Alumni report on professional life

Aspiring undergraduates hear stories shared by journalism and public relations alumni.


Rebecca Mitchell/THE CHIMES

Jessica Goddard, Writer

Amidst the fear surrounding post-graduation life, hopes of “making it” remain in almost every student’s heart — regardless of their field of study. “Making it” takes many different shapes depending on each person’s dream, but the encouragement of hearing from someone who has reached success expands hopes and crushes fears for students as they look toward their future career.

Advice and inspiration

Four journalism and three public relations alumni sat around a table in the Caf Banquet Room answering the questions of Career Development department’s peer internship coordinators, who led the event on April 11, and the students in the audience. The topics focused around various themes, such as success, purpose and surviving in the post-graduation world.

“I hope they realize there are people who have been where they are, and are doing what they want to do,” said Gary Emerling, assistant managing editor for U.S. News and World Report and one of the alum panelists.

Through each alum’s trials and journeys through various job types, all gained a level of knowledge and wisdom to have the ability to share advice and inspiration with students.

“It’s just really important to continue the cycle of us who have graduated continuing to invest in the next folks who are coming out of Biola in the next generation,” said Amber Amaya, program manager of Coachella Unincorporated, a group of high school journalists who report on the Coachella community.

A broader view of success

Many of the panelists described their quests after graduation as simply looking for the right job. Often they had to work at jobs in fields other than those they studied rather than positions they hoped for. Others described how their field of study led them to jobs that differed from media-type careers. These roundabout routes to their careers gave them a broader view of the definition of success.

“During my time at Biola, I had a really rigid view of what success looked like. I thought it meant having a particular job or working in a certain city,” Amaya said. “Success, which is tied for me to my goal and purpose in life, is to love God and to love others well, and so, if I’m doing that, I’m being successful.”

The panelists encouraged students to make the most of their education at Biola in order to prepare them for the workplace, pushing students to soak in all the knowledge from classes rather than simply pushing to get through. They offered advice about committing to excellent work ethic and overcoming the fear of failure by providing humble descriptions of their own mistakes.

“Even after graduation, you don’t have everything figured out. You don’t have everything in line, but you are a little farther along than other folks,” Amaya said. “So any wisdom that I can give back, I really wanted to do that.”

Navigating the field

During the question-and-answer section between the audience and the panelists, students returned to the theme of defining success and self-worth and brought up questions regarding Christianity in the work environment. The alumni answered with insight about navigating the secular working world and finding worth in honoring God rather than in the stereotypical success story.

“You can’t judge yourself necessarily by what the world tells you is ‘making it,’” Emerling said. “For some people, ‘making it’ is making it to the New York Times or the Washington Post or… winning a Pulitzer. For others, it’s doing your job well and coming home to your family, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with either, as long as it’s grounded in the right thing.”

The alumni’s willingness to present their thoughts encouraged students, especially when the alumni sat at the students’ tables for discussion directly following the panel. After this, the few panelists who remained moved to the fireplace pavilion to chat further with students and catch up with fellow alumni.

“Especially hearing from students that they thought it was helpful and informative, and that they enjoyed it — I think that was the most rewarding part,” said Anna Warner, junior journalism major and peer academic coordinator involved in organizing the panel.

The importance of mentorship during college presented itself prominently as the alumni used their experiences to provide guidance about college, the future and following God. Students enjoyed the panel because of the mentorship-type contact they had with them.

“An important [part] of my time here at Biola was having older mentors and students in the program who were a little further along than I was,” Amaya said. “Anything that I can do to contribute based on my life experience so far I definitely want to do.”

The alumni and students attending the panel made for a unique atmosphere of sentimental remembrance and aspirational reverie. The evening encompassed an array of opportunities available for graduates and blessings the working world provides when the workers dedicate themselves to the Lord.

“I honestly think that if you leave this life and the gospel breaks your heart, you lived a good, successful life,” said John Fredricks, photo editor at the Refinery Creative. “Your purpose is not to be a journalist — your purpose is to have a relationship with Jesus.”

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