The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Taking Flight: Recent Honors Alumni Discuss Life After Graduation with Honors Seniors


Commonwealth Honors College alumni met with Honors seniors during Thursday evening’s event, “Taking Flight: Creating a Space for Honors Seniors and Alumni to Connect.” The panel consisted of four Honors alumni: Mason Iriana ’20, Michael Orlando ’20, Maria Sucher ’18, and Hadiya Williams ’18.

With the 2021 Celebration of Excellence quickly approaching, the panelists shared their experiences and advice for ensuring a smooth transition from college to the workplace and/or graduate school, and fielded seniors’ questions about the challenges and opportunities ahead.

“If you’re feeling stressed out about what you want to do…the best thing to do is to talk to a professional…because they’re the perfect person to understand you, guide you, and support you in that journey,” said Mason Iriana, now a clinic coordinator at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

“Make structure in your lifestyle, either waking up at the same time every day, working out, trying to be healthy and active. Adding structure really can help you stay on track and accomplish your goals in time.”

Hadiya Williams, a second-year law student at New York University School of Law, is focusing her studies on the intersection of constitutional civil rights with health law. Having earned a dual degree in anthropology and psychology (with a concentration in neuroscience) as well as a master’s in public policy, Williams reminded attendees to be open-minded about the possibility of unanticipated changes in both their academic and professional pursuits.

“As you’re looking toward your career path, I would recommend being open to new ideas…talking to folks about your interests and being able to take the opportunities that come your way without closing yourself off,” Williams said. “You might think you’re on a certain path…but opportunities can come out of nowhere, and I’d say take them with full force and see where the road takes you.”

Maria Sucher, currently working as an associate marketing manager at a publishing company, encouraged students to reach out to UMass alumni. “UMass alum love helping UMass alum, so don’t hesitate to reach out to anybody from the UMass community, even if you’ve never met them before.”

Williams added, “The people that you meet at UMass through your student groups and cultural organizations will also be a lifeline to you…it’s been really beneficial for me to be connected with those folks.”

When asked what he would tell his “senior self,” Michael Orlando, a UMass graduate student pursuing a master’s in public policy concentrating on issues of internet governance and reform, said, “You don’t have all the answers when you’re about to graduate, and that’s okay. I’m using this opportunity in grad school to apply myself in different ways and work on that work/life balance.”

While pursuing a field of study or line of work that is interesting and enjoyable is crucial in achieving successful long-term goals, Sucher emphasized the importance of identifying those which do not contribute to one’s academic or professional experience.

“It’s just as important to learn what you don’t like or what you don’t need in a workspace,” Sucher said. “I think life’s too short to be in a job where you’re spending 40 hours per week if you don’t like the people you’re working with or a job that you’re actually doing.”

Williams and Orlando echoed Sucher’s sentiments, adding that keeping up to date on current events and constantly engaging in conversation with colleagues and peers helped prepare them when their postgraduation plans took some unexpected turns.

“Keep yourself well read and abreast of what’s going on in the world around you and outside of your field of interest,” Williams said. “Keep your path open because…it can take unexpected turns and you want to be ready for those.”

“My life, both at UMass and beyond UMass, changed when I started talking to people,” Orlando added. “I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t invest in the relationships that I’ve made with people. So invest in yourself, your relationships, your skills, and be proud of yourself. Believe that you belong and you deserve to be here.”