Santa Clara University

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Careers

English Alumni thriving in myriad fields

By: Simone Billings

  • Director, PricewaterhouseCoopers in CA
  • Public Relations Manager, Cisco Systems, San Jose
  • Director, Visa International, San Francisco
  • Vice President, Bank of America Corp., Portland
  • High school Spanish teacher
  • Trial attorney in the tax division of the Department of Justice in Washington DC
  • Reporter for The Lexington Herald Lead in Kentucky
  • Coordinator, Philadelphia Futures for Youth, PA
  • General surgeon, Oregon City
  • Technical Assistant, Industrial Light and Magic
  • Director of Communications in Congress, US House of Representatives, Washington DC
  • Football coach Denver Broncos.

What do all the people in these positions hold in common? They all majored in English as undergraduates at Santa Clara University.

 


Background Data

In July 2002, Paul Neilan of the Alumni Office at Santa Clara University provided me with a list of 487 English alumni from 1987-2001 who self-report to the Alumni Office what they presently are doing, so this report looks at a fifteen-year span to compare the self-reports of English alumni who graduated a while back to those of more recent English alumni.

Of course this information is incomplete since the Department graduated more than 487 English majors during that time period--generally at least 80 a year, so at least 1200 in a fifteen-year period. But if we use 1200 as the number of English majors who have graduated since 1987, then 487 is around 41%--and those who collect survey data consider a response rate of 30-40% abundant, even surprisingly good.

I also wish to point out that the following report is accurate only so far as the information I received from the Alumni Office. Some individuals may have augmented their business information for the Alumni Office, as the one who listed herself as Domestic Goddess (I listed her as a homemaker). Others may have changed jobs since they last reported to the Alumni Office. I know that I actually changed what two individuals had listed because I know that they are pursuing something different from what was listed.

However, I have done some spot-checks of some of the information on the web—a boon, technology is, since the last time I prepared this report—and found, for example, that David Bauer, ’92, is indeed Vice-President of Q2 Brand Intelligence, a brand strategy and research company that provides customer-based business solutions (read about him at www.q2brand.com/aboutq2_bauer.htm). So this report is the most accurate I could make it with the information given.

Of interest is how this number breaks down according to five-year blocks. Notice that almost half of the English alum self-reporting (41%) are from the earliest of the three five-year blocks (1987-91). We can conjure why this pattern of reporting may be the case. The most recent alumni (1997-2001) have just completed their BA’s: some may be taking time off for a while and backpacking through Europe, some may be in graduate school and think the title of "graduate student" is nothing to report in about, some may be back living at home with their parents, some may have starting jobs with titles they believe unimpressive…. The fact that only 7 students from the 2001 class of English graduates reported their job titles to the Alumni Office suggests my conjectures may be accurate as do later analyses of the data.

Alumni Thriving

Apparently many alumni wait until they hold positions and titles they feel are noteworthy before reporting back to the Alumni Office. Later analyses of the data indicate those who self-report themselves with titles such as Vice-President or Director or Manager often are those who graduated more than just five years ago or fewer. According to the Winter 2000 College Placement Council Salary Survey published by the National Association of Colleges and Employees, the average starting salary received by English majors is $29,998. Where is it that these individuals are working?

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Elaboration on the data

Now to the kinds of jobs that English majors report holding. Of the 487 reporting in, I could group 475 into distinct categories. (The alumni not grouped reported only their addresses, not their places of employment or job titles. They comprise 3% of the total number of alumni reporting whereabouts to the Alumni Office.)

The largest category English majors’ careers could fit into? Business. I should note that several of these students obviously were double majors or returned for a graduate degree such as an MBA—obviously because that information is also noted on the list the Alumni Office provided if the students pursued their MBA’s at Santa Clara.

