CS Radio: Episode 26 – “Serving Alumni”


As Homecoming approaches this weekend, we’re taking a look about the variety of services we offer to Penn alumni.  We’re joined by Penn alum and Career Services employee, Ferrell Townshend, who will talk about how we work with alumni applying to medical school.  Michael and Mylène highlight other services, including our network of private career counselors.  All that, plus the usual rundown of this week’s events!  Toast will be thrown!!


Food Access Collaborative

This the next in a series of posts by recipients of the Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they’ve been spending their summer. You can read the entire series here.

This entry is by Kevin Galvez, COL ’18

galvez1This summer, I had the fortune of working on projects that mattered to me. Summer internships can really vary, but I truly felt invested in mine. I was able to directly talk to members in the community about issues that needed addressing, and I contributed to data that could have a future positive impact within Philadelphia.

I worked at the Mayor’s Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity in Philadelphia, specifically with the Food Access Collaborative, a network of emergency food providers, health organizations and city government that aim to eliminate food insecurity.


I helped manage a research project related to identifying the demographics of emergency meal guests as well as finding out their needs. I led a group of 9 other interns to conduct surveys of meal guests at both outdoor and indoor meal sites. The surveys covered questions about demographics, services one might want at a meal site, how often do you miss meals, etc. Our focus was on interviewing guests at outdoor meal sites, as there is no other project in Philadelphia that works on collecting this information. For our team, that meant finding out where these meals were occurring, and much of it was word of mouth. We would walk along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, as we knew about a concentration of meal sites there and sometimes, we turned up without data. There were days where the heat wave seemed too much, and sometimes the meal provider would not show up on time. These were difficult days but insignificant in comparison to the obstacles faced by the guests that we interviewed. By conducting the survey, we were able to give voice to the issues and needs that these guests had as well as give them a way to directly impact data that circulates within city government.


That alone made for a fantastic and well spent summer. However, there was another aspect of my internship: volunteering at food pantries.  I volunteered at two different sites during my summer, and I was able to help address language barriers. I’m grateful to be able to speak/write Spanish fluently, as it let me translate much needed documents and information that were of use to Latino communities in North Philadelphia. I continued to learn about the importance of details like these, details that existed to make someone else’s life more comfortable. I walked away knowing that this is the kind of work that I want to continue to do in the future. What else could you ask for from a summer?

Graduate School and Career Exploration

As an advisor working with students and alumni considering master’s degrees and doctorates in science and engineering, I frequently encourage advisees to schedule an appointment with one of my colleagues on the College of Arts and Sciences and School of Engineering and Applied Sciences career counseling teams. Careful career exploration should precede and accompany graduate school consideration, and it is helpful to view graduate school not as an end in itself but as a means to an end. Before you decide to attend graduate school, you should be as clear as possible about why and how it fits into your career plans. While what you study as an undergraduate can have little relationship to your career, your graduate course of study can have a more direct impact on your career progression. The connection between career and graduate degree is clear for certain degrees (e.g., MD and JD). It is perhaps less clear for non-professional master’s degrees (MA and MS as opposed to MBA, MPH, etc.) as well as doctorates, which can seem merely like an extension and deepening of your undergraduate course of study, but are designed to prepare you for a career in research.

The first question to ask yourself if you are considering a master’s or PhD is what type of position you envision yourself in after you complete the degree. If you are looking for an academic research position, talk extensively with your faculty advisors, who are in the best position to help you choose a graduate program and navigate your nascent academic career. If you are considering a career outside the academy, engage in extensive career exploration by working with our career counselors and talking to Penn alumni who are employed in fields you want to pursue. Career exploration is essential for helping you determine if, when, and what type of graduate program makes sense for you. For many of the students I advise who are interested in careers in biomedical sciences, engineering, or computer science, a master’s or PhD, especially immediately following the completion of your undergraduate degree, might not be the most straightforward path to the career you desire. It can be more strategic to work in industry for a period of time before pursuing graduate work, in part so that you can gain confidence in your chosen career trajectory. Moreover, the decision to attend graduate school can have significant financial implications—even though most doctoral programs in STEM fields provide tuition scholarships and stipends, for example, they can still influence your finances in terms of lost wages and deferred career progression. Career Services can help you explore these considerations.

