Carnegie Mellon University

Alumni Spotlights

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One of the interesting things about lawyers, Chloe Hawker says, is how many of them moonlight as writers.

Hawker, who graduated Carnegie Mellon University in 2015 with a degree in International Relations and Politics, plans to do more than moonlight. She recently quit her job as a lawyer in Washington, DC so she and her mother can finish writing a novel.

“This sort of feels like a moment of opportunity for me,” said Hawker, who graduated Cum Laude from Harvard Law School in 2019. “I want to have something out in the world that shows that I can do this kind of work because this is something that I would really love to pursue.” Read more

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When Kelsey Thompson left Carnegie Mellon University, she had a plan. She would work somewhere for a certain amount of time before graduate school, after which she would work at the State Department, and on and on.  

Her plan, as plans are wont to do, did not pan out. For someone with the drive and ambition of a CMU student, this could have been a crushing blow, and it was hard for Thompson. But that difficulty gave her some perspective.

“I wish I could have told my younger self that it’s OK just to keep putting one foot in front of the other, and keep engaging curiously and opening yourself to opportunities,” said Thompson, who graduated in 2015 with majors in International Relations and Politics and Hispanic Studies and minors in Business Administration and Visual Art. “Where I’m at now is somewhere where I’d absolutely wanted to be, but it took a lot to get here, a lot of uncertainty. You will get to where you need to be and what is meant for you over time.” Read more

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To experience the aspect of Carnegie Mellon University that Alex Pomerantz loved most, you’d have to go to the College of Fine Arts parking lot in the middle of the night to find Pomerantz and his Sigma Phi Epsilon brothers building their booth for Carnival.

“Not everybody is passionate about the same thing, but everybody is passionate about something, and I think that’s what makes CMU really special,” said Pomerantz, who graduated in 2017 with a degree in Biological Sciences and an additional major in International Relations and Politics. “People are really passionate at Carnegie Mellon about what they love, and people will stay up all night doing the things that they love, not because they feel they have to, but because they want to.” Read more

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Before arriving at Carnegie Mellon University, Kayla Lee had never envisioned herself in Washington, DC. A few years into her time at CMU, Lee found herself studying in the nation’s capital, interning on the Center for American Progress’ immigration team, camping out in front of the Supreme Court to hold spots for mixed-status families coming from all over the country to attend hearings on the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents initiative.

Since childhood, Lee has been a de facto advocate, helping her immigrant parents and grandmother fill out paperwork and make appointments. Now Lee, who graduated from Carnegie Mellon University in 2017 with majors in Global Studies and Hispanic Studies and a minor in Politics and Public Policy, is an anti-trafficking advocate for the International Rescue Committee in Seattle.

“Our agency works with immigrants and refugees, and our program specifically supports families who may have survived specific harm here in the United States,” Lee said. Read more

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Raaga Kalva knew she wanted to work in Washington, DC. The Germantown, Maryland native chose Carnegie Mellon University rather than the University of Maryland because she wanted to broaden her experiences. That decision played a role in getting her where she wanted to be.

At a CMU educational opportunities conference, Kalva reconnected with a former classmate who went on to become a recruiter for the Defense Intelligence Agency. That recruiter helped Kalva get a job with the DIA as a Military Capabilities Analyst.

“When looking for jobs, I’ve always been a big advocate of students reaching out to alumni as well as taking advantage of the opportunities on campus,” said Kalva, who graduated in 2019 with Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in International Relations and Politics. Read more

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Alex Pasch knew she wanted to study abroad. That’s one of the reasons she chose Carnegie Mellon University, because the flexibility of the curriculum would allow for a semester overseas. She didn’t know where, she didn’t know why, but she knew she wanted to go.

Her experience in Brussels, Belgium gave her direction. Now Pasch, who graduated with degrees in both International Relations and Politics and Ethics, History, and Public Policy in 2017, and a Master’s in IRP the following year, is in the second year of law school at Georgetown, focusing on international law and trade. Read more

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The good thing about Carnegie Mellon University’s Activities Board, Simran Jagtiani said, is that you don’t have to know anything to join. You just have to enjoy music, planning, and organization, and work well under pressure. The advisors teach you everything else. 

In Jagtiani’s case, her advisors, Elizabeth Koch and Meredith Hassenrik, nurtured her passion for music. They walked her through the process of negotiating and marking up contracts with bands and performers the AB had invited to campus. 

