Distinguished alumni from Rowan's College of Humanities & Social Sciences and Edelman College of Communication & Creative Arts share their career highlights and advice with students during a virtual alumni panel. - Photo via chss.rowan.edu

The Rowan University College of Humanities & Social Sciences (CHSS) and the Ric Edelman College of Communication & Creative Arts (CCCA) held a virtual alumni panel last week, which featured distinguished alumni from the two programs. 

Held on Wednesday, March 31 at 6 p.m., the panel lasted one hour and was hosted via Cisco Webex to kick off the annual career expo that is also hosted by the CHSS and CCCA. 

The career expo took place on April 1 from 1-4 p.m., and was also completely virtual in order to adhere to COVID-19 CDC regulations. The expo was created in order to give students the opportunity to engage with employers who are recruiting for internships and full-time or part-time employment. 

The alumni panelists included former English major Kate Gamble, journalism major Christina Paciolla, history major Jim Lavender, communications major Chris Lukach, journalism major Karen Maser and law and justice major Jennifer Webb-McRae. 

The host of the event, Assistant Dean Stephen Fleming, spoke briefly about the career fair before welcoming students and alumni to the event.

The panelists went on to introduce themselves, noting their undergraduate degrees, any additional schooling and their journeys to where they are now in their careers. They shared their advice regarding life post-graduation and their acclimation to the workforce.  

Gamble began the conversation, discussing her two degrees from Rowan University in English and public relations. Following her time at Rowan, she worked for a non-profit organization until eventually moving on to become an accounting executive in Philadelphia. 

“I had clients as large as Valero and as small as the board of education in Moon Township,” Gamble said. 

Lavender, who graduated from Rowan with a degree in history and secondary education in 1995, continued the conversation by discussing his work in public education for the past 25 years. Lavender noted how much he enjoys working with children, ensuring that he makes a positive impact on their lives. 

“The people I really looked up to and admired, outside of my parents, were teachers and coaches. They’re definitely the folks who have had the most impact on me in the most critical, developmental stages of my life, and that’s what drew me into, and inspired me [about], the field in the first place,” Lavender said.  

Webb-McRae then discussed the work that followed her graduation from Rowan (formerly Glassboro State University) in 1991. She went straight to law school and graduated from Rutgers-Camden in 1994. In 2017, Webb-McRae was nominated by former Gov. Chris Christie to be the Cumberland County prosecutor, and she still holds that position today. 

Lukach, a 2004 graduate, now owns a public relations consultancy called AKCG. 

“My company focuses on what you would call crisis and issue communication,” Lukach said. With this company serving as his first job out of college, he emphasized the importance of Rowan connections — even after graduation. 

Maser graduated from Rowan in 1979, where she spent much of her time contributing to the student newspaper, The Whit. She has worked on various television shows, such as “E.R.,” “Army Wives,” “Criminal Minds” and, currently, “Supergirl.”  She emphasized her passion for working in a creative environment, stating that it provides her with the opportunity to collaborate with other creatives that are also involved in television. 

The final panelist was Paciolla, who graduated from Rowan University in 2005 with a journalism degree, also having worked for The Whit. Over the course of her career, she has worked for various organizations including the Huffington Post and the South Jersey Times. She now works at the Associated Press. Paciolla described her current career as her dream job and something that she is very grateful for, noting that the most rewarding event in her career was, undoubtedly, the 2020 election, although it was an extremely challenging time. 

The panelists went on to discuss the greatest hurdles and trying moments that they have experienced over the course of their careers, with Gamble noting that it was not always smooth sailing out of college.

“To be clear, when I mention my journey, I think sometimes it sounds like one thing to the next, and something easy — and it was not,” Gamble said. 

Webb-McRae also noted the difficulty of her journey, and the importance of having mentors. She said that actively listening to them and following their advice has paid off for her in the end. 

At the end of the panel, the alumni hoped that students could walk away from the event with insight, knowledge and optimism toward their professional journeys following their time at Rowan University.

For comments/questions about this story, email features@thewhitonline.com or tweet @TheWhitOnline.