Carnegie Mellon University
March 04, 2015

Building Strong Futures

Students at Students at "Under Construction."

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” It’s a question most people are asked beginning at a very young age.

Students in Carnegie Mellon University’s Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences – who major in everything from cognitive science and statistics to philosophy and creative writing – have so many career choices to choose from that it can be daunting trying to figure it all out.

To help sophomores, juniors and seniors learn about different career paths, nearly 50 Dietrich College alumni returned to campus for the third annual “Under Construction: Building Your Future” event. Students spent a recent Saturday afternoon getting first-hand accounts of how alumni have cultivated careers in entertainment, publishing, technology, non-profits and other industries.

“I consider myself someone who still doesn’t know what I want to do with my life,” shared Andrew Peters (DC’09), an ethics, history and public policy major who has worked on Capitol Hill and in the private sector promoting health policy.

Now a campaign associate at The Pew Charitable Trusts, Peters’ advice to students was not to box themselves in.

“Be more than your degree,” he said during the government and politics panel session. “It’s ok to take risks, it’s ok to spend money on yourself and your education, but do something that also makes you happy.”

Receiving hands-on advice from alumni at various points in their careers is exactly why the college holds the event.

“Under Construction is a great opportunity for our students to get a glimpse into the futures that await them and how they might go about getting there,” said Richard Scheines, the dean of the Dietrich College. “Our alumni are fantastic to come, and it’s great to see them.  I found out that two of my favorite former students fell in love in my class and have since gotten married!”

Fred Crawford (DC’83), who has been with the Central Intelligence Agency since 1988 in various roles and currently provides legal and policy counsel on military and intelligence community matters, came to Under Construction in order to pay it forward.

“Carnegie Mellon was very good to me,” Crawford said. “CMU is like academic boot camp. Students should embrace it, use it to identify classes they are interested in and take courses outside of their major to broaden their horizons, which will make their resumes rise to the top.”

For the hundreds of students in attendance, the discussions were eye-opening.

Elizabeth Faeth, a sophomore international relations and politics major, attended the advertising, marketing and public relations and entrepreneurship sessions and plans to return to Under Construction again next year.

“The speakers came from different backgrounds and gave good advice, especially how not to get discouraged in your first job because it takes time to build your network,” Faeth said.

Junior Julia Eddy said that the entrepreneurship panel’s advice on having nothing to lose when you’re young really resonated with her.

“They asked us why we haven’t started a company yet and said that this is the time to do it,” replied Eddy, a decision science major. “Everything else – consulting, government, politics – will always be there.”

James Wynn, associate professor of English and Rhetoric, sat in on several panel sessions and talked with both students and alumni at the networking reception. He left feeling that the event was a great opportunity for students to imagine their futures while getting practical advice.

“Hearing the panelists’ experiences will help students think about things that the panelists wish they would have done – like taking a programming class or keeping in touch with professors,” Wynn said.

In addition to the Dietrich College, Under Construction was planned by CMU’s Office of Undergraduate Research, Student Affairs, Career and Professional Development Center and Alumni Relations.

View photos from Under Construction: Building Your Future.

Read about last year’s Under Construction event.