“Things like that, the faculty don’t have to go the extra mile but they do,” Jagtiani said. “Those were the moments that led to where I am.” Read more

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When Dana Kim returns to the Carnegie Mellon University Washington Semester Program to speak to the current students, she tells them to consider their narrative.

“Don’t just make random decisions based on how you’re feeling in that moment,” Kim said. “You can do a shift like me, from pre-med to law school to policy. You can make those changes, but make sure you’re telling a story.”

Kim speaks from experience. Read more

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Emily Peterson sat on her friend’s couch in Aruba during spring break, applying to graduate school. She was a senior at the United States Naval Academy, which allows a small number of graduating students to complete postgraduate education before beginning their military service. 

Later that year, she was at Carnegie Mellon. Read more

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On January 20, as Joe Biden was sworn in as President on the Capitol’s West Front, Vincent Brown stood in a volunteer command center inside the Capitol. He hadn’t slept in thirty-six hours. As a volunteer coordinator for the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, Brown, who graduated Carnegie Mellon in 2013 with a degree in International Relations and Politics, helped organize a volunteer force of more than 300 people, often a rotating cast because of COVID-19 diagnosis or exposure. Read more

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Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania is a small town about two hours east of Pittsburgh that, just like many similar small towns across Appalachia, lacks an abundance of legal counsel. Emmett Witkovsky-Eldred, a Hollidaysburg native and 2017 Carnegie Mellon alumnus who is currently in his second year in Yale Law School, plans to address the issue. Read more

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In his quest to make an impact, Devin Gund has a knack for finding opportunities that shouldn’t exist.

As a freshman at Carnegie Mellon, he got an internship with Apple the old-fashioned way, talking with a recruiter at a career fair. He became, to his knowledge, the first student to double-major in Electrical and Computer Engineering and International Relations and Politics. He convinced an Air Force Reserve recruiter to give him a shot at becoming an intelligence officer, a challenging path for a civilian. Read more

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Yulin Kuang sat on a curb, exhausted, staring at her feet. She was directing an episode of “The Healing Powers of Dude,” a Netflix comedy about a boy with social anxiety disorder and his support dog. Kids and animals make filming harder, and she had both; she’d set an alarm on her phone to track “pumpkin time,” the window during which she could work with the kids before the rules governing child actors mandated that their day was over. Read more

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UCLA or Berkeley, Corinne Rockoff had decided. The Los Angeles native had narrowed her college choices to the two in-state options, but her parents made her a deal: They’d pay for a visit to one out-of-state school. Of all the college mail she received, one school consistently stayed out of the recycling bin. Her mother, a dog lover, liked Carnegie Mellon’s Scotty mascot. Read more 

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Billy Joraskie picked a great time to study in Washington, DC. He interned for the Republican National Committee in the spring of 2011, shortly after the party gained seats in Congress, flipped state legislatures, and claimed governorships in the midterm elections. He and his fellow students threw a “countdown to the shutdown” party. They abandoned final exam prep after the killing of Osama bin Laden, throwing on their coats and joining the crowd gathered outside the White House. ... Read more

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On a whim, Jacki Cortese fired up Google.

She’d been obsessed with space since she wrote a book report about the space shuttle in second grade, and had loved history since high school. After a summer internship on Capitol Hill, she was desperate to get back to Washington, DC.

Read more

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The months following graduation were tough for Jessica Wallach. Early in the process, Wallach, who graduated Carnegie Mellon University in 2016 with degrees in International Relations and Politics and African Studies, applied for a job with the International Center for Research on Women. Six months passed, and she applied again – this time for a receptionist position.

Shortly thereafter, she heard back, not about the receptionist job, but the one she originally wanted. ... Read more

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When this summer’s quarantine redefined what people could do in their spare time, Max Tassano saw an opportunity. Tassano, who graduated from Carnegie Mellon University in 2014 with a degree in International Relations and Politics and later got a Master’s in Public Policy and Management from Heinz College, became involved with CMU Tech and Entrepreneurship, a community that facilitates the sharing of knowledge and networking among Carnegie Mellon students and alumni. ... Read more

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When considering colleges, Daniel Nesbit sought diversity of instruction. He knew he wanted to study political science or history, but hoped to augment that focus with a range of academic fields.

