By Alexandra McLaughlin ’16
At Google, they not only expect developers to have experience writing code and an understanding of basic algorithms, but also to adapt to new systems and technologies. Macalester’s liberal arts education as a whole helped prepare me by developing my communication skills and interests in other fields. Being able to communicate well is important because writing software on any kind of scale requires working closely with other people. The code you write has to integrate with that created by your coworkers. Knowledge of domains outside of computer science helps in many unseen ways. Developing software is a creative process; approaching problems from different viewpoints keeps you from getting stuck.
Currently, I am in an orientation program where we take classes and work on a project. During the classes, we learn about how to use various internal systems. After I finish with this program, I will be working with my assigned team full time. Initially, I will tackle smaller tasks like tracking down and fixing a bug or adding a minor feature. After I am more familiar with how my team functions and with our codebase, I will be given bigger responsibilities.
A sidenote: the food on Google’s campus is free and tastes amazing. As a recent grad with little culinary experience, it’s great to know I’ll get at least one properly cooked meal a day.
PhD in Psychology
Johns Hopkins University
When you get to grad school, people tell you that your first priority is your research and your classes come after that, which is something I’m still trying to get used to. I am only taking two courses, which feels very different from my jam-packed last semester at Macalester! In Fundamentals of Biopsychology, we study the structure and mechanisms of the nervous system and brain. Advanced Statistical Methods is a nice refresher stats class that also teaches us how to use R.
The most useful thing I picked up from Macalester was critical thinking skills, and knowing how to learn. Being able to ask interesting questions and having innate intellectual curiosity are essential for success in grad school, and Macalester and its liberal arts environment certainly helped me cultivate those abilities. The way of thinking that I came to during my time at Mac was much more important than any of my coursework in preparing me for grad school, although my math and psych research experiences are obviously helpful too.
PhD in Engineering Sciences and Applied Mathematics
My advisor at Macalester recommended I apply to the Engineering Sciences and Applied Mathematics PhD program at Northwestern because they focus on the area of mathematics I want to study and his previous advisee had been successful in applying.
I am currently taking four courses, all of which focus on learning math techniques to study physical phenomena. The wide range of mathematics courses offered at Macalester built a strong foundation for learning and understanding new mathematics. The Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science Department at Mac places a special emphasis on effectively communicating mathematics through writing and speech. Having had many mathematical writing assignments, I gained a lot of practice using precise jargon and notation. This has been especially important during my first year, since I will take qualifying exams in the beginning of the winter quarter. These exams test your proficiency in certain core undergraduate courses and your ability to continue on into the PhD program.
Temple Law School, deferred until Fall 2018
Currently working at Pritzker Hageman law firm in Minneapolis
I’ve wanted to be a lawyer since I was 12 and took part in a class debate about the XYZ affair. My teacher turned to me and said, “You’re going to be a lawyer someday.” Macalester solidified my dream by showing me what can be accomplished through law. Professor Patrick Schmidt taught with such enthusiasm that it was not hard to completely immerse myself in legal ideology.
Professor Schmidt was my main support system through the application process for law school; he read through my essays and offered to edit them. I chose Temple Law because I want to return to the East Coast and work in public law. Temple offered me a full ride, which gives me options for the law I pursue after law school. Debt will not dictate my first legal job—as many warn it can.
Currently, I am working at Pritzker Hageman law firm in downtown Minneapolis, a personal injury law firm that specializes in foodborne illness, wrongful death, burn cases, and medical malpractice. I am a receptionist and I help paralegals with research and document requests. I’ve also helped create surveys and done research on different injuries. The first year after college is hard, wherever you end up. It’s been great spending this year in the Twin Cities where I am surrounded by other Mac grads who provide a whole new support system.
Master’s in Classics
University of Colorado-Boulder
Macalester’s Classics Department served as a strong foundation for my classes at CU-Boulder. This semester, I’ve studied documents inscribed on stone, read Homer, Hesiod, Herodotus, and Sophocles, and translated English prose texts into Latin. I’ve come to appreciate the amount of personal attention that Macalester professors gave to my writing. I know a lot of people from outside Mac who never had that sort of editorial relationship with a professor in undergrad and who were rarely challenged with substantial writing assignments. Because I did have these experiences, there is less stress for me when faced with the demands of grad school writing.
I occasionally miss the variety I had in undergrad. At Macalester I would take courses outside of my own discipline even in my final two years. As I was reading Greek and Latin, I was also taking classes on statistical modeling and legal philosophy. Probably the biggest challenge is just moving on from a wonderful place like Macalester. No matter how much I love the people and things I’m immersed in now (and I love it a lot), it still feels very strange to spread outside of the “Mac Bubble.” The feeling of being ready to leave and confront the challenges that Mac trained us for goes hand in hand with the increasing realization of how and why Macalester is special.
Ngan “Jasmine” Nguyen
Watson Fellow exploring social entrepreneurship
I feel extremely lucky to have this opportunity right out of college to do what I love every day. I am on a one-year, self-designed journey to England, Rwanda, India, and Chile, exploring different grassroots entrepreneurial communities. The idea was inspired by my Davis Project for Peace, granted in my first year at Mac, where I was grasping with how to keep my social venture sustainable.
I spent the first two months of the fellowship at Impact Hub, Islington, London, the first Hub in the entire global network, learning from the co-founders on how to build and nurture a sustainable community of changemakers, locally and internationally. My day-to-day varies greatly, but it involves these doses of inspiration: meaningful conversation with my co-workers and other Hubbers, blogging, visiting local social initiatives, team meetings, networking events, and journalling.
In my four years at Mac, I was wholeheartedly supported in both funding and mentorship by the Civic Engagement Center and Institute for Global Citizenship staff and encouraged to put my social entrepreneurship ideas into action. I learned to be proactive and resourceful, while gaining critical skills in community organizing, leadership, and project management. I was challenged to look at a social problem from as many perspectives as possible and find ways to deal with it in an inclusive and sustainable manner. There is no doubt that I got the Watson Fellowship because of the experiences gained from these grassroots community projects. My dream job would be to enable more young people in Vietnam to have a chance to put their ideas into action, just like Mac did for me.
November 2 2017Back to top