March 01, 2019

Susquehanna University’s annual networking conference, Break Through, brought nearly 100 alumni of various majors and careers back to the university for a weekend in February. Students attended alumni-led panels and made connections through other events such as speed-networking sessions.

In Break Through’s first panel of the weekend, “That Was Your Major? How I Found a Different Path,” three alumni discussed navigating unconventional paths after college and how a liberal arts education helps in every career.

Joe Palmieri ’00, now working as a management and program analyst at the Department of Homeland Security, graduated with a degree in communications and public relations. He describes his career path as a “zig-zag” pattern. After becoming an emergency medical technician, Palmieri worked as a paramedic, then for University of Pennsylvania health services, and finally the U.S. government.

Rachel Folk ’05, an international studies major, realized she wanted a change after getting her teaching degree and teaching abroad and domestically. Today, she works with the Vanguard Group’s retail client operations.

Catherine Patschke ’15 first came to Susquehanna as a Spanish major, then realized that her passions were in international studies and anthropology. Networking while a congressional intern and later working abroad, she landed her current job in Washington, D.C., at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center.

Folk advised students not to pigeonhole themselves based on their major, and Palmieri was quick to agree. As a hiring manager himself, Palmieri says, “Majors aren’t important. … When I’m interviewing people, I look for whether they can articulate their experiences in a way I want to hear, not their undergraduate degree.”