Your career goals and professional ambitions can and should change and develop throughout your working life, and even the most clearly professionally-focused graduate degrees do not limit you to a single career or even a narrow career trajectory. You certainly do not need to have everything figured out before you attend graduate school, but in most cases it is a mistake to view the decision to pursue graduate study outside of larger professional or career considerations. So take advantage of the resources available to you and fully explore graduate school as part of your more holistic career development plan. There is a reason the Graduate and Professional School Advising team is housed in Career Services!

Let the Record Show

This the next in a series of posts by recipients of the Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they’ve been spending their summer. You can read the entire series here.

This entry is by Samantha Myers-Dineen, COL ’18

brooklyn2Prior to the start of my internship, my mom found this poster that I made in elementary school. Now, I have no idea how a third grader would actually protect student rights (maybe that’s why I didn’t win the election that year), but this serves as a sweet reminder of how, even from a young age, I’ve always had a strong interest in helping others.

My coursework in history, as well as living in a time marked by tremendous social change, has shown me that working through the legal system can help achieve the most far-reaching impact in improving the world we live in.  Naturally, I wanted to experience for myself how true this actually was. This desire brought me to the Kings County District Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn, New York where, for eight weeks this summer, I did exactly that.


Divided into generalized trial zones and numerous specialized units with upwards of 1100 employees, the Brooklyn DA’s Office is the third largest District Attorney’s Office in the country. I was placed to work in the Victim Services Unit, whose main tasks are to advocate on behalf of crime victims within the criminal justice system, and provide support and referrals to appropriate resources they may need as a result of what happened to them. In theory, my job sounded fairly simple. In practice, however, I was both overwhelmed and humbled by the enormity of responsibility entrusted to me as an intern in VSU.

After receiving intensive trainings on everything from understanding trauma to risk assessment and the particulars of domestic abuse, I was thrown into things as if I were a seasoned attorney or social worker. Over the course of eight weeks, I amassed a case load of 75 clients from backgrounds as diverse as Brooklyn itself. Working heavily in conjunction with the Domestic Violence Bureau, I conducted trauma-informed interview intakes with victims of domestic violence to gather information about criminal incidents and prior histories of abuse. I would then conference these cases with bureau chiefs and the assigned assistant district attorneys to speak on behalf of the client’s wishes and assess the direction of the case. Once a week, I would head over to the Kings County Supreme Court to meet with felony crime victims prior to their testimony in the Grand Jury. I would answer questions they had about the criminal justice process, as well as provide referrals to and information about the services available to them through VSU and outside agencies in New York City. I was also able to observe several trials in my time at the Court, including one for manslaughter and another for assault on a police officer.

brooklyn1To say that I loved what I was doing would be an understatement. Despite the hour and a half long commute I made each day from Long Island to my job, I would not trade my experience at the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office for anything. What I did was not easy, but was it worth it? Absolutely. Nothing could replace the feeling of knowing that I made a positive impact, no matter how small, in the lives of each and every person I worked with. I did not feel for a single moment at any point in my time there that my work and contributions were less valued by my colleagues just because I was an intern. I made invaluable connections, acquired indispensable skills and knowledge, and most importantly, gained a confidence in myself that makes me feel like I can accomplish anything I set my mind to. This would not have been possible without the generosity of Career Services, and the world will forever be my oyster as a result.

Studying Abroad and Marketing its Impact on Your Professional Skills

Marianne Lipa, Associate Director

Studying abroad can be transformational academically, interpersonally, and professionally. From the professional standpoint, the experience is valuable and employers seek candidates who have flexibility and adaptability, communication, teamwork, cross-cultural, and analytical skills.  During your semester abroad, students cultivate and develop a broad foundation of transferable skills and attributes including self-awareness, intercultural communication, analysis from a variety of different perspectives, and independence.   The question becomes how do you market yourself with your abroad experience.  You can indicate on your resume any specific coursework that may be relevant to the position and extracurricular involvement (e.g. student groups on campus) associated with the semester abroad experience that enhanced your semester abroad within the academic and cultural realm.  If you have substantial international experience, you can include a section on the resume that focuses on the international/global aspects.  In both the cover letter and interview, you can explain in depth how studying abroad has prepared you further for success in the position and how the global perspective you developed shapes your analysis of economic, political, and social issues.

And remember you can also meet with a Career Services advisor to assist with navigating your international job search, domestic job search with international components, and how to best promote the impact of your study abroad experience as it relates to your professional skillset. Also please mark your calendars for our upcoming international opportunities career fair on November 11 in Houston Hall.  More details are available on our website at http://www.vpul.upenn.edu/careerservices/careerfairs/IntlFairinfo.php

We look forward to seeing you at the fair and in the Career Services office!