But first here are the gross categories initially for those 475:

  • Business 245 (50%)
  • Writers 19 (4%)
  • Medical 8 (2%)
  • Education 102 (21%)
  • Graduate Ss 13 (3%)
  • Media 6 (1%)
  • Law 51 (10%)
  • Non-Profits 9 (2%)
  • Government 4 (<1%)

Assorted others not quite in any of the above categories 17 (3%)

As the September 1, 2000, article "Working Your Degree" available at the CNN Money web site(http://money.cnn.com/2000/09/01/career/q_degreeenglish/) notes, "English majors, like many of their liberal arts counterparts, have hundreds of career opportunities to choose from. The versatility of the degree, in fact, is what makes the post-graduation job hunt so hard."

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Business

Business is a rather nondescript category, not so useful when you’re trying to imagine yourself in a particular job. With the advice and assistance of Jennifer Rossi in the Career Services department at SCU, I had subcategories within the field of business used by the Alumni Office to decide which categories to put the alumni’s jobs into.

Jennifer Rossi also helped me decide where to put some individuals, such as recommending that administrative assistants go into the category of Administration rather than Miscellaneous. I operated on the basis that primarily I was trying to categorize the job or career the English major was in rather than the kind of businesses the English majors work for—the field in general is business as opposed, say, to law or education.

But I occasionally found myself needing to look at the kind of business as well. In deciding where to list the alumni, I used the following guidelines as bases:

  • if alum. provided a title with the word manager, I listed the alum. in the Management box unless the management was of something like property; then I listed the alum. under Real Estate—I figured that even those listed as PR Managers might actually be managing other people rather than actually writing the pr
  • if alum. provided a title with the words director (or asst. dir.) or vice-president in the title, I listed the alum. in the Executive box regardless of the kind of business
  • if alum. self-reported as owner or president, I put in the Entrepreneur or Small Business box
  • if alum. provided no title for self and I could figure out the kind of business the alum. worked in, then I listed the alum. in that field of business
  • if alum. provided no title for self and I couldn’t figure out the kind of business, I listed the alum. in the Misc. or Unspecified box

Here is the first of a series of tables that I hope will provide specifics about where SCU English alumni report working.

Alumni Thriving

English majors are not only hired in the business industry but represented in just about every field of business. As noted in the article "Working Your Degree," "increasingly, insiders say, one of the fastest growing career choices for English majors is broadly defined as `business.’ The verbal and written communication skills that English majors possess remain in top demand at nearly every company in America."

Ernest Suarez, a professor at The Catholic University of America in Washington DC, is quoted in the article as saying, "Businesses tell us they like to hire English majors because they feel that they can think. They've got the writing and analytical skills they need. The rest they can be trained to learn."

Some specifics from the largest category, Miscellaneous or Unspecified, will demonstrate what sorts of careers I put into that category:

  • Barbara Hoyt ’88: XP Systems
  • Patricia Keady ’89: Stanford Bookstore
  • Gwen Ficklin ’90: LiveCapital.Com
  • Tracy Stoehr ’92: Tour Director, California Theatre Center in Sunnyvale
  • Janet Wiecking ’94: Author Events Coord., Capitola Book Café
  • Shawna Smith ’97: Prog. Coord., Taller San Jose, Santa Ana CA
  • Nitika Tolani ’99: Research Analyst, Metis Associates Inc., NYC
  • Shannon Roth ’00: Ad Inventory Coordinator, Women.com Networks, Ic.

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Management & Executives

English majors not only are represented in just about every field of business but can rise to the top within their fields. The two next largest categories were Management and Executive—pretty impressive, eh? Some specifics from these categories will demonstrate what sorts of companies these alumni work for in these capacities:

Management

  • JoAnn Lambkin ’87: Budget Mgr., San Jose Mercury News
  • Juliette Rafat-Wells ’87: Facilities Mgr., Sybersay Communications, San Jose
  • Jason Standifer ’88: Associate Marketing Mgr., TXU Energy Service TX
  • Michael Yamashita ’88: Gen. Mgr., Bay Area Reporter
  • Tracy Darchini ’89: PR Mgr., Mercedes Benz, NY
  • Jennifer Fell ’90: Mgr. of Tech. Documentation, Neuromedia, Inc.
  • Maureen Mullins-Kasper ’91: Public Relations Manager, Cisco Systems, San Jose
  • James Finn ’92: Business Devl. Mgr., IMOVE, Inc., Portland
  • Steven Mooney ’92: Proj. Mgr., Portera Systems (on the peninsula)
  • Nicole Vodian ’95: Public Relations Mgr., Net.Genesis Corp., MA
  • Karen Kirby ’96: Mgr., Creative Services TiVo, Inc.
  • Erica Jangrus ’98: District Mgr., Siebel Systems Inc., San Mateo
  • Scott Butler ’99: Strategic Alliances Mgr., MyFamily.com, Inc.
  • Michelle De Natale ’01: Mgr. for HIV Patients, Chase-Brexton Health Services

