LAS Career Symposium
Learn from LAS alumni trailblazers
- 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 7
- Illini Rooms, Illini Union
The LAS Career Symposium is an opportunity for LAS students in the humanities, social sciences, and behavioral sciences to connect with distinguished alumni to learn more about navigating their careers after graduation.
Students will pair with alumni mentors to practice informational interviews and elevator pitches, then break up into groups for sessions focused on careers in nonprofits, business, government and the public sector, education, and health. A networking lunch will be served.
Registration fee is $10, which includes lunch. General registration opens Sept. 18, and the deadline to sign up is Oct. 1.
For more information, please email Erin Dittmer.
9:45-10 a.m.Student check-in
10-10:30 a.m.Welcome and talk from keynote speaker, Ami Novoryta (BA, ’00, communication). See her full bio below
Introduction of career-building activities and introduction of alumni mentors. Alumni will introduce themselves and share an experience from their time at Illinois that helped them with their professional development
Career Building Activity No. 1: Informational interviews with alumni mentors. Students will break up into groups. One alumni mentor will meet with each group. The students will then conduct a group informational interview of the alumni mentor until 11:10. For the final 15 minutes, the students and the alumni mentor will go over how the interview went. Questions to consider include: What did the students like about the experience? What did they learn? Does the alumnus have any feedback for the interviewees?
11:30 a.m. to 12:10 p.m.
Career Building Activity No. 2: Elevator pitch with alumni mentors. For this activity, students will stay with the same student group, but they will work with a different alumni mentor. Students will be coached to write an elevator pitch. Then, each student will deliver his or her pitch and receive feedback from peers and alumni mentor
Lunch with alumni. Lunch will be served, and students and alumni will have an opportunity for informal discussion
Breakout session: round one. Each break out session will be 30 minutes and will feature two alumni who both work in nonprofits, business, government and the public sector, education, or health. The alumni mentors will each give brief remarks about their career trajectory and how LAS skills and mindsets have helped them. Students can ask questions during the remaining time
Breakout session: round two. This session will follow the same format as the first breakout session, but with different pairings of alumni and students
Participating LAS alumni
Ami Novoryta (BA, ’00, communication) is the chief strategy officer at Heartland Alliance for Human Needs and Human Rights. Heartland Alliance is Chicago’s second-largest nonprofit organization, with a $130 million budget and more than 1,400 employees around the globe. It provides a comprehensive array of services in health, housing, jobs, and justice. It leads state and national policy efforts that target lasting change for individuals and society. As CSO, Ami leads the implementation of Heartland Alliance’s strategic vision. Over the last year, she led the design and planning of READI Chicago, a new strategic initiative that is engaging individuals at highest risk for gun violence involvement in targeted interventions including transitional jobs, cognitive behavioral therapy, and coaching.
Alumni in business
Jerry Hester (BS, '97, speech communication) resides in Flossmoor with his wife and two children. As a student, Hester was a star basketball player earning All-Big Ten honors, as well as a Big Ten Championship and team MVP in 1998 as a senior captain. After graduation, Hester fulfilled his dream of being a professional athlete with a six-year basketball career playing in Europe on teams from Poland, Israel, England, and Serbia. During his time as an athlete, he visited 24 different European countries and learned to speak Polish. Today, Hester is the Managing Principal of Hester Insurance Group. At the Hester Insurance Group, he focuses on Life, Disability and Long Term Care programs for high-income professionals of business entities and Student Athlete Insurance programs for college, universities and students. Hester is the former expert analyst for the University of Illinois men’s basketball team on the Fighting Illini Sports Properties (2005-2016). Hester is a qualifying member of one of the highly regarded associations in the insurance industry—the Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT), is a Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU®), and a member of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors (NAIFA). Hester is presently on the finance and investment committee of the University of Illinois Alumni Association Board of Directors (where he is on the finance and investment committee), a member of the LAS Alumni Association Board, and a Foundation Member for the University of Illinois Foundation.
Winston L. Langston II
Winston L. Langston II (BA, '90, economics, MBA, '94, finance) resides in Flossmoor with his wife, Leah (also a College of LAS alumna) and their two children. For the last 14 years, Winston has been employed in the biotech industry and currently serves as a sales director with Gilead Sciences. Prior to entering this industry, Winston spent eight years in the financial services industry with Allstate Reinsurance, The Northern Trust Bank, and GE Capital. He also has experience in the non-profit arena, having served as a director for the National Black MBA Association. During this time, Winston was honored as one of the Top 40 under 40 by diversityMBA Magazine. In addition to his work with Gilead, Winston is also president of 701 Group LLC, which focuses on real-estate management, business development, and transportation services. As community service is very important to him, Langston currently serves as an executive board member for the Original Forty Club of Chicago, and previously served on the boards of StreetWise and the Henry Booth House. "To this day, I bleed orange and blue because the people within the College of LAS helped me understand the power of persistence," he wrote in his LAS Alumni Board application. "This mantra of simply refusing to quit has served me well throughout my life. It has shown me that persistence can supersede talent, genetics, and luck, and there can be no success without it!"
