The end of the semester is incredibly busy for most students with finishing class projects, studying for final exams, contributing to campus activities, and perhaps beginning or continuing with a job or internship search. With all of these demands, it can be hard to find the time to quietly reflect on the numerous things for which many of us can be grateful. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because it reminds us to take time to appreciate – a practice that can get lost in the craziness of everyday life.


Given that it is my turn to post a blog on Penn and Beyond – and that Thanksgiving is tomorrow – I have two great reasons to reflect on all the things that I appreciate in my career. I am thankful for the opportunity to work at Penn with motivated and talented students who inspire me every day. I’m delighted to have the opportunity to collaborate regularly with committed and generous colleagues both in the Career Services office and the wider Penn community. I’m particularly grateful this year that after 20 years of working at Penn, I’ve been granted the wonderful opportunity to take on the new role of Executive Director of Career Services and build upon the career development work to which I have devoted my professional life. I feel incredibly fortunate as a first-gen student to have been able to earn degrees from three very different institutions. The educational experiences I have pursued have changed my life and opened my eyes to new ways of looking at the world. I’m particularly appreciative to the many mentors I have had, including faculty and supervisors, who have taken the time to help me grow.

I challenge each of you to reflect on what you are thankful for during this holiday season. Who has changed your life for the better? Has a faculty member helped you to discover a new passion, learn a new skill, or think deeply about an issue in a new way? Did an internship supervisor mentor you and teach you how to perform at your absolute best in a new and unfamiliar work setting? Have your parents supported you through the high points in your life as well as the disappointments we have all experienced? As you think about your life and career, it will be evident that the vast majority of us do not make it “all on our own”, but owe a debt of gratitude to those who have helped, supported and encouraged us along the way. Hopefully all of you will enjoy some quieter time over the next few days. I urge you take time to reflect on what you have to be grateful for…and be sure to thank those who have helped you along the way.

Best wishes for a restorative Thanksgiving break!

Public Defense

This is the next in a series of posts by recipients of the 2018 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 Kaitlyn Ham, COL ’20

Before this summer I knew that I wanted to do work that helps combat the injustices within the criminal “justice” system. However, there are two paths that one could take to try to deal with such a massive issue, those being policy work or direct support work. I wanted to spend my summers taking steps down both of these paths so that I could hopefully be provided with some clarity before setting my sights on one or the other after graduation. I decided to use this summer to try my hand at direct support work by working for a public defenders’ office. I was drawn to the Orleans Public Defenders Office in New Orleans, LA because it was a little different than the typical internship location and is in arguably one of the most punitive states in the U.S. and I am so glad that I did.

I worked as an intern investigator which means that I helped investigate cases for the defense. Much of my work included interviewing witnesses, transcribing body camera footage, and obtaining surveillance. This work was absolutely necessary to help give each of our clients the best and most fair representation possible. All of our clients were classified as indigent, so it was nice to be able to work for the freedom of people that were going through a system that was often stacked against them. As our clients themselves are unable to pay and thus the office is funded by the government the attorneys and investigators that work there all have more cases than an attorney at a private law firm would typically have and are paid less. They need the help from interns throughout the year to help get more work accomplished for each client but do not have the funding to pay them. The summer funding from career services allowed me to pursue an internship that was far more fulfilling than I would have been able to otherwise.

This internship was the most hands-on experience that I could have asked for it allowed me to step out of the office and interact with the people of New Orleans. I could see the exact purpose of everything that I worked on, for example body camera footage that I transcribed being used in court, or a statement that I helped collect allowing for a charge to be reduced.  We were even taken to Angola, a Louisiana State Prison, that not only made us sick to our stomachs but also gave us a stronger conviction of what we were truly fighting for. Through this internship I was also able to get a better understanding of what aspects of the criminal justice system are hurting minorities and those of lower socio-economic status. The best part of my experience though was being able to visit our incarcerated clients and talk to them about their case or even just their astrological sign. I got most of the clarity I was looking for with this internship and know that in the future I would like to have a job that allows me to do direct support work as well as policy work as I love the client centered aspect of direct support work but would also like to work to fix foundational issues within the system.

CS Radio – Episode 75: “Cooking with Gas”

Happy Thanksgiving, listeners! A very hungry J. Michael and A. Mylène are heading into the holiday thinking about work-life balance.  Thanksgiving is a great time to reflect on what really matters and to decide if you’re really cooking with gas or just simmering.  It’s a metaphor filled cornucopia this week.  Enjoy!

Show Notes

 The Downside of Work Life Balance (via James Clear)

What is Tryptohan?

Learning from Stan Lee

Natty Leach, Associate Director

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Too many people don’t really do what their heart’s desire is, but they try to do something else because they think—well, it will be easier to get a job or to make money. And if that happens, then when you’re doing it you feel like you’re working, but if you do what you really want to do, you feel like you’re playing.

With Stan Lee’s passing earlier this week, the world lost one of the creative minds responsible for some of our most popular characters and heroes in entertainment today. In remembering his legacy, I was considering the ways in which we can learn from Stan Lee’s career and was struck by the quote above: it’s nothing special. At face value, it’s just some inspirationally packaged platitudes that we’ve all heard about following our dreams and doing what you love. What stood out about the quote is that Stan Lee got his start and gained prominence doing almost the exact opposite—taking an easy-entry job to earn cash and get started in the writing and publishing industry even if it meant working in a less desirable medium like comics.

Stanley Lieber turned 18 right around the Great Depression. With a love of reading and desire to become a writer, he landed a job through a family connection at Timely Comics, a precursor to Marvel, the now Disney-owned behemoth. In an interview with the New York Times, he explains how comics were so trivialized by people at the time that Lieber felt the need to create a pseudonym to shield himself and hopefully his future, more serious, writing career by dividing his first name to form Stan Lee. One of Lee’s primary goals in the comic industry was to change it and force the medium to evolve by creating more layered characters with stronger stories.

In these ways, Stan Lee started by taking a job that didn’t really meet all his dreams or goals—it was a quick way to gain some writing skills, but in a field that he felt he had to shield his future reputation by adopting a new name. Even if at the beginning, comics weren’t Lee’s loftiest passion, he brought his desire for powerful characters and writing to his career and leveraged his love of literature to take the medium to greater heights. While doing exactly what you love and desire is an excellent goal for us all, we can see from the results of Stan Lee’s inspiring legacy that sometimes bringing what you love to what you do is just as meaningful.