Executive

  • Laura Jacobus ’87:  Sr. Director, Assoc. General Counsel, Ethics and Compliance/Legal Ops, Juniper Networks
  • Sara Ledoux ’87: Director of Public Relations, Kimco Hotel Management Co
  • Kathleen Collins ’88: Director, PricewaterhouseCoopers in CA
  • Katherine Miller ’89: VP, TH Miller Associates, Inc.
  • Scott Howley ’90: Dir. of Proj. Mgmt., Oracle Corporation
  • Shannon Riordan ’91: Dir., Global Brand Mgmt., Visa International, Foster City CA
  • David Bauer ’92: VP of Q2 Brand Intelligence
  • Catherine Ozburn ’92: Director, Visa International, San Francisco
  • Nicole Ryan ’92: VP, Bank of America Corp., Portland
  • Stephanie Capuano ’93: Associate Dir., Ketchum Public Relations, London, England
  • Craig Cappai ’94: Asst. VP, Union Bank of California, Los Angeles
  • Jennifer Webb ’95: Dir, Plaza Research. Denver

Patterns over time provide few surprises. Just as in any line of work, people don’t become managers or executives right from the start—unless they’re entering the family business. Although Robert Mondavi, Jr., ’01, is listed as Regional Sales Manager, he holds that position at the Robert Mondavi Winery.

Alumni Thriving

The majority of these alumni who are Managers or Executives graduated in the 1987-96 years. The following charts show that no executives were listed for the 1997-01 graduates, and the majority of those in management or executive positions come from the 1987-91 graduating classes.

Interestingly, however, those in the fields I collapsed into one—Information Office/Public Relations/Advertising/Communications Department—showed the largest numbers in the group of most recent graduates.

Alumni Thriving

This subcategory of business seems an appropriate fit for English majors. Recent graduates Vanessa Veneziano ’00 and Jill Mason ’99, for example, are a Public Relations Specialist for Cisco Systems, Inc. and a Marketing Communication Specialist for Lowney Associates, respectively.

The way these numbers break down, of course, may be a function of how I chose to categorize individuals: the partial list of managers provided above show that individuals whose job titles were manager were put into the Management category. But these fields seem nonetheless fruitful for English majors.

An article in Occupational Quarterly 2002, available at www.bls.gov/opub/ooq/2002/spring/art01.pdf ("The 2001-2010 Job Outlook in Brief,"), guesstimates changes in employment and provides predictions for the Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics. This articles notes the following:

  • Advertising, marketing, promotions, public relations, and sales managers: Faster than average growth. Growth will stem from competition as businesses vie for customers. Keen competition is expected for these sought-after jobs. College graduates with creativity, experience, and excellent communication skills will have the best opportunities.
  • Public relations specialists: Much faster than average growth. Companies seeking better customer relations will provide opportunities for those with some experience and excellent communication and people skills. Keen competition is expected for entry-level jobs.

English majors can apply their creativity and excellent communication skills honed through writing papers on Shakespeare’s King Lear or Nathanel West’s Day of the Locust in this field.

The field of publishing is also an option for English majors. The article mentioned above in Occupational Quarterly 2002 notes the following:

  • Desktop publishers: Much faster than average growth. Desktop publishing is replacing much of the prepress work done by compositors and typesetters, enabling organizations to reduce costs while speeding production. Those who have certification or a college degree will have the best opportunities.

