By Alexandra McLaughlin ’16
Six months after the Class of 2018 graduated from Macalester, we asked a few of the new alumni what life looks like now.
Graduate School in Slavic Languages and Literatures
“Even within my program, I’m making space to take classes in linguistics and digital humanities/data science. That intellectual bravery was definitely something I learned at Mac!”
Path to Harvard
I wasn’t even thinking about grad school until the summer before senior year, when I did a Mellon Lifelong Learners summer project with my Macalester advisor, Julia Chadaga, and Professor Julie Buckler here at Harvard. The project was the impetus for applying to grad school. I wouldn’t be here without Professor Chadaga or the entire Russian studies department at Macalester.
I’m taking four classes right now. The first introduces us to the department and the field. Each week, a different professor comes in and teaches an aspect of our field that they work in. It’s always interesting and always something new. I’m also taking a class on Russian futurism and formalism, which recently involved a field trip to look at rare books. In my Slavic linguistics class, we learn and analyze the language spoken by Slavic people in the ninth to twelfth centuries. I majored in both linguistics and Russian studies at Mac, so this is a great combination for me. Finally, I’m taking Advanced Russian Reading to improve my skills in reading Russian literature.
There’s usually some sort of talk or colloquium on campus in the afternoon or evening, which keeps my schedule varied. I spend the evening doing homework with people from my floor. They’re almost all physicists, which means I learn new things all the time.
Macalester taught me to follow all paths of intellectual curiosity. Even within my program, I’m making space to take classes in linguistics and digital humanities/data science. That intellectual bravery was definitely something I learned at Mac! I also feel lucky to have gone to undergrad somewhere that encourages passion. It really has made a difference for me to express my earnest love for my field and my specific interests, which is an honesty I picked up at Macalester. Macalester also taught me about making genuine connections with peers and professors, both in and out of my field.
Program Assistant for Militarism and Human Rights,
Friends Committee on National Legislation
“A big part of my job is simply being one of the experts in the organization on a few particular topics and taking that knowledge into meetings on Capitol Hill.”
Landing the job
I was born and raised Quaker, so I’ve always been familiar with FCNL and the work they do. When I was a sophomore, Hannah Graf Evans ’14, the current FCNL senior lobbyist for immigration, came to campus. That was how I learned about the position I’m in now. The MacConnect trip to D.C. was really helpful because it showed me how engaged FCNL is in terms of outreach. That trip influenced me to take the position because I saw what a great organization FCNL was from the inside.
It sort of gets repeated ad nauseum that the Macalester network wants to help out Mac students and recent grads, but I’m going to add to that chorus anyway. If I get a call or email from a Mac student asking about FCNL or life in D.C., it shows me that that person is engaged and energetic about what they’re doing. It’s exciting to be on the other side of that dynamic after having spent four years on the student side, and I want to help Mac students however I can.
First, I read the news so that I can keep my finger on the pulse of all the things I lobby on, and so that I can keep learning. A big part of my job is simply being one of the experts in the organization on a few particular topics and taking that knowledge into meetings on Capitol Hill. I lobby on repealing the 2001 and 2002 authorizations for use of military force, reining in the expansion of our drone warfare program, ensuring humane conditions and fair legal standards for detainees at Guantanamo Bay, and seeking a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Afghanistan.
For lobby meetings, I conduct background research on the member of Congress we’re meeting with and compile that into a memo for my boss. I also update our website so that our grassroots advocates know what we’ve been up to and what the word on the Hill is.
My time at Mac taught me how to take a deep dive into a certain issue, work out the underlying problems, and coherently explain them. More important than the facts that I picked up at Mac was an ability to think about those facts and make sense of them. Small class size was also very helpful. I got the chance to participate in discussions with intelligent and well-informed peers, and the professors always respected students’ opinions. In any capacity after college, you will need good oral communication skills as well as written ones, and class discussions at Mac helped prepare me for that.
Clinical Research Assistant II,
Boston Children’s Hospital
“Macalester taught me to be sensitive, open minded, and to think across disciplines. This has been key for me every minute of every day.”
Landing the job
Throughout senior year, I struggled to find clinical research-based positions. Late in the spring semester, I was sitting with a friend in Olin-Rice when I ran into biology professor Liz Jansen. She recommended some research-based teaching hospitals in Boston that had the kind of positions I was looking for. It turned out that the brother of the friend I was sitting with worked in exactly one of those roles. I reached out to my friend’s brother, who then connected me with a recruiter. I eventually met my current supervisor Dr. Yee-Ming Chan. Dr. Chan is a pediatric endocrinologist at Boston Children’s Hospital. I’m now working with his team in a field that I never expected to enter! We’re studying rare conditions that affect individuals’ genital development; these conditions are sometimes called intersex conditions or disorders/differences of sex development.
I coordinate clinical studies surrounding differences of sex development for Dr. Chan’s team: a genetic study to identify genetic causes of these conditions, a psychosocial study that looks at psychological outcomes in young adults with these conditions, and a study assessing the impact that sharing genetic information with affected families has on them. I spend time with working providers from various disciplines (endocrinology, urology, social work, psychology) and interact with individuals and families affected by these conditions. I’m responsible for identifying potentially eligible subjects for our studies, obtaining informed consent, and following up with families on study tasks.
Macalester taught me to be sensitive, open minded, and to think across disciplines. This has been key for me every minute of every day.
STEM Scholar Coach with the Schuler Scholar Program,
“I like to think that my primary responsibility is to convince my students that math and science don’t have to be scary (because reader, they really don’t!).”
Landing the job
The Career Development Center convinced me to sign up for a Handshake account, and my current position immediately popped up as something I might be interested in. I applied right away during fall semester and went through a couple of rounds of phone and video interviews. They flew me out for an in-person interview in December and offered me the position just a few days later!
I work at a high school in a Chicago suburb. I meet with about 30 students on a weekly basis, something like six meetings a day. I like to think that my primary responsibility is to convince my students that math and science don’t have to be scary (because reader, they really don’t!). As a Scholar Coach, I do a combination of mentorship, tutoring, enrichment, and whatever kind of STEM (or non-STEM!) related support a student might need. We also do after-school programming to work on developing positive academic mindsets, habits, and strategies. We bring the students on neat field trips to museums, theaters, symphonies, apple orchards, and more! Working directly with the students is by far the best part. High schoolers are hilarious.
Macalester is where I developed my love for science outreach and informal science education. At Mac, I ran public observing nights on the telescope and hosted an astronomy-themed talk show on WMCN. Math and science are awesome and I learned that as a scientist I have the responsibility to share my joy with others. What I love more than anything—more than doing science—is talking to regular people about science, and getting them excited about something they didn’t realize they could get excited about. Now, I get to have unique and personal relationships with students where I do exactly that.
November 14 2018Back to top