The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Political science and international affairs alumni return to alma mater to reinforce pillars of liberal arts education

3 min read
Joseph Selding smiling at graduation next to two other faculty members

Information about post-grad plans can be found at the Center for Career and Development. | @saeumw, instagram


Staff Writer

On the evening of March 27, a panel of five UMW alumni returned to their alma mater to share their post-grad journeys and impart the lessons they learned to current undergraduate students. The Department of Political Science and International Affairs hosted the panel for current students to share how alumni’s activities and experiences benefited them most during their time at Mary Washington and how to apply those skills in the labor force.

The panelists’ graduation years extended from 2010–2023, which provided a wide range of varied advice about what political science and international affairs students can do at UMW to help further their careers and how to be professional and tactful in the workforce after graduation.

All of the panelists emphasized the importance of writing skills that they learned at UMW as a quality that has set them apart in their fields—whether that writing was for lengthy research-based work or politely emailing constituents. 

“The reason why I landed this job at all is because I spent a good amount of time at UMW,” said Mariam Ansari ‘18, a technical writer and editor for ADS/US Agency for International Development. “Not just writing these papers, but getting feedback from professors and the writing center.”

The panelists also reinforced the importance of clear, concise and considerate communication in the workplace and their personal lives. Several of the panelists expressed that they learned this soft skill during their time at UMW due to the small class sizes and intimate nature of the University. This applied to the lessons they learned inside the classroom in addition to those derived from their extracurricular engagement.

According to alumna Nina Burges ‘21, a revenue officer for the Internal Revenue Service, her role as UMW Honor Council President from 2020–2021 gave her the experience of managing a team and working with authority figures, which were later valuable assets in the workplace.  

“[Being Honor Council President] helped me a lot in terms of interpersonal communication [and] management of people because I’m not only dealing with the 20 members of my panel, but I’m also dealing with the professor—who at the time was Dr. Brettinger,” said Burges. 

Several of the panelists weighed in on how students can integrate effectively into the workforce during their first post-grad job.

“It’s super important to be a team player because then you kind of have people you can fall back on as well,” said Joseph Zeldin ‘23, a public policy and impact associate at Community Development Bankers Association. “And there’s that kind of mutual benefit of being on a team.”

Current students attended the event to parse out what their futures would entail after they graduated from UMW. 

Natalie Johnson-Abbott, a senior political science major, said that she attended the panel in light of her impending graduation, seeking wisdom from alumni to influence her decision on post-grad plans. 

“I have the hard decision of whether to go straight into a career or pursue a Master’s Degree and I felt that the panel could help me make that decision,” she said.

Tonia Attie, a sophomore double majoring in philosophy: pre-law and political science, said that she attended the panel after hearing about it from political science Professor Emile Lester. She attended to hear alumni perspectives from those who had a similar course of academic study. 

Attie said, “It was definitely helpful and I think having alumni who all took different career paths post-grad really shows how much a person can do with a political science degree.” 

The many perspectives and routes that the panelists offered an array of post-grad decisions. Geoffrey Carlisle Jr., a senior international relations major, thought it helpful that one alumnus waited to graduate before applying to jobs. 

“That was really reassuring considering I’ve been pretty slow with the job search and knowing that there is still hope for me,” he said. 

For students seeking help with their resume, post-grad plans or internship and job opportunities, the Center for Career and Professional Development offers students information and professional advice on the second floor of the CRUC.