February 17, 2021

Earning a humanities degree is like closing your eyes and pointing to a random place on a map — it can take you so many different places.

That was the message delivered by three alumni during their Break Through panel, Rocking Your Humanities Degree.

The fields of history, international studies, languages, philosophy and religion – commonly referred to as the humanities – tell us where we have been and help us envision where we are going. Bijan Nekoie ’12, Jackie Newell ’13 and Devon Balent ’17, stressed that skills gained by studying the humanities, including critical thinking, communication, writing, research and cultural competency, help individuals find greater success in their personal and professional lives.

Nekoie and Newell each earned degrees in international studies and Balent studied history. Though they are working in vastly different positions, their shared humanities foundation and the skills acquired at Susquehanna helped get them each to where they are today.

“I wanted to be in and around government, but I didn’t know how to get there,” said Nekoie. After graduating with an international studies degree with an emphasis in diplomacy and minor in public relations, he earned a master’s degree in international business at the Hult International Business School in Shanghai. Today, he lives in Washington, D.C., and works as an advisor for the U.S Department of Defense.

Newell’s career path also took her to other countries, before returning to her home state of Maine, where she works as a project manager at Covetrus, a global animal-health technology and services company.

“I worked in Argentina. I worked in Switzerland. I worked for the Boston Bruins,” she said.

After her Fulbright experience in Argentina, she stayed in the country and worked with Vines of Mendoza. Now, Newell uses the intercultural communication skills she gained to manage project plans, facilitate corporate health initiatives and conduct global business trainings.

A common skill that each panelist felt their humanities degree provided – and one that their employers coveted – was the ability to write well.

“If you are a history major, you are a good writer,” said Balent, a social media coordinator for Ikea in Baltimore.

Though he did not have a robust digital portfolio outside of his personal social media accounts and freelance work, Balent’s strong writing skills and ability to create effective presentations made him stand out amongst other people vying for his role.

“One of the things I learned throughout this last year, is that life really is a journey,” added Nekoie. “There has been less of an emphasis on where I want to be, and more of an emphasis on embracing challenge and building things over time.”

He stressed to the students that Susquehanna’s liberal arts learning objectives make them uniquely qualified to enter today’s workforce.

“There’s a lot going on around the world right now. We’re going to need more globally minded citizens,” he said.