advantage of New York City’s many educational and cultural activities. The bus returned Saturday afternoon, and the students were back on campus that night, a short but eventful trip. The English Department is only just beginning to take advantage of NYPOP’s resources in New York City and of the department’s enthusiastic, talented, and generous alumni everywhere.