Liberal Arts alumna leverages Penn State network to spark early career success

Ellie West
July 14, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — For Liberal Arts alumna Samantha Allen, Penn State’s vast network of nearly 700,000 alumni has opened doors to multiple opportunities.

Allen (2015, English and print journalism) is an assigning editor at Forbes Advisor, where she is currently working to create a new ‘Home Improvement’ section for the well-known digital media platform.

“Right now, I am essentially helping Forbes create a new ‘Home’ website,” said the Paterno Fellows alumna. “Our larger goal is to help people have a better understanding of how to improve their home. It’s a really big undertaking, but it’s a huge topic for people right now — especially because of COVID-19 — so they brought me on to kind of build it from the ground up.”

While Allen has certainly seen success in her career path thus far, she says she would not be where she is today without her efforts in networking. 

“The biggest thing that got me to where I am was networking while in college,” she said. “I remember I first connected with an alumna named Jayne Jamison (1978, advertising), who at the time was a publisher for Oprah Magazine ... I basically just messaged her and asked if we could chat after an event she was doing at Penn State, and she said yes. After talking, she gave me her card and that actually ended up opening a lot of opportunities.”

Allen described how her experiences networking with Jamison allowed her to be selected for an interview, and ultimately chosen, as a summer intern for the magazine’s online website, Oprah.com. Funding for this internship was made possible by the Virginia Todd Chapel Executive Internship Program Endowment, which provides support for career development activities. Continuing to maintain a solid relationship with the magazine throughout her senior year, she went on to be hired full time by Oprah.com after graduating.

“Getting that opportunity was huge for me. I really didn’t think that some girl from small-town Pennsylvania would be chosen, and that just changed my entire life. I don’t know where I would be today if I hadn’t networked and put myself out there like that.”

Following her position at Oprah.com, Allen went on to work for many other digital publications, such as Swirled, Food Noise, The Spruce, HomeAdvisor, and now Forbes Advisor. 

As the assigning editor, Allen holds many unique responsibilities. On top of leading the new section’s editorial strategy, finding freelancers, and researching relevant content, Allen also serves as a spokesperson for the website as a whole.

“I love being able to work with freelancers because I actually learn a lot in the process,” she said. “[They] are experts on so many of these topics, so getting to work with them is kind of like a built-in learning opportunity. It helps you feel more confident that you are giving readers the right information and the best information possible.”

An alumna of both the College of the Liberal Arts and the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications, Allen continues to translate the skills she acquired from her degrees into her current role.

“I was lucky enough to be a student in both liberal arts and communications,” she said. “My liberal arts degree in particular allowed me to see the world in a lot of different lenses, which is really essential for a journalist. You need to have a curiosity about how other people live, and my liberal arts education brought in that human element for me.”

Allen describes the Paterno Fellows Program as a “pivotal” aspect of her undergraduate experience.

“The Paterno Fellows Program was so crucial,” she said. “Living in New York City on an unpaid internship is expensive, but I knew it was the biggest break I was going to have as a student. They were able to provide me with funding so that I could live in New York through the entire summer and not have to worry about how I was going to pay for it all.” 

Now that Allen has settled into a strong and successful career, she hopes she can start contributing and giving back to the Paterno Fellows Program in return for the generous support she received as a student.

In addition to networking, Allen also advises both current students and recent graduates to “always negotiate.”

“Don’t be afraid of negotiating. I promise you are worth more than you think … There is value in everything that you do, even if you don’t have a single year of experience. At the end of the day, you deserve a healthy and positive environment that allows you to grow.”

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated July 21, 2021