For many of our alumni those questions are answered in a few words: “I have colleagues who graduated from Ursinus.” Just how often is that answer able to be used? More than you might suspect. Life after Ursinus brings our graduates to a number of professional and service callings in various parts of the country or perhaps even the world. Often times, we relocate, we expand our personal and professional networks and we end up in a new space where we find other Ursinus alumni.
While that reality might not be surprising for large-state school or university alumni, it is quite an exciting anomaly for a small liberal arts college such as ours. With an average graduating class of only 500 or so, there are a lot fewer of us than say, Penn State. To add some perspective to our alumni base in companies, let’s look at the numbers.
A quick LinkedIn search under Ursinus gives you an overview of alumni. With nearly 6,000 alumni in the Greater Philadelphia area, the top companies with a large presence of Ursinus graduates include (in descending order) Vanguard, Merck, SEI, GSK, Pfizer, Lockheed Martin, Johnson & Johnson, the University of Pennsylvania, and the list continues. All in all, we’re not doing too bad for ourselves, but in terms of obtaining these jobs and utilizing our connections to do so, the process seemed to vary from person to person.
In some cases, such as my own and that of alumna Lauren McGrath ’12, we were able to use connections to obtain positions where an established alumna or alumnus was already working. In Lauren’s case, these strong UC connections helped to bolster not only her professional networks, but also her career. After obtaining her first position as a lab technician at the University of Pennsylvania, a job which she learned about via an alumni recommendation, Lauren was able to continue to grow through Ursinus support. With special thanks to connections such as Dr. Sarah Willig, she was able to obtain her “dream job” as head of her own department at the Willistown Conservation Trust, where she continues to work closely with UC alumni today.
In other instances, such as that of alumnus Eric Pfeiffer ’13 of Vanguard and Ann (McShane) Kern ’09 formerly of SEI, alumni will simply join the company and then come realize the extent to which an Ursinus network is already present. As Eric noted, “It’s actually funny how you run into UC faces that you recognize, but didn’t know worked at your company.” Even in circumstances where the Ursinus connection did not play a role in the hiring process, it’s worth noting that companies with groups of Ursinus alumni certainly have camaraderie. In the case of Vanguard, Eric mentioned that many UC alumni from the company will meet for an annual event.
As Ann recalls during her time at SEI, “It was something that we had in common and every once in a while I’d ask someone if they were going to Homecoming or another Ursinus event.” In some cases, this fellowship even extends to current students, as many alumni groups participate in the annual Ursinus Externship program. I was lucky enough to do just that. I and two other alumni sat down with a group of students the week of January 8 to discuss our journey which lead us all to Merck.
Regardless of how our alumni find themselves at companies with a large UC presence, the unsolicited consensus was clear. Ursinus prepared them for the journey to get them where they are today. As a manager at Merck, Meg Dresher ’02 elaborates on this stating, “Between the CIE experience, small classes, and outstanding professors, [Ursinus alumni] are independent, critical thinkers with a strong work ethic. When I look at building my team, I want individuals who think creatively and work hard. In my project-based world, the answers aren’t always easy nor are the paths to implementation linear; I need adaptable, smart, savvy team members and Ursinus does a great job at preparing students to face these challenges.”
By Mary Barbagallo-Stranix ’14