Where are they now?

April 18, 2021
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IMAGE: Illustration by Annemarie Mountz

A College of Education degree is more versatile than some people may imagine. Many of our graduates go into fields that are directly related to their degrees. But many others use the knowledge gained during their time as students to succeed in other fields. Take, for example, attorney Macy Laster and data analyst Jared Minetola, both of whom earned undergraduate degrees from the College of Education. Both have shared their stories, and the paths they took to get where they are today.

Macy Laster, Class of 2015

Education: B.S. in education and public policy (EPP) with minors in sociology and women’s studies. 

Current position: associate attorney in the School Law department at Wisler Pearlstine in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania. I represent public school districts, charter schools and other educational entities, with a focus on special education law.

I always dreamed of becoming an attorney, however, my love for education took over when it was time to pick a major in college. I initially planned to obtain a degree that would enable me to be a classroom teacher, until I met with an EPP graduate assistant who helped me to see that switching to EPP would enable me to combine both of the things I was interested in, policy/law and education. I took Dr. Mitra’s and Dr. Gamson’s (many) courses and they opened my eyes to the wide-ranging issues and areas encompassed within the “educational field.” I took the LSAT during my senior year and immediately entered law school at Syracuse University School of Law. During law school I worked for one year at the Disability Rights Clinic, with a focus on disability-related educational issues, helping indigent clients.

My EPP degree helped me to build the foundation of knowledge needed to work in the Disability Rights Clinic and, ultimately, to obtain my current position. My coursework (and professors) taught me the art of learning, understanding and also formulating and applying policies and laws to real-life situations. This analytical approach helped prepare me for law school and provided me the insight necessary to hit the ground running in a career in educational law.

Advice to current students: Be open to the possibilities and various avenues, some less obvious, available to you and forge relationships with EPP staff to help to guide you. In my opinion, it is the lessons (in and out of the classroom) that I received from my EPP professors that helped me to become successful in life and to, ultimately, work toward achieving my dreams.

Jared Minetola, Class of 2008

Education: B.S in secondary mathematics education.

Current position: data analyst at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).

I really loved teaching and being a mentor for my students, but after four years I realized that I wanted to DO the problem-solving and APPLY the mathematical thinking I was teaching my students. I went back to school and got my M.S. in actuarial science from Temple.

I held a few actuarial positions and became an Associate of the Society of Actuaries. But, I realized that I enjoyed data analytics more than traditional actuarial work, and that led me to my current job as data analyst at CHOP.

Some may look at my resume and say, ‘this guy’s all over the place!’ But, I needed each of the individual steps along the way to get where I am right now. I remember being worried my education degree would be a deterrent to the companies I was applying to for actuarial jobs, but it turned out to be a selling point. Not only did the “Penn State” label add a few bonus points, but recruiters actually loved that I was a former teacher. In the actuarial/data world, an essential skill is being able to clearly and concisely explain conclusions — from complicated concepts and code — to executives/clinicians who don’t need to know “how the sausage was made.” In the data world, having strong communication/teaching skills in addition to a solid math background puts you miles ahead of the competition. I am incredibly grateful to Penn State for helping me foster both skills.

Advice for current students: Don’t lose sight of what you’re passionate about OUTSIDE of teaching. It’s important for those of us who don’t make careers out of our passions to make sure we keep them in our lives. For me this has always been music — I played open mics after school and released songs on Spotify. I incorporated music into my classroom. (My ‘Properties of Exponents’ song was always a hit with my students, and on YouTube too!) Music kept me sane on those especially stressful days, and still does today.

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Last Updated April 19, 2021