A strong community draws attorney and alumna Megan Costello back to IST

Jessica Hallman
September 04, 2019
Megan Costello

Megan Costello graduated from the College of Information Sciences and Technology in 2008, and now serves as an assistant teaching professor in the college. 

IMAGE: Jessica Hallman

Editor's note: This story was originally published in the College of Information Sciences and Technology's (IST) spring 2019 issue of iConnect magazine, as part of a feature story on College of IST alumni who now serve as members of the faculty in commemoration of the college's 20th anniversary. 

For Megan Costello, a 2008 IST alumna, the strong community feel is what initially drew her to the College of IST. Like Marc Friedenberg, it is also what drew her back to become an assistant teaching professor seven years after she graduated.

“Ultimately, I’m comfortable because this is where I spent my undergraduate years, and I just really love it here,” said Costello. “It was nice to be able to come back and be a part of that community again.”

The strong community stems from the small-school atmosphere in the college, which Costello first experienced as a student. She recalls working on group assignments with classmates who became close lifelong friends.

“You stayed with these same individuals and had many of your classes together,” she said. “It was interesting to see the friendships grow out of that, [and see] all these people learning all these things at the same time and getting used to this community for the first time. And then they ultimately stayed friends long after those classes ended.”

As an instructor, Costello invites some of those former classmates back to speak to her students.

“I want to show students where their education can take them, and what opportunities are out there if you really put your mind to it,” she said.

She was one of the students who took advantage of those opportunities while she was in college. Her childhood dream was to become a lawyer — a career that she pursued after building a solid foundation in the College of IST.

“As somebody who climbed the ranks in IST with a minor in security and risk analysis (SRA), it was interesting to be able to leverage my technical background in IST when applying to law school,” she said.

She attended what is now the University of New Hampshire School of Law, then landed a job as a lawyer with a firm in Pittsburgh that ultimately led to a solo career as an attorney. As she further advanced her career, she recognized the unique skillset that she had developed over the course of her academic and professional paths.

“When I graduated law school with a background in IST, law, and cybersecurity, it led me down a path to work with emerging businesses,” she said. “A traditional IST career path would usually lead to being a consultant where you would act as a ‘translator’ between technologists and business people.”

She added, “It was amazing to see how naturally this foundation in IST fit in with a career in law. Whether I discussed the laws surrounding launching a business or protecting intellectual property, my training in IST combined with my [doctor of jurisprudence] degree helped me to become a better communicator.”

In addition to counseling clients one-on-one, Megan also took part in several technology law speaking events for groups of lawyers, technologists, and even hackers in the community. It was in these larger community events where she discovered her passion for teaching.

“I had such a great experience reconnecting with people I had worked with as a student, that I wanted to come back and be a part of the community again."

— Megan Costello, assistant teaching professor and 2008 College of IST alumna

Since she had maintained relationships with professors in the College of IST, Costello learned about the opportunity to leverage those skills by teaching a class through Penn State World Campus. She thought it would be a natural fit and threw her hat in the ring. After successfully teaching a number of classes online, a full-time, in-residence opportunity arose.

“I had such a great experience reconnecting with people I had worked with as a student, that I wanted to come back and be a part of the community again,” she said.

As an instructor, Costello draws on her unique background to help guide students toward the paths they’ll follow after graduation.

“I carved out a different career path than most people from IST or SRA might have,” she said. “It’s interesting to just be a part of this community and to lend a different flavor of expertise to the mix.”

“If I’m able to come back and do my part to show them that there are a lot of different opportunities in all these different spaces,” she added. “That’s what keeps me going day to day and year to year.”

Last Updated January 22, 2020