Seton Hill University hosted its second annual “This Way Up and On to Success” alumni networking event Thursday, February 19.

The event provided students, especially seniors, with an opportunity to interact with 20 alumni who hold professional positions in fields including medicine, business, graphic design, human resources, and performing arts. The alumni were selected based on the majors of the 2009 senior class.

“We wanted to cater to the seniors needs. They are the ones that need the most help with careers and networking. This is a great opportunity for them to their bring resumes and market their selves,” said Louise Lydon, director of national alumni relations.

Lorin Schumacher, a senior student ambassador and English literature major with a certification in secondary education, was excited about the amount of questions and discussions. “This is the first year with a panel. I think it was a great way to initiate discussion between the students and the alumni. This is a crucial opportunity for seniors to take advantage of. The seniors are the ones at this point getting nervous about going into the real world. With this event, they can reach out to alumni in their fields and gain some insight.”

Lloyd Gibson, director of the Master of Business Administration Program and assistant professor of business, introduced the alumni. Gibson served as a moderator and presented questions to the panel regarding education preparation, career challenges, and personal and professional life balance.

“Beyond technical skills, Seton Hill showed me how to interact and communicate. These are the soft skills that are used more in the job force than any other skill,” said Karen Barkac, a 1984 graduate of Seton Hill. Barkac earned a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry and now works at PPG Industries, Inc.

“You get an excellent foundation here at Seton Hill,” said Michelle Cunningham, CEO of Highlands Hospital in Connellsville, during the panel discussion. Cunningham received a Bachelor of Science degree in dietetics in 1986.

Following the panel discussion, students participated in the round table breakout sessions with alumni where they could converse about jobs, the interviewing process, and post-graduation stress.

At a table of 10, Laurene Kristof spoke with a group of English majors. “More English majors are CEOs than any other degree simply because of their communication skills,” said Kristof.

Kristof graduated from Seton Hill in 1964 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and certification to teach history. She later added English and elementary education to her teaching certificate. Kristof taught for 12 years in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and the Penn Hills School District.

“I think having an event like this, and in the future a mentoring program, is not only beneficial but valuable for the students. Students need honest answers to their questions and worries about their future careers. If Seton Hill started a mentor program, it would be nice to give back to the SHU community,” said Kristof.

Jessie Pilewski, a junior creative writing major with a theatre minor, attended the event for a class, but she also wanted to learn more about the various fields in which English majors can work. “Many people often say that having an English degree is worthless because you can’t use it anywhere. I think it is a versatile degree and after tonight, I realize the other job fields I could potentially work in.”

In addition to asking questions about the job market, seniors were curious about graduate school.

Eager students surrounded the alumni after the panel discussion to ask questions and alleviate some curiosities and worries.

Allison Sinisi, a senior studio arts and business major, was able to have her concerns about graduate school resolved.

“I was wondering if I should go right to graduate school after graduation or if I should wait a year and then go back. I’ve been debating this for awhile and tonight, I was able to get valuable insight from not only the alumni but from Dr. Gibson as well,” Sinisi said.

Lydon hopes to see a mentor program flourish after this event. “The alumni want to help the graduating seniors with the career networking and interview processes because they have gone through the same situations.”

This event was hosted by Seton Hill University’s Alumni Relations Office in co-operation with the University’s Department of Institutional Advancement.