Kai Cowger ’13

A year ago at this time, members of the Class of 2013 were working on senior capstone projects, talking about Founders Day and spring break, and making plans for life after Macalester. Ten months after graduation, some of the new alumni are getting to know Twin Cities communities, and others have landed thousands of miles away from 1600 Grand. We checked in with a few of them for a look at their early career paths—and what they remember, looking back.

Kai Cowger
Health Systems Quality Improvement Coordinator
United Nations Development Programme’s Millennium Villages Project (Global Health Corps Fellow 2013)
Ruhiira, Uganda
At Mac: Biology and anthropology double major

Every day I look back at my Macalester education and never have another thought but gratitude. I would not be nearly as prepared for my work here without my Mac education. Classes like Christy Hanson’s Introduction to International Public Health, Ron Barrett’s Medical Anthropology, and Lin Aanonsen’s Anatomy and Physiology taught me to think critically and analytically. I coordinate several projects, including a food supplementation program for preventing stunting and malnutrition in the rural villages, and a comprehensive neonatal death and stillbirth prevention program utilizing our community health workers. I love my work because it brought me to the field and has given me an enormous amount of autonomy and control over my projects. I’m able to witness the tangible consequences of my work, and I work with some of the most amazing, generous, and altruistic individuals I have been privileged to work with—our community health workers, the heroines and heroes of global health.

Meg Naminski
Software Development Engineer
At Mac: Computer science and math double major

When I interviewed at Amazon, I remember bringing the textbooks from my Algorithm Design and Analysis and Theory of Computation classes with me on the plane just to refresh my memory. I had never taken a computer course before Macalester and now I’m working at Amazon, so I can say that Macalester prepared me pretty well. I believe that my two internships at Microsoft and the work I did as a research assistant for Mac computer science professor Shilad Sen played a huge part in getting this job. In my job, I’m working closely with several developers on my team. I spend a lot of my day writing code—my passion for coding was the main pull for me in pursuing a career in computer science.

Andrew Bendelsmith
National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship
PhD program in chemistry
Harvard University
Cambridge, Mass.
At Mac: Chemistry and math double major

Some of my favorite memories from college are working on problem sets late at night with my fellow chemistry and math majors. At Mac, I learned essential problem-solving techniques through both research and classes that I use today. The chemistry department pioneered Mac’s supplemental instruction program, and I was able to work as an instructor each semester. That program prepared me really well for working with students—in addition to attending my own classes now, I teach introductory organic chemistry to undergraduates. I also do lab research in asymmetric organocatalysis six to seven days per week. I started doing lab work the summer after my first year at Macalester with chem professor Tom Varberg, and this wonderful one-on-one training launched my career by giving me two publications and by sparking my interest in chemical lab work. Later, in Becky Hoye’s chem lab at Macalester, I discovered I wanted to pursue synthetic organic research.  Becky received her master’s degree in chemistry from Harvard—that’s one of the reasons why I chose to attend Harvard.

Shuang Zheng
Internal Auditor
3M Company
St. Paul
At Mac: Economics and applied math and statistics double major

Ippo Vrohidis ’88, Vice President of 3M Asia Pacific Finance, worked with Mac economics professors Karl Egge and Joyce Minor and recruited two summer interns from Macalester. That summer I worked as an international finance analyst for Astghik Poladyan ’06, who also interviewed me, and I was offered a full-time position afterwards. Each workday is different, but usually I interview auditees to understand and assess the department’s financial accuracy, policy compliance, and operational efficiency. My Mac education had a great impact on my academic and personal development—it taught me how to think and analyze massive data and information. I’ve been exposed to a variety of business models and processes, met people from around the world, and learned something new each day.

Kalie Caetano
Digital Media Specialist
Stanford University Press
Redwood City, Calif.
At Mac: English major

At Mac I developed as a writer, both creatively and academically. On any given day at work, I’ll likely be writing in some capacity—whether in the form of 140-character attention-getters for Twitter or a full-blown blog post distilling academic content into approachable prose. Writing for the blog usually involves me picking a book off the shelf at some point, either to draft interview questions for an author or to find a representative excerpt. For an English major this is, naturally, my favorite part of the job. The books are fascinating and having access to the minds behind the work—to conduct a Q&A with them, or to help them develop a guest post—is even more gratifying. Being able to simultaneously grapple with big ideas and render them accessible in written communications was, I’ve gathered since starting, one of the more heavily weighted qualifications of my candidacy for the job in the first place. At Mac, my work-study experience in the Communications and Public Relations Office was a launch pad for all of the internships that I completed during college—including working for a local indie publisher and an ad agency—which, taken altogether, furnished me with skill sets that seemed custom-tailored for this position at the press.

Kwame Fynn
Financial Analyst
Goldman Sachs
New York
At Mac: Applied mathematics and statistics and economics double major

Macalester’s academic rigor and diversity—alongside smart and talented students, faculty, and staff—is a fundamental foundation for my career. Faculty and alumni helped me understand the opportunities available in the financial services industry, and some of those relationships have evolved from mentoring relationships to true friendships. My education propelled me into my career and provided a stepping-stone that helped me seek the best in myself and the people around me. I had two summer internships at Goldman Sachs, which eventually evolved into a full-time job offer. The best part about my job is learning from very smart, talented, and supportive people who motivate me and challenge me to seek excellence at both a personal and professional level. I love being part of a dynamic work environment.

Lorenza Pellicioli
On-air Promo Coordinator
Nickelodeon, Viacom Media Networks
New York
At Mac: Geography major and political science minor

What I do and what I studied at Macalester are completely different. That said, Macalester was absolutely the best choice for me. Mac really helped build my confidence and taught me to handle and navigate challenges. At Nickelodeon, I’m in charge of booking announcer voiceover talent for on-air promotions across all Nickelodeon channels and brands, a job I secured as a result of an internship I did. As one of the liaisons between agents and producers, I schedule voice talent based on availability and requests, and confirm and occasionally negotiate rates. It’s great to be surrounded by creative people all collaborating and contributing toward the same goals.

March 5 2014

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