Distinguished NAU alumni met with students Friday at the Social and Behavioral Sciences (SBS) town hall to discuss their storied careers and give advice for students entering the job market.
Speakers Anthony Gibson, Amy Pena, Sherman Frederick and Roy Morey, are all NAU alumni who have achieved great success in their respective fields.
The town hall opened with statements from Karen Pugliesi, the dean of the College of SBS, and Victoria Fimea, the chair of the SBS Advancement Council and the moderator of the event. Afterward, Gibson, Pena, Frederick and Morey fielded questions from Fimea and the audience.
The alumni first addressed a question about formative experiences at NAU that helped bring them to where there are now.
Gibson, the executive director of federal relations at the University of Pittsburg, has previously served in various roles at the White House, Congress and the National Science Foundation after graduating from NAU in 2001. He said club activities at NAU were a pivotal experience for him.
“Model United Nations was a really, really, really important aspect of my career growth,” Gibson said. “It was my living laboratory.”
Graduating from NAU in 1994, Pena originally worked in human resources before attending law school and eventually becoming the general counsel for Lions International and now the general counsel for the Chicago Community Trust.
Pena said it was a single class that gave her much-needed exposure to different careers and led her to major in communication.
“This Com[munication] 100 class, it was all the different types of careers that you could have in communication, and the professor at the time was really engaging," Pena said. "He had introduced this concept of organizational communication as a career path. It was those classes opening my eyes to the various different careers that you could have that you never thought would be possible. It really led me eventually to where I am now.”
Frederick, from the class of 1977, is an accomplished journalist and publisher in the state of Nevada, as well as the CEO of Battle Born Media. His most important learning came from interactions with his peers.
“I met some people who were just young, phenomenal writers and I learned from them,” Frederick said. “It all goes back to people.”
Morey, from the class of 1959, is a former deputy assistant secretary of state and United Nations official currently serving on the NAU Foundation Board of Directors.
An important experience for Morey was the time he spent with a professor who helped him develop an intellectual mindset.
“It was Dr. [Edwin] Walker that really introduced me to the world of ideas,” Morey said. “But more importantly, he convinced me that I would be comfortable living in the world of ideas, and it was that confidence that made all the difference for me.”
Later in the town hall, each speaker drew from their time at NAU and their careers to offer students important takeaways.
Gibson discussed how having a wide range of knowledge is critical for students entering the job market and was especially helpful for him in Washington, D.C.
“You’ve got to have breadth because you never know what’s going to come up with policymakers, it’s never the same, it’s constantly changing and it’s evolving by the minute,” Gibson said. “It’s that connection that you make because they came in just with a crazy idea…that was really fascinating to them, and then you leave that meeting and you made that connection that you needed and that would have never happened.”
Pena offered advice regarding how individuals entering new workplaces can be successful based on her personal experience observing co-workers and being in charge of hiring.
Pena discussed the importance of patience for all professionals and especially new hires. She stressed that patience is an important skill every student should learn.
“I think there’s also just a natural impatience that I have seen and so I think that those that come in with that curiosity but also that patience to learn and to find out more so that they can be a productive team member is really good,” Pena said.
Throughout the town hall, Frederick made several references to the value of learning from other students. He had an enriching dialogue with students through both in-class discussions and informal conversations, such as those with his fellow writers at The Lumberjack.
Frederick recommended that students take courses with engaging classmates in addition to good teachers.
“Find those classes where you get great students, try to avoid the classes where they’re just trying to get in and get out, get out of those classes as fast as you can,” Frederick said. “Find teachers that bring an environment of real learning.”
Morey's career has taken him to numerous countries around the world and various public and private organizations. He discussed how people skills are important for all professionals.
“My experience is that people skills may not get you all the way to the top, but the lack of people skills will certainly cause you a great deal of problems in keeping a job for a very long time,” Morey said.
The Q&A style town hall event gave students the opportunity to learn what successful alumni gained from their college experience and what propelled them to excel in their chosen fields.