On October 3rd, 2019, Merrimack College presented its 4th Annual Liberal Arts Career Night in the Roger’s Center for the Arts. The event provides students of all majors with the opportunity to learn about the various career paths that a degree in the liberal arts has to offer, as well as to connect with Merrimack alumni. The 21 alumni in attendance certainly displayed the versatility of a liberal arts degree in the working world, with individuals employed in the fields of Human and Social Services, Marketing, Communication, Journalism, Creative Arts, Education, Public Service and Government, Finance, Non-Profits, and Law. As students began to eagerly file in to the lobby of the Roger’s Center for the Arts, the Dean of the School of Liberal Arts, Dr. Karen Ryan, took the stage to welcome students and alumni and introduce the night’s Keynote Speaker, Beth Riportella.
An alumna of the Class of 2008, Riportella graduated Merrimack College with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, and currently works for the Boston Medical Center as the Director of Government Affairs. Riportella began her speech detailing her professional journey following her graduation, imparting on students the importance of taking the time to find an internship to gain necessary experience and a focus for a future career path. She expressed, “I didn’t know what I wanted to do after graduation until my internship with the Massachusetts State House. The main thing that I say kick-started my career and what I’m most grateful for is that internship, and I want to thank Mary McHugh [Executive Director of Civic & Community Engagement in the Stevens Service Learning Center] for helping me get there.’” Riportella shared her own account of navigating the working world after graduation in the hopes that, should students take at least one key message away from her speech, they should understand the undeniable significance of experiential learning in advancing their career success.
Riportella concluded her Keynote speech with vital advice she wished she could have given to herself as an undergraduate 11 years ago, regarding the key to having control of the course of her career development. She encouraged students to try, “to see yourself as where you’re going to be in the next 5 years and how you can get there so you can start building each skill set that you want and work towards things that you like. The big takeaway is to do what you like and what you’re passionate about, and think about what you’re good at, and then just keep moving forward. It’s also important to build your network, which is why I’m so excited to see this packed room.”
After a resounding applause for Riportella, students and alumni began to circulate the room for the networking reception. Get Hired Up Intern for the O’Brien Center for Career Development and Economics major with concentrations in Marketing and Finance, Berlendah Dure, had the chance to connect with notable alumni within minutes of the reception; “I got to speak with Sarah [Bourouphael], who’s the Operational Excellence Manager for Converse. She was so cool about answering any of the questions that I had and was just really understanding. It’s awesome getting to talk to her, because she does exactly what I might like to do in the future.”
Dure frequently attends on-campus networking events, including previous Liberal Arts Career Nights. Although many of her classes concentrate in business administration, Berlendah chose to attend the annual Liberal Arts Career Nights in particular due to the low-pressure environment and the variety of successful alumni willing to provide their guidance. “The environment is actually very relaxed, and it’s not as stressful or overly-professional as you may think,” she expresses. “After you talk to the first person, it becomes easier…You never know where a connection may lead you if you don’t take a chance, so it’s important to just come [to networking events] and reach out.”
Katherine Lawless, a Class of 2018 alumna with a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science, additionally urged students to attend future Liberal Arts Career Nights and other on-campus networking events to prepare them for the realities of the working world upon graduation. She believes that, “the best thing [students] can do is network, because that’s really how you can get to the top of a resume pile when it’s so hard to stand out on paper. The connections you make with people are definitely so helpful for [navigating a job search].”
The annual Liberal Arts Career Night provided students with the ability to take advantage of Merrimack alumni in attendance, and receive indispensable guidance surrounding career exploration and development. Don’t miss out on other upcoming networking events on-campus for the perfect opportunity to aid in the development of your career exploration and network – see the full list of opportunities here.
Written By: Kerry Reynolds, Class of 2021