In early April Lafayette alumni returned to campus to speak with students, but in a new way. Through the Faculty/Alumni Partnership, alumni in the fields of English, mathematics, international affairs, and anthropology & sociology came back for a day in classes, networking with and providing career advice for students, and catching up with faculty and the changes at the College.
Josh Oshinsky ’00, TV and film producer with Oceansky Films LLC, knows the importance of having connections.
“Having worked in the TV/film business for 13 years, I know just how important any ‘in’ can be,” he says. “Who you know when you are starting out can make all the difference in the world. This program is a wonderful opportunity to grow the Lafayette College network.”
Dorde George Rakic ’15 (Belgrade, Serbia) took this as a chance to network with math alumni.
“I loved hearing about the different paths our alumni have explored and the experiences they had along the way,” He says. “It gave me new ideas on where I could apply my math major.”
Hannah Stewart-Gambino, dean of the College, believes this interaction between alumni, faculty, and students accomplishes a number of important things.
“It connects our current students with alumni in their chosen majors in order to hear about the kinds of choices they have made in their lives—both personal and career,” she says. “Alumni love to stay connected with their faculty, and everyone is thrilled to be invited by their own faculty. Also, the program connects new faculty to the wonderful college community that exists beyond our walls.”
The program was developed by Stewart-Gambino, David Reif ’68, present of the Alumni Association, and Rachel Moeller, executive director of alumni relations, who helped put together a pilot program.
“The beauty of a liberal arts degree (including engineering at Lafayette) is that the answer to the question ‘what can I do with an X major?’ is ‘honestly, almost anything.’” Stewart-Gambino says. “Bringing back several alumni allows departments and programs to show a wide range of trajectories in previous graduates. That is the power of the liberal arts.”
Each participating department or program selected three alumni to attend classes April 3-4 and meet with faculty at a reception and dinner.
“I was intrigued by the concept of working directly with students and faculty within an academic program, rather than the College as whole,” says Kevin O’Brien ’96, an environmental analyst at Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection. “This opportunity provided a different perspective by focusing personal attention around a specific subset within the school and the students involved with it.”
He stressed to the students that while a degree in mathematics, the sciences, or engineering will position them for a variety of careers in environmental fields, it is important to be as well-rounded as possible.
“The ability to effectively communicate through writing and public speaking, or having a familiarity with the law and public policy can be the type of skills that set you apart from other candidates,” he says. “What can’t be taught are enthusiasm and an eagerness to learn and apply knowledge.”
Oshinsky sat in on classes with Nandini Sikand, assistant professor of film and media studies.
“Being able to sit in with Professor Sikand and see the creative skill and blossoming talent of her students was a treat that I hope to have the pleasure of repeating at some point in the future,” he says. “Through the program I also enjoyed the welcome opportunity to reconnect with old friends and to rediscover faded memories, and make them vivid once again.”
Along with Oshinsky, Kristen MacCartney ’81, University Partnership Program manager at IEEE, and Amanda Finkelstein ’07, associate attorney in the corporate transactions practice group at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP, returned for the English Department.
O’Brien; Gina Benaquista ’00, a fellow in spinal cord injury medicine at UMDNJ/Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation; and Steve DiMauro ’02, a mathematician for the U.S. Department of Defense, participated for the Mathematics Department.
Returning to campus for the International Affairs Program were Joe Cyrulik ’96, structured analytic techniques instructor with the Central Intelligence Agency; Nalishha Mehta ’98, labor union trainer at the Solidarity Center; and Raisa Sheynberg ’01, a policy adviser on Afghanistan and Pakistan for the Office of Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes.
Rasheim Donaldson ’06 with the Bronx County District Attorney’s Office, Inku Subedi ’05, a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at Brown University, and Rebecca Heslin ’12, assistant director of development research at Lafayette, interacted with faculty and students in the Anthropology & Sociology Department.