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What Can You Do with a Liberal Arts Degree?At Major Palooza, Students Discover…Just about Anything.

When Connor Healy ’22 enrolled at Vassar last fall, he was undecided about his major. He was leaning toward majoring in English but wondered if a college degree as an English major would limit his career choices. Then Healy attended Major Palooza, an event cohosted by the Career Development Office and the Office of Alumnae/i Affairs and Development in collaboration with 30 academic departments and programs that put him in touch with Vassar alums who had majored in English. And as the event concluded, Healy was feeling much better about his choice of majors.

View a collection of images from Major Palooza.Photo: Roman Iwasiwka

He had spoken with Liz Cole ’90, Executive Producer of Dateline and NBC News; with Melissa Barnett ’86, Executive Vice President for Business and Legal Affairs at HBO; with Emily Omrod ’16, an analyst for Deloitte LLP; and with Leighton Suen ’14, an English teacher at Franklin D. Roosevelt High School in Brooklyn, NY. All had majored in English when they were at Vassar.

Healy was impressed with the diversity of fields in which the English majors had found success. “They told me about their careers and gave me advice on other courses I might want to take before I graduate,” he said. “It was definitely comforting.”

He was one of nearly 350 students—first-years, sophomores, juniors, and seniors—who met with nearly 150 alumnae/i during the four-hour event that took place April 6 in classrooms, department offices, and other venues throughout the campus. The first concurrent panel sessions were broken out by major and featured alums representing more than 30 majors; they were followed by a cross-major networking reception focused on the industries in which the alumnae/i had landed.

Major Palooza went a long way in showing the breadth of options afforded by a liberal arts education. Stacy Bingham, Director of the Career Development Office and Assistant Dean of Studies, said, “One of the goals of the program was to reiterate that students can and should major in what interests them, what they are passionate about. They hear this message often from faculty and the CDO. An event like this, which exposes students to the varied career paths of so many majors, really underscores this sentiment.”

Jannette Swanson, Associate Director of Alumnae/i Outreach and Partnerships in the Career Development Office, and a chief organizer of the inaugural event, worked closely with departmental interns and student-committee members, teaching them how to research alumnae/i. The students then generated a list of alumnae/i they wanted to invite back to campus. Jane Lu ’17, Assistant Director of Alumnae/i Engagement in the Office of Alumnae/i Affairs and Development, was instrumental in helping Swanson recruit mentors.

As she watched dozens of students and alumnae/i chatting in the Villard Room, Swanson noted the enthusiasm of both. “This was our first Major Palooza, and I was amazed at how quickly so many of our alums raised their hands and said, ‘Yes, I’ll come,’” Swanson said. “They were genuinely eager to help our students in any way they could, and it’s great to look out at this crowd and see the connections that are being made.”

The importance of those connections was stressed during a session for film majors, attended by five alums in the film industry in a classroom in the Vogelstein Center for Drama and Film. “It’s a cliché, but it’s true that it’s all about who you know in this business,” said Bat-Sheva Guez ’03, a film director, editor, and partner in a production company called Adventure Pants in New York City. “Maintain relationships. Meeting people for coffee is a thing we all do.”

In a session for International Studies majors, Molly Barth ’16 said her Vassar academic experience had helped her immensely in her new job as a junior strategist for an advertising firm, Geometry Global. “Marketing is all about understanding different cultures,” Barth said. “My liberal arts education got me where I am in this industry.”

Vanessa Vasquez, an Environmental Studies major from Yonkers, NY, said she definitely plans on attending the next Major Palooza. “The people I met today gave me a lot of good advice on what courses to take while I’m here and how to prepare for graduate school,” Vasquez said. “They also told me not to stress if I don’t have everything figured out and to trust the process that Vassar provides. That eased my mind a bit.”