A 1995 alumna works as a Production Editor for McGraw Hill Inc. in San Francisco. Another 1995 alumna is an Asst. Editor for Houghton Mifflin Publishers. A more recent alumna, from 2000, is an Editorial Asst. for Brooks/Cole Publishing Co. in Belmont CA. Those nearing graduation might check different publishing houses to see whether they can apply their editing skills from working on the SCU student newspaper, on the SCU literary magazine, or on their own papers to their careers after graduation.

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Education

Alumni Thriving

The remaining 230 alumni were in other categories (as listed on page 3), with the next two largest categories being those that most people imagine English majors going into, Education and Law. I provide below in different tables the breakdown of the alumni according to the three five-year spans of time (1987-91; 1992-96; 1997-2001) as well as according to categories specific to each field that may be interesting.

People don’t graduate and instantly start teaching. The data show that, of those English alumni who report jobs or careers in the field of education, 44% are from the classes that graduated between 1987-91; 40% are from the classes that graduated between 1992-96; and 16% are from the classes that graduated between 1997-01. These figures make sense: the students need time to acquire their teaching credentials or to pursue advanced degrees, just as majors in fields other than English often must.

For example, the ones teaching in higher education all came from the 1987-91 and 1992-96 cohort groups. Individuals usually need at least a Master’s degree if not the Ph.D. to teach on the post-secondary level. But notice that only 9% report teaching on the post-secondary level; the bulk—72%--teach on either the secondary level or in middle or elementary schools.

With California needing to make sure only credential instructors are in their schools, students nearing graduation may wish to make sure they are looking toward credential programs.

Just as in business, people don’t rise to positions of authority until after they have worked in entry-level positions. The Associate Principal at a high school, the Assistant Principal for a Unified School District, the Principal for a school were all from the 1987-91 cohort group.

The field of education doesn’t mean only teaching. The ones in the category of Other reported jobs such as Educational Consultant, Speech Language Pathologist for a school district, ESL Teacher in Adult Education, Admissions Counselor, or Teacher’s Aid.

English majors don’t teach only English, only literature or writing. Not all of those listed themselves as teachers are teaching teach English! One teaches Spanish, another French, another Chinese, another Dance, yet another Religion. When English majors double-major, they increase their opportunities to teach, using their eloquence from speaking in their English classes for oral reports but applying that skill to another field that gives them joy to share with others. If students are double-majoring, they can use their knowledge and skills from both fields in their lives post-graduation.

The previously mentioned article in Occupational Quarterly 2002 ("The 2001-2010 Job Outlook in Brief") that guesstimates changes in employment and provides predictions for the Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the following about fields within education:

  • Teacher assistants: Faster than average growth. A growing number of special needs students will require assistance.
  • Teachers—adult literacy and remedial and self-enrichment education: Average growth. A growing immigrant population will seek instruction in English and other subjects. Lean public budgets for these programs, however, will moderate job growth. Opportunities are expected to be very good.
  • Teachers—postsecondary: Faster than average growth. Many jobs will be generated by rising student enrollments of 18- to 24-year-olds and the growing need for postsecondary training for many occupations. Additional openings will be created by the need to replace the large number of workers expected to retire, but competition is expected to continue for tenure-track positions.
  • Teachers—preschool, kindergarten, elementary, middle, and secondary: Average growth. Despite slowly growing enrollments, a greater emphasis on improving education will result in initiatives such as all-day kindergarten, mandatory pre-school, and reductions in class size. Excellent opportunities will be created by the need to replace the large number of expected retirements
  • Education administrators: Average growth. Administrators will be needed to over-see a rise in student enrollments, especially at the college level. Job opportunities should be excellent be-cause of the large number of workers expected to retire.

Undergraduates who know they wish to enter teaching after graduating might keep those predictions of trends in job prospects in education in mind as they set their sights on careers ahead.

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Law

People don’t become lawyers overnight. This fact is no news flash to anyone, so not surprisingly the majority of those who were lawyers—76% of those who reported working in law—graduated between 1987-1996, not within the last five years. A few hot-shots, those 4, of course did (yes, Zach Finley and his Harvard law degree is one of those—he works for a firm in San Francisco).

