The second annual Liberal Arts Career Night saw 74 undergraduates gather with alumni, faculty and staff from the O’Brien Center for Career Development to learn about career paths for liberal arts majors. First-year students through seniors gathered in the lobby of the Rogers Center to mix, mingle and learn from 13 alumni who represented a range of industries, including: media and creative arts; advertising, marketing and public relations; education; human resources; law; nonprofits; and government.
Sponsored by Merrimack’s O’Brien Center for Career Development, in partnership with the School of Liberal Arts and the Office of Development and Alumni Relations, this event brings liberal arts alumni back to campus to share career insights, offer advice and give students first-hand networking experience as they consider future career options.
“Our Liberal Arts Career Night offers students explicit examples of the benefits of a liberal arts education through the compelling success stories of our alumni,” says Sean Condon, interim dean of the School of Liberal Arts. “Merrimack students have so many interests and so an event like this helps them understand how to go about harnessing their intellectual leanings and personal interests in pursuit of meaningful and lucrative career paths,” said Condon.
Meghan Van Buren ’06, Senior Interactive Designer at TripAdvisor, delivered the evening’s keynote and recalled her Merrimack journey with fondness. Van Buren told students she graduated from Merrimack with confidence in her future prospects given her strong educational foundation in combination with the skills and experience gained at her internship at Northshore Magazine.
She described her journey from her first job as a marketing coordinator at PSMJ Resources, a small publishing and education firm in Newton, Mass., and how she became the marketing manager after just six months on the job. In this role, the 23-year-old Van Buren assumed responsibility for the company’s email, print and web needs for more than three years. “I learned an incredible amount and really enjoyed the small-firm environment,” said Van Buren, “but I was really missing out on being in a creative environment and so I reached out to my network and interviewed and landed a position at Staples.”
After a successful stint as a graphic designer at Staples—where she saw her back-to-school ad concept evolve into a national campaign—Van Buren moved into the tech world as an interactive designer at Wayfair. “It was an entirely different experience, it really encouraged a collaborative culture,” said Van Buren. It also gave her experience working with engineers in addition to marketing and design professionals and reinforced the importance of having good teamwork and collaborative skills.
Van Buren spent a year at Wayfair before deciding on her next move. After meeting a human resources representative from TripAdvisor at a networking event, she was invited to interview for an interactive designer opening. She clinched the initial screening and two subsequent interviews and is now in her fifth year with the company. “What’s kept me at Trip for so long is that our products are constantly changing,” said Van Buren, “Our CEO has a saying that speed wins and we really take it to heart. There are many times in my job where I have two weeks from concept to completion,” said Van Buren. Indeed, Van Buren said she’s a better designer because of this fast-paced environment. She shared the importance of keeping lines of communication open with her team and the value of working in a supportive environment, especially under tight timelines. And the best part about her current position: the diversity of projects keeps her work from getting stale.
Van Buren’s words seemed to resonate with student participants. Allison Hart ’17, a political science major came to the event at the suggestion of her senior seminar advisor, Associate Professor of Political Science, Anne Flaherty. “Talking with an alum who works in the Federal Government at the Liberal Arts Career and Networking Night has expanded my job search to new avenues, and has made me rethink and rework my original post-graduation plans”.
Students also had an opportunity to attend a pre-event workshop that offered advice and tips for making the most out of this networking experience, including role-play scenarios to strengthen elevator pitches and practice their introductory and leave-taking remarks.
For Daniel Flynn ’01, a corporate recruiter from Agero, the evening offered a chance to talk with students and gain a better understanding of how Merrimack prepares them for the workforce. “I was pleasantly surprised by the number of students in attendance,” said Flynn. “I spoke at length with a student who was very mature, focused and easy to talk to. I was impressed with the number of internships she had completed and I felt she had a fantastic outlook on her career path given her internship experience.”
“This event is a terrific way to show students that career paths aren’t always linear and that their studies here and the co-curricular activities they are engaging in really can be used as a springboard for all kinds of opportunity,” said Van Buren ’06.
The Liberal Arts Careers Night alumni participants included:
- Joanne Bibeau ’78, Management Assistant to the Pastor, Collaborative Parishes of Sacred Heart and St. Thomas More
- Josh Carroll ’05, Associate at Ropes & Gray LLP
- Mike Danner ’05, Actor
- Amy Doucette ’02, Operations Administrator for Melanie Casey Jewelry
- Daniel Flynn ’01, Corporate Recruiter for Agero
- John Froio ’89, Deputy Director for Community Legal Services and Counseling Center
- Michael Joy ’04, Job Developer at Opportunity Works
- Lauren Mead ’06, Chief Marketing Officer for TimeTrade Systems
- Anthony Muir ’12, Associate Attorney for Soule, Leslie, Kidder, Sayward, & Loughman, PLLC
- William Squires ’92, Partner at Hinckley, Allen & Snyder LLP
- Meghan Van Buren ’06, Senior Interactive Designer for TripAdvisor
- Frank Zizzo ’05, 7th grade Social Studies teacher, City of Medford
- Michelle Ferrar Zizzo ’05, Human Resources Coordinator, Merrimack College