Alumni Panel 2016

Exploring Careers with Linguistics Alumni - 2016

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Department of Linguistics, this year’s “Exploring Careers with Linguistics Alumni” event featured a panel discussion with four Northwestern University linguistics alumni from around the country who represented a variety of career paths. The event, which was held on January 29, was a great success, and students interacted with the panelists and each other during a reception that preceded and followed the discussion.

The event introduced brief remarks by Maggie Smith from Northwestern Career Advancement, who introduced the services her office provides to students exploring their career options. The four panelists were:

  • Jeff Schecter - a data scientist in the San Francisco Bay Area
  • Tyler Perrachione - an Assistant Professor of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences at Boston University
  • Minna Zhou - a writer and radio producer in Minneapolis
  • Natalie Friend - a speech-language pathologist in the Chicago area.

About 50 people attended the event. Guests first heard the variety of careers alumni have chosen to pursue. The fields included research and higher education administration, speech-language pathology and other health-care fields, technology and data science, journalism and media, marketing, consulting and law. The department staff created a PowerPoint presentation showcasing the common career paths, as well as updates on the careers of various alumni.

The panel discussion, which lasted about an hour, began with the panelists reflecting on their Northwestern experience and how it has shaped their career paths. They also explained the ways in which they have used the skills they developed as linguistics students in their current roles.

A Q&A with the audience followed the discussion. While each panelist had unique perspectives on each question, they surprisingly converged on many points. Useful advice about opportunities to pursue at Northwestern included working in a research lab, studying abroad, developing analytical/coding skills and taking courses outside of one’s comfort zone.

After one student considering a degree in linguistics asked the panelists their advice on why she should chose it, they gave her insight on how widely the skills developed as a linguistics major can be deployed across various careers.

Following the event, the panelists commented on how much they enjoyed participating in the event, as well as how each had connected with specific students interested in their respective fields. Feedback regarding the event has been positive, from students and faculty alike.

Going forward, the Department of Linguistics hopes to build on this year’s success by considering ways to broaden marketing efforts and finding new methods of reaching students both inside and outside of the department.