Alumni discuss careers and life in “Your Future

Alicia Bones

Lawrence bubbles came closer to bursting for some Feb. 22 through alumni accounts of life after Lawrence in the one-day conference “Shine Light, More Light! on Your Future.” From presentations on “gap years” to panels on living as an LGBTQ individual after college, the workshops broadened perspectives on what comes after graduation.
The conference started at 9:50 a.m. with a brunch in Lucinda’s. Seating was random, so current history majors were seated with doctors and math majors sat with musicians. President Jill Beck started the morning saying the “sense of momentum at our college is unbelievably powerful.”
Next, Tim Spurgin, Bonnie Glidden Buchanan Professor of English and Director of Freshman Studies, talked about the differences between Lawrence students and non-Lawrence students. The most popular major in the country, with 20 percent of students, is business, he said. English majors make up only four percent of current majors. Lawrence may not be recognized by name, he went on to say, in part because larger state schools, specifically UW-Madison, have a greater undergraduate enrollment than all of Lawrence’s current students and living alumni.
Spurgin then introduced the first panel of the morning, a diverse group of alumni and one current student, Libby Kocher ’09. The panel illustrated a point consistent throughout the day – one’s major often doesn’t correlate with his or her future career.
Panelist Juan “Mito” Kudaka ’95 came to Lawrence from Peru and studied math and computer science. He worked in the computer science field for eight years following graduation so he could stay in the country. He then found that his interests lay elsewhere. He began working for the Appleton Police Department and currently is the leader of lean for Goodwill Industries of Northeastern Wisconsin.
Another panelist, Joanna Messer ’01, studied flute performance at Lawrence, but she is not working exclusively in this field of interest. In addition to being a freelance performer, she has worked jobs in library science and online teaching after completing her master of music degree. She said, in today’s world and economy, “[musicians and artists] have to justify [their] existence in ways that are unprecedented.”
The day continued with presentations followed by a networking session at the union and VR. Presentations concerning practical matters, such as graduate school, résumé writing and deciphering cross-cultural codes took place from 11:45 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The afternoon sessions focused on specific career interests, such as communications and business, with panels from alumni in each field.
This year’s program was the second of its kind. John Landis ’84, a Lawrence math major and current law partner at Foley & Lardner LLP in Chicago, came up with the idea for the conference. The aim, he said, was to connect skill sets acquired at Lawrence, which include independent thinking and writing skills, to the real world. Additionally, he said, alumni have widely varied careers.
Visiting alumni gave students information and proof that life does, in fact, continue after the bubble bursts. On getting a job, Spurgin said, “You are super smart and you can do it, you just have to think about how you’ll get it done.” Sunday’s conference exemplified former Lawrence students who have done just that.