Future grads learn from alumni’s successes — and failures
By Mark Heller
GCU News Bureau
A networking and career fair broke out Thursday night, but the wisdom imparted upon future Grand Canyon University graduates went much deeper.
A 12-person panel of GCU alumni from all walks of professional life shared their own career paths and answered questions for nearly two hours in the Antelope Gym lecture hall.
“Ask an Alum” was the first event put together by GCU’s alumni department in collaboration with the newly formed Future Alumni Board (FAB). The latter is a group of GCU seniors attempting to build job and other professional connections between the soon-to-be-graduates and GCU’s rapidly growing alumni base.
Liz Conwell, the GCU Alumni manager, said the panel was put together through GCU deans’ recommendations, LinkedIn and the Phoenix Lopes Chapter of alumni. The wide variety of Valley alums’ backgrounds and occupations — marketing, entrepreneurism, finance, health and science, sports, education and law enforcement — made for journeys that often were riveting and thought-provoking for the next generation of graduates.
Each of them spoke of their adversities — personally, professionally or both. A lot. Each of them spoke of the times they struggled or failed. A lot.
Dr. Nic Markette has combined academia (master’s and doctorate degrees from GCU), business in tech companies and coaching high school soccer, but this all happened years after “doing everything you’re not supposed to do” as a youth. He was married with a child by his high school graduation, which subsequently lost him his education ticket to the Air Force Academy, he was helped by a business from one of his clients who was dying by age 25, had an investment firm at age 30, and after 28 years of marriage lost his first wife to lung cancer even though she was a non-smoker.
“Bring value to other people,” he said during an impassioned, humorous presentation. “When you take your eyes off yourself, you can see the world and how you can help it.”
Patricia Greenough is doing much the same as a special education and math teacher in the Phoenix Union High School District, but doing so first required motivation to get past her own challenges.
She was diagnosed with five different learning disabilities — “I can’t spell. There’s a reason I teach math” — and spoke of a senior-year high school teacher who said his classroom indifference toward her was because “future teachers shouldn’t have to deal with students like me.”
She is the third generation of her family’s GCU graduates and earned her bachelor’s degree in three years, her master’s degree in one year and will complete her doctorate before age 27.
“I love this school and I’m invested in this school,” she said. “I’m glad to be an alum who’s wanted back.”
Lauri Burgett began her career in the Phoenix Police Department at age 20. She rose through the ranks for the next 28 years, became the city’s first female Public Information Officer along the way and now oversees more than 75 officers in all walks of law enforcement and its community programs.
“When I’m asked to speak to groups, you sometimes forget how young you were (as students) and how little sometimes you know until later in life,” she said. “Networking is something we didn’t always understand when we were in school. “… The reward and motivation for learning comes from the journey.”
Take risks. Be prepared to fail. Heed what GCU graduate and current Midwestern University med school student Cory Nielsen called the “small coincidences” because “you won’t know how they matter until after the fact.”
Sage advice from a dozen GCU sages.
“It’s about not being scared to become an alumnus,” Conwell said. “The possibilities are there. They all talked about failures, emphasized it, and don’t give up. When you’re two weeks from graduating, that’s perfect timing.”
The panel also featured other GCU alums: Christina Wagner (director of Arena marketing and sponsorship at GCU); Amanda Lasita (director of development and communications for the Florence Crittenton nonprofit organization); Charles De La Riva (RN at HonorHealth); Austin Walker (group events and hospitality coordinator for the Arizona Diamondbacks); Christopher Borowy (doctor of osteopathic medicine student and instructor at Midwestern University); Stephen Barnes (former GCU basketball game announcer and owner/CIO of Barnes Investment Advisory Inc.); Annalee Ramirez (youth minister and adjunct instructor at GCU).
Contact Mark Heller at (602) 639-7516 or firstname.lastname@example.org