“One of the things that attracted me to Carnegie Mellon was that I would be around other disciplines and I would be able to try to incorporate some of that thinking into a more ... Read more

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When Yong-Gyun Choi returned home to Pittsburgh from California during the COVID-19 pandemic, he went through some old pictures. He found one from a decade ago, when, with the help of a small grant, he got an internship at the US Embassy in South Korea.

“As a student at CMU, these kinds of opportunities were hard to find, but they’re definitely there,” Choi said. “They’re there for people who want it and who seek it. It doesn’t ... Read more

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Ian Epperson has lived quite the life since arriving at Carnegie Mellon in 2008. He interned at the Central Intelligence Agency and the White House. As an officer in the Marine Corps, he trained foreign armies in the Middle East and served as an instructor for the Marines’ Infantry Officer Course. He studied at the London School of Economics.

“I’ve never tried to plan anything in a prescriptive way, but I’ve always tried to ... Read more

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Early in Ian McIntyre’s time at Carnegie Mellon, he took an international relations course with Institute for Politics and Strategy Director and Taube Professor Kiron Skinner. That course introduced him to Stuxnet, a powerful virus that infiltrated Iranian computers and disrupted centrifuges used to enrich uranium.

“That has taken me on a marvelous journey where I, within a couple weeks ... Read more

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Initially, Alice Tripp’s decision to accept an internship felt like a blow to her ego. She already had a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations and Politics from Carnegie Mellon, and had just earned a Master’s degree in Public Policy and Management. 

“It was something where I was like, ‘Jeez, is this really the right decision for me?” Tripp said. “All this time and money in school, and now you’re going to go be an intern, a-gain?’ Hindsight’s twenty-twenty. I’d say it was the right decision.” Read more 

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When Amy Badiani was a child, her mother took her to India to spend summers with her grandparents. They were communal, social creatures, entrepreneurs who owned a garment business, and they built their house on top of a well, a prescient decision when a drought hit.

“I noticed that I couldn’t do anything to make it rain, yet I could do something to help with the levity,” Badiani said. Read more 

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After spending three years working in Citigroup’s Capital Markets Origination department, Yasmin Venema acquired a powerful skill set. As an analyst on the asset-backed securities team, she worked on bond issuances from start to finish – structuring the deal, checking legal documents, generating marketing materials, and coordinating the execution process until the transaction closed. Read more

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While Cate Yu attended Carnegie Mellon, she worked for CMU Solutions, a pro bono student consulting group that helped local companies and organizations while providing students with real-world experience. As President and Project Lead her senior year, Yu broadened the group’s background by bringing in Creative Writing and Mechanical Engineering majors, driving CMU Solutions’ expansion from purely business consulting to a more diverse organization. Read more 

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When Colin Tait enrolled in Carnegie Mellon’s BXA Intercollege Degree Program, he had to study a language. One of his earliest friends on campus posed him a question that, in a way, started him along his career path.

“She asked me, ‘Why do I speak English?’” Tait said. “‘I speak your language, but you don’t speak mine [Arabic].’ I was like, OK, that’s a challenge.”  Read more

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As Lucy Truschel began considering colleges, she knew she wanted a medium-sized school in a city. She also knew she loved Pittsburgh, because her parents were from the area and she had family here.

As it turned out for Truschel, who graduated last year with degrees in International Relations and Politics and Psychology, Pittsburgh wasn’t the most influential city during her time at Carnegie Mellon. Read more

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As Kellen Carleton began his junior year at Carnegie Mellon, he thought he had his career figured out. Two summers before, he interned with Octagon, one of the world’s largest sports agencies. The summer after that, Carleton, a lifelong hockey player and Pittsburgh sports fan, interned with the Penguins during a playoff run that resulted in the first of two consecutive Stanley Cups. Read more

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Susanna Seltzer, who earned a degree in International Relations and Politics from Carnegie Mellon in 2016 and later got a master’s in the same subject, works for Maxar Technologies, a geospatial satellite imaging firm. She and her team assessed the threat of violence at various polling places in Afghanistan and ranked them, then shared that information with US and Afghan security personnel. Read more

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After more than four years overseas, Celete Kato was coming home. The America she left in 2014 was not the America to which she returned last year, she said, so she thought she’d ease into it.

“And so I was like, let me bike across the country,” she added. So much for easing into it. Read more

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For Emily Feenstra, São Paulo beckoned. She had spent a year and a half there, on and off, investing in education technologies for low- and middle-income families in Latin America. She’d learned Portuguese.

Now the operations were there, and she had a choice: Move to Brazil, or move on? Read more