Carnegie Mellon University

Alumni Spotlights

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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 just fall in your lap.”

Choi made the most of the opportunities Carnegie Mellon offered. He chose the Institute for Politics and Strategy, a relatively small program when he enrolled in 2008, because he saw the chance to help grow the department. He co-founded a student-led academic journal. Choi, who graduated with degrees in both International Relations and Politics and Economics and Statistics in 2012, now works for YouTube as a senior quantitative business analyst. 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 seek out opportunities that I thought were interesting and challenging,” said Epperson, who graduated Carnegie Mellon in 2012 with degrees in International Relations and Politics and History and is now attending Harvard Business School. 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, applied to get my Master’s degree in cybersecurity, took my first programming class, took an information security class. Here I am close to ten years later working in the cybersecurity field,” said McIntyre, who earned degrees in International Relations and Politics as well as Policy and Management in 2012. He works as a security analyst for Varonis, a data security firm. “That was all based on realizing that there was a destructive ability behind cyberattacks that was totally foreign to me. I always knew you could steal data, but to actually break things … that came out of, probably, a homework assignment.” 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. “I got together with my cousins and friends and went door to door and gave free tickets for story-telling and dance performances that we would have on the street in India for anybody to come and watch and enjoy and laugh during a time of tension. I remember my grandparents were really proud of that.”

Badiani, who graduated from Carnegie Mellon in 2011 with degrees in International Relations and Politics as well as Policy and Management, never lost that desire to help the community. She is now the program manager of the Silicon Valley Social Venture Fund, or SV2, a philanthropic organization that invests in nonprofits. 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.

“I thought my role was interesting and the work was challenging, but at the same time I wanted to do something that was a little bit more socially impactful,” Venema said. “ … But I still saw the value of the efficiency and power of the financial market, and I wanted to find a way to combine those interests in one.” 

Venema, who earned degrees in both International Relations and Politics and Economics from Carnegie Mellon in 2014, parlayed those skills into a position as an impact valuation manager at Future-Fit Foundation, a London-based nonprofit that curates methods and tools to help companies become more sustainable. 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.

This is where, she said, the seed for her career as a recruiter was planted. Yu, who earned a BS in International Relations and Politics and an additional major in French and Francophone Studies in 2013, now works as an executive AI recruiter for Amazon’s Market Intelligence team. Her career as a recruiter for two of the world’s biggest and most influential companies taught her the value of adaptability and a wide range of experience.

“Having exposure to broad majors and programs at Carnegie Mellon helped me with that,” Yu said. 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.”

Tait fell in love with the economic, social, and cultural aspects of the Middle East. Before long he was studying Arabic for two months in Jordan, living with a Lebanese family as the only non-Arab in the neighborhood. Now Tait, who earned a Bachelor of Humanities and Arts in Bagpipe Performance and Ethics, History, and Public Policy, along with minors in International Relations and Politics and Arabic Studies, in 2018, and an MS in International Relations and Politics in 2019, is a Program Associate at the Middle East Institute in Washington, DC. 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.

“I cannot recommend the Washington Semester Program enough,” she said. “I think having the opportunity to have an internship during the school year is really great, and there are so many more positives that come with the Washington Semester Program specifically. There’s a lot of support.” 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.

Sports management seemed to be the likely path for Carleton until the following spring, when he participated in the Washington Semester Program. He interned with Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey. He attended Donald Trump’s inauguration.

“It was an absolutely transformational semester in my college experience,” Carleton said. “It’s made all the difference, it really has.” 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.

“We were able to help the Afghan government ensure better elections,” Seltzer said. “That’s real-world impact. That’s big-picture impact. These are skills, a majority of them I learned at Carnegie Mellon, that I was able to contribute to free and fair elections in a country halfway across the world.” 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.

But that endeavor fits Kato, who graduated Carnegie Mellon in 2012 with degrees in both International Relations and Politics and Decision Science, well: She’s a people person with the urge to travel. 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?

“I didn’t want to be a funder anymore,” said Feenstra, who graduated Carnegie Mellon in 2013 with degrees in both International Relations and Politics and Policy and Management. “I wanted to make sure that I was capable of doing what we were asking our entrepreneurs to do in our portfolio." Read more