Alumni Thriving

Certain students are not just lawyers in a firm but litigate for the government: ’87 alumna Margaret Coyle is a Deputy District Attorney; Christopher Kayser ’94 is a trial attorney in the tax division of the Department of Justice in Washington DC. But notice that being a lawyer is not the only choice individuals have to make if they wish to work in law: besides being paralegals, some report themselves as legal assistants, superior court clerks, probate investigators.

Some graduates seem to use the position of paralegal to test whether their interest in law is genuine. I know from a few alumni who worked as paralegals that they did indeed determine thereby whether they wished to attend law school—in one case, the individual chose not to, instead entering a position in the high-tech industry.

Anyone thinking about entering the profession of law might try out the field before committing to it through law school. It is a viable field for English majors: that article in Occupational Quarterly 2002 predicts the following:

  • Lawyers: Average growth. Continuing demand will result primarily from growth in the population and business activity. Job competition is expected to be keen.

The data on those pursuing graduate school in Table 5 below do indicate that our students continue to go into that area to a large degree when they choose to go to graduate school.

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Writers

Technical writing is a solid choice for English majors. Elizabeth Malone ’88 is listed as a senior technical writer for BMC Software, Inc., in San Jose; Melinda Morgan ’90 is listed as a technical writer for Digital Tools in Cupertino; Laura MacDonald ’95 is listed as a technical writer for Metron in Aeston VA.

Alumni Thriving

I chose these individuals to show they work for companies both local and afar for those students both wish to and don’t wish to stay in Silicon Valley after graduation. The aforementioned article in Occupational Quarterly 2002 ("The 2001-2010 Job Outlook in Brief") has this prediction for the field of writing:

  • Writers and editors: Faster than average growth. Demand should increase for technical writers with scientific, medical, or technical expertise to write materials for a general audience. Employment of writers for electronic and specialty publications and business, employee, and member newsletters also is projected to increase but remain competitive.

But technical writing is not the only field our English alumni have found themselves in. Notice that a number of years after graduation, after they have perhaps built up a little bit of a reputation and a client base, some list themselves as freelance writers—Peta Owens ’88, Kimberly Budrow ’89, Thomas Gudeli ’89, and Jennifer Marron ’90, to be specific.

Others have found themselves as staff writers and reporters—for example, Michelle Ku ’98 is listed as a reporter for The Lexington Herald Lead in Kentucky. and Andrew Freiburghouse ’99 is listed as a writer for Forbes ASAP in Burlingame.

On the other hand, English majors should keep in mind not just these success stories but the figures so far: 19, 4%, out of the total responses. Individuals working in most fields, including business—in public relations, marketing, communications—of course do some writing for their jobs, but they do not list themselves as writers per se.

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Graduate Students

The listings provided by the Alumni Office give us the following data:

Alumni Thriving

English majors don’t have to enter into graduate programs only in English—literature or otherwise. Notice the diverse program that the graduates report to the Alumni Office. Not surprising is that fewer in the 1987-91 cohort group report being in graduate school than do those who are recent graduates.

Further, I can list six graduates off the top of my head whose names were not listed—two in law school, one in a journalism graduate program, and a fourth in an MFA program for creative writing. Because they were not listed, however, and I wanted this report to reflect only the information provided from the Alumni Office, not that data plus one faculty member’s knowledge, I did not include them above.

Nonetheless, the table above provides useful information for majors who are double-majors or who have minors in other fields. Many students, not only English majors, go on to graduate school, so if students enter graduate programs after SCU, let’s hope they report that fact to the Alumni Office.

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Non-profit Organizations

Santa Clara University upholds three principles for its graduates: competence, compassion, and conscience. For this last principle, students are often encouraged to participate in volunteer opportunities that assist those less fortunate.

Some of our alumni continue this practice, finding jobs in non-profit organizations, such as Ann-Therese Ortiz ’92, who is the coordinator for Philadelphia Futures for Youth in Pennsylvania, or Mariah Dabel ’00, the program director for Girl Scouts of Santa Clara County. I’m not providing a table for this or any more categories since the numbers in each are dipping below 10, and once again, this data is incomplete, for almost every faculty member in the English Department can name those majors who volunteered with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps or with the Peace Corps after graduating.