Alumni in education
Dr. Allen Schwab (AB, '64, rhetoric & composition/English) resides in Chesterfield, Missouri with his wife, Phyllis. Currently, he teaches technical writing in the American Culture Studies Program at Washington University in St. Louis. Prior to this appointment, he held senior leadership positions at Illinois and Missouri higher-education institutions. Schwab served as professor and academic dean at Logan University; professor of English, dean of the college and academic vice president at Eureka College; Chair of the English Department at Northwest Missouri State University; affiliate professor and associate dean in the School of Engineering and Applied Science at Washington University, and as associate professor and dean of the undergraduate college at Lindenwood University. After spending many years in the academic world, Dr. Schwab believes that “learning to learn transcends age and location." Over 35,000 people have heard him offer more than 100 illustrated pre-concert lectures for the St. Louis, Peoria, Illinois, and University of Illinois Symphony Orchestras. Schwab is a former member of the LAS Alumni Association Board.
Following graduation, Maggie Wave (BA, '12, political science and philosophy) joined Teach for America and moved to the beautiful state of Louisiana spending two years teaching eighth-grade mathematics at Livonia High School in Pointe Coupee Parish. In her third year, she was a mentor teacher for students attending Livonia High.
In 2015, Wave returned to her home state of Illinois to work for her alma mater. At the University of Illinois, she enjoyed exploring the incredible work of development and served as the assistant director of advancement for the University of Illinois' library system. She covered the western half of the United States. Most recently, Wave joined the Regional Development Program at Washington University in St. Louis, where she concentrates on raising awareness and support for Washington University's academics in the Mid-Atlantic portion of the United States.
Alumni in health care-related fields
Patricia Schwarzentraub (AB, '68, Germanic languages & literature) recently retired from her position after a 33-year career as a nursing educator and an Advanced Practice Nurse. She most recently enjoyed a 14-year tenure as a full-time professor of nursing at St. Francis Medical Center College of Nursing in Peoria, Illinois. In this role, she managed junior and senior level nursing students in the classroom and in hospital clinical settings. She also taught Master's-level courses to clinical nurse specialist students both in class and online. She has had similar teaching experiences as an instructor of nursing at both Methodist College of Nursing and Bradley University. She is a member of Sigma Theta Tau International, the international honor society for nursing, where she served as a charter member, president elect and president of the Epsilon Epsilon chapter at Bradley University. Schwarzentraub has been a speaker at various conferences and is the co-author of the Maternal/Newborn Nursing study guide and course for the NCLEX-RN Review Course for Nurse Educators of Illinois. She was also the author of "Sibling Attended Birth," an article published in the International Journal of Childbirth Education.
Prior to her nursing career, she was a teacher of vocal education teaching grade-school and high-school music classes. Schwarzentraub has served as president of the Peoria Area Civic Chorale for several years; and in 2009, she was elected chair of the Board of Directors for the 2012 season. In 2002, she received the Conductor's Award from the Peoria Area Civic Chorale and in 2005 was named one of central Illinois' 25 Women in Leadership.
Schwarzentraub is a former member of the LAS Alumni Association Board and appreciates her experiences at Illinois. "I always considered myself privileged to have had the opportunity for a great education in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences at this flagship university," she said." This education has served me very well in my professional life, offering opportunities, and opening doors in many and varied areas. I am supremely grateful for that fact, and I desire in some way to return the benefits and gifts that I have received from this privilege."
Elizabeth Pieroth PsyD, ABPP, (BS, '88, psychology) is a clinical neuropsychologist at NorthShore University HealthSystem specializing in the treatment and rehabilitation of patients with traumatic brain injuries and sports-related concussions. She is part of the NorthShore Sports Concussion Program and is certified in clinical neuropsychology by the American Board of Professional Psychology. Pieroth is also a board member of the Brain Injury Association of Illinois and is a founding partner of the Midwest Center for Concussion Care.
She has been involved in the assessment of players for the National Hockey League since 1977. In addition, she now serves as the head concussion specialist for the athletes of the Chicago Bears, Chicago Blackhawks, Chicago Fire, and Chicago White Sox.
In 1998, Pieroth completed her fellowship in neuropsychology at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. Prior to that, she received her bachelor of science degree in psychology from the University of Illinois and her doctorate in clinical psychology from the Illinois School of Professional Psychology.
