Student Alumni Association Enlightens Undergrads With “Thrive in Your 20s”

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On Tuesday, April 19, the Student Alumni Association hosted “Thrive in Your 20s,” an annual event wherein alumna of the previous decade return to campus to enlighten undergraduates with wisdom and stories from their first years of real-world experience. 

Gathered in the Student Center as if around a campfire, attending students listened intently to the four panelists tell their stories. 

Steven Magown, a mechanical engineering major from the class of 2018, was the first to speak. Much of what he said revolved around the often-neglected idea of the work-life balance. An abundance of care should be given towards one’s personal health and wellness as to their work.  

“We live in an era full of opportunities,” Magown said when discussing the abundance of career choices for young people, regardless of major or the path taken. “Your 20s is the real ‘baby state’ of your life. Don’t staple artificial timelines to yourself or your personal development. You’re in control and you can do whatever you want.” 

Magown’s major takeaway was that, despite how frantic and overbearing the societal push to get a job and make money may seem, it is important to never let the hypothetical cloud the real. Young people, especially college graduates, generally have enough time and resources to proceed at their own pace through the job search. Magown urged students to stop and smell the roses, but also to be sensible about it. He advocated for living within one’s means and saving money early.  

Mia Nardone was an advertising and public relations major, also from the class of 2018. Nardone’s confident and amicable tone demanded attention and active participation from the audience. It should be no surprise that she now works in sportscasting for the Phillies.  

Nardone’s fast-paced way of talking perfectly reflected her major point: never be afraid to ask questions. 

“If you don’t ask, you’ll never know,” she said multiple times on stage. It is often difficult for young, unproven people to take risks, especially when it comes to their jobs. We may feel as though asking questions is a way to be judged and criticized by our superiors, and that it is better to be quiet and deal with it. Nardone says otherwise.

“The worst thing anyone can tell you is ‘no’—then you’re no worse off than before. But if they say yes, then think of what you can gain from that,” Nardone said.

Success demands courage, and fortune favors the bold. Nardone is a shining example of this and those in attendance surely walked away enlightened by her words.  

“Ask questions. Talk to people. Opportunities only present themselves when you talk to people,” Nardone said.

The third speaker was Rebecca Rossi, a marketing and management major from the class of 2016. Rossi was the most experienced speaker on the panel and delivered quite the reality check to those in the audience.  

“Some things you can’t really prepare for until you’re knee-deep in them already,” Rossi said. 

As a college student, Rossi took pride in the idea that she had her whole professional career planned out to the day and the dollar value. That is until opportunity side-swiped her and got her a job with the Navy as a contract specialist.  

“You need to realize that the career path you mapped out for yourself might not be the right fit, and that’s ok. More than that, it’s probably better for you,” Rossi said. 

Rossi’s story is by no means new, but it is a compelling example of two of the most prominent issues facing college graduates: the illusion of complete control and the tendency of opportunity to take us unaware. Though she had a watertight plan, and the experience and credentials to back it up, life brought her in an entirely different direction, one she’s surprisingly accepting of. 

Not having a major relevant to her field (if such a thing exists) did nothing to dissuade her, and she encouraged listeners not to let such things get in the way of professional development. 

“No skills are exclusionary. Your college experience and any of your skills will make you a better worker, no matter where you end up. Money doesn’t equal happiness, and it doesn’t equal success either,” Rossi said.

The fourth and final speaker was Matthew Yaros, an art and graphic design history major from the class of 2020. The only student from the panelists to graduate during the pandemic. Yaros encouraged listeners to not take their education for granted and to always be searching for ways to improve.  

“Always be a student. Always be learning something, even after graduation.” 

The academic and professional development of the student is a communal effort and Yaros urged students to treat each other as teammates, rather than as competition. Our shared strengths and experiences help us all to succeed at our own pace.  

The future can be scary. So scary, in fact, that many of us waste the best years of our lives trying to insulate ourselves from it. Thankfully, we got a chance to glimpse that future from the perspective of four different, talented people. As it turns out, that future may not be as terrible as we may have thought, in fact, it seems pretty incredible. The responsibility falls to us not to fear it, but to seize it with all we have.

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