Some of the graduates who now hold other positions have done volunteer work for such organizations. Recent and future graduates should perhaps know that it is worthwhile to report their work with non-profit organizations so that we can begin a list that demonstrates the work our graduates do in this area, even if just for a short time.

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Medical Fields

A bit surprising to me was the fact that some of our English majors went on in the medical profession, for I associate that field with students who major in the natural or social sciences. Typically, I am sure that such is the case, but a few English graduates also choose to enter the medical profession, such as Michael O’Toole ’88, now a general surgeon in Oregon City OR, and Catherine Bloem ’97, a parinatal social worker at Sharp Mary Birch Hospital in San Diego.

The number (8) is small but it suggests that those who wish to go into the medical field, who have to enter a medical graduate program regardless of undergraduate major, can still choose to major in English. They need, however, to make sure they take the prerequisite courses for admission to medical schools.

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Media Jobs

Some students and faculty alike may believe that Communication majors are the most likely to secure positions in the media; perhaps such is the case since there are no recent graduates (1997-01) who fit into this category—and only 6 alumni reporting in could go into this category. Catherine Thompason-Georges ’88 is a film editor for Entertainment Today in Burbank CA, for example; Steven Goldstein ’92 is a radio news reporter for KJZZ 91.5 FM in Mesa AZ.

Although the Hollywood Dream does not come true for everyone, as is common knowledge, English majors can try, applying their skills honed by reading and writing for us in this field if they so choose. Of course, given I’ll Bet Your Will on MTV, perhaps we should leave this field to Communication majors.

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Government Jobs

Political Science is not the only major that can lead to a worthwhile job in government, but only four of the alumni from 1987-2001 reporting in to the Alumni office could be put into this category:

  • Kathleen Campini Chambers ’87--Public Information Office, Sacramento County
  • McCall Cameron ’95--Director of Communications in Congress, US House of Representatives, Washington DC
  • Christin Winn ’98--Job Search Center Coordinator, San Jose First Social Services
  • Kerry Hillis ’00--Constituent Representative, US Senator Barbara Boxer’s Office, SF.

The 2002 valedictorian, Brendan Donckers, is going into this field; perhaps some put into subcategories of business, such as the one working for the Department of Forestry could go here.

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Assorted: 17

As the above suggests, I was beginning to have a tough time finding umbrella categories for grouping the alumni. I provide below just a list of job titles (and names in a few cases) to show what else alumni report being up to:

  • 3 homemakers
  • 3 in sports (Jennifer Birks ’92 Asst. Soccer Coach, Western WA University; Patrick McPherson ’92, football coach Denver Broncos, Lenny Lippert ‘95, professional golfer)
  • 2 librarians
  • 2 social workers
  • 2 sports business (sr. director of sponsorship for the US Figure Skating Association, Kristin Matta ’87; asst. to the president of the San Jose Clash Christen Carey ’91)
  • a CHP Officer in Sacramento
  • a pilot for Skywest Airlines
  • an artist
  • a deckhand/poet from ’87
  • an architect from ’92

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Implications

I hope that the above has helped to show that English majors need worry not about whether they have a marketable degree but about what they truly love and wish to pursue—for numerous fields are open to them. Whether they wish to go into teaching or law, as many outside of English believe, or whether they choose to enter a field within business, they will find the skills of critical reading and writing that they honed through their major applicable.

Further, since as English majors they have been exposed to the richness and diversity of literatures and critical theories, English alumni will bring an appreciation and a sensitivity to their lives, both professional and personal. Finally, when English majors graduate, they can see that the SCU Department of English still cares about knowing what they’re up to.

Since the average American now changes careers 5-7 times in a lifetime, alumni reporting in to the SCU Alumni Office help the Department of English stay current and accurate in knowing where the alumni are working. The Department can then use the information to help their current undergraduate majors to know what may lie ahead in their futures.

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For more information, contact Simone J. Billings at 408-554-4334 or sbillings@scu.edu. 
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