Pieroth has single-authored a number of articles regarding the care and rehabilitation of patients with neurological injuries and illnesses. Her articles have been published in several journals including Professional Case Management and Inside Case Management. In 2016, Dr. Pieroth was selected as an Alumni Achievement Award recipient by the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences.
Alumni in government
Jennifer Creasey (BA, ’04, political science and speech communications) joined the University of Illinois in March 2014, stepping into the role of director of state relations. Before that she was with AARP Illinois, and previously served as deputy director of boards & commissions/agricultural & environmental affairs in the Office of Governor. Jennifer has also worked in a number of political internships in both Washington, D.C and Springfield, Illinois. At Illinois, she was selected for the Dunn Fellowship program after graduation in 2004. Jennifer went on the complete her master’s degree from the University of Illinois at Springfield in political science. Jennifer represents the University in both the Capitol and the community to advance its priorities. She is also responsible for outreach, state legislative advocacy efforts, strategic partnerships, and management or relationships around the state. Through this work, she works very closely with the U of I legislative caucus and U of I alumni throughout the state. In 2016, she was nominated to participate in the U of I Edgar Fellows Program. Before coming to the U of I, she was the AARP staff lead for state healthcare legislation and implementation of the Affordable Care Act for the AARP Illinois Legislative Office. She is a member of the Springfield YMCA board, and an active member of a number of community and professional development groups.
Judge Israel Desierto
Judge Israel Abaya Desierto (BA, ’94, English; BS, '94, biology) was sworn in as an associate judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County, State of Illinois, in 2005. Desierto currently presides over civil matters at the Daley Center and previously presided over criminal matters. He is a past president of the Illinois Judges Association and is a member of the Illinois Judicial Council. He is also active with the Illinois Judges Foundation, where he coordinated a program involving students at the Cook County Jail Counsuela York Alternative High School. He is a member of the Asian American Bar Association, the Filipino American Lawyers Association, the Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois and the Women’s Bar Association of Illinois. He continues to serve as an adjunct professor at IIT/Chicago-Kent College of Law, where he teaches trial advocacy. After graduating from Kent, he worked for the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. He practiced in both the civil and criminal areas of the law. As a civil litigator, he practiced in the area of medical malpractice defense. As a criminal prosecutor, he tried primarily gang-related murder cases. He tried more than 70 juries to verdict and hundreds of bench trials.
Alumni in nonprofit organizations
Driven by her passion to end domestic violence and homelessness, Rebecca Darr (BS, '90, psychology) has grown the Palatine, Illinois-based WINGS Program, Inc., into one of the state’s largest social service agencies for women and children fleeing domestic violence. First as executive director (1999-2014) and then as CEO (2014 to present), Darr has played a pivotal role in WINGS, fulfilling its mission of providing housing, integrated services, education, and advocacy. To that end, she has helped increase the nonprofit’s assets (which includes apartments and homes for domestic violence victims) from $600,000 to more than $25 million. Darr also developed new funding sources for WINGS, which allows the organization to achieve its objectives with less than 15 percent of its funding being generated from government funding.
A past recipient of the United Way’s Executive of the Year award, Darr also serves on several boards and coalitions that advocate for stronger legislation and increased awareness related to domestic violence, including the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women’s Network and the Cook County Commission on Women’s Issues.
A native of Alton, Illinois, Rebecca graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in psychology and is a member of the Department of Psychology’s alumni advisory Board. In 2016, she was named the Chicago Illini of the Year by the University of Illinois Alumni Association.
With more than 25 years of community organizing and community service experience, Nancy Greenwalt (BA, '89, speech communication) looks to transform delivery systems and increase access for underserved populations. Greenwalt is an experienced executive director with a demonstrated history of working in not-for-profit organizations in the health care industry. In 2012, Greenwalt was appointed executive director of Promise Healthcare and still serves in this role today. Promise Healthcare is dedicated to improving the health of the community through treatment, prevention, and education and to delivering primary medical, behavioral health, and dental services to the underserved of the Champaign-Urbana area. This organization provides more than 40,000 patient visits and cares for 11,500 patients annually through Frances Nelson, SmileHealthy dental programs, satellites on Walnut at Rosecrance and the Presence Covenant Medical Center Community Resource Center, and other mobile clinics. Prior to this appointment, Greenwalt served as the executive director of SmileHealthy from 2007-2012 and the downstate campaigns director for Community Shares of Illinois from 1999-2008. She is proficient in grant writing, marketing and development, volunteer recruitment, and public speaking. Nancy lives in Champaign with her husband, two daughters, and two dogs. Greenwalt is the the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences' 2017 Alumni Humanitarian Award recipient.
How to prepare
LAS Student Handbook
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- LAS Lineup enewsletter
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- Statement on Inclusivity