Professionals offer advice, networking at Abington virtual STEM event

ABINGTON, Pa. — The Penn State Abington Center for Career and Professional Development (CPD) recently hosted virtual STEM networking for students. The goal of the event was for professionals to share career advice and for students to build their networks within the many and varied science, technology, engineering, and math fields.

Serena Young, a peer career adviser and engineering major, and Amanda Mallon, assistant director and internship counselor in CPD, facilitated the discussion among the panelists. The panelists were:

  • Laura Beres, who earned an undergraduate degree in English before moving on to veterinary school. She is a veterinary services lead at Zoetis, the world's largest producer of medicine and vaccinations for pets and livestock.
  • Laura Clark, another veterinarian at Zoetis, is the company’s senior academic liaison in its Academic and Professional Affairs unit. She is also a member of the Abington Advisory Board, a group of professionals and community leaders who provide advice and support to the college.
  • Diana Harrison started at a local community college and continued her education, earning her nurse practitioner license from Penn State Hershey. She works in primary care at Grand View Health.
  • Stephan Zweidler is a Penn State industrial engineering graduate. He earned master’s degrees in mechanical engineering and business administration. Zweidler is a partner and director of technical sales and marketing at Accudyne Systems.

The event started on Zoom, where the panelists introduced themselves and were asked general questions by the moderators. The students then moved on to Brazen, a newer platform used for virtual hiring events and online career fairs. Brazen allows students to “wait in line” to talk to each panelist privately.

Abington peer career advisor

Serena Young is an engineering major and a peer career advisor in the Penn State Abington Center for Career and Professional Development.

Credit: Penn State Abington

Beres, the veterinarian, told students that her profession has more facets to it than she initially thought.

“Most veterinarians chose their field because of the animals, and they then realize those animals are all in the care of or associated with people. Even if you’re in the livestock industry, those animals are someone’s livelihood, the money they need to take care of their families. They care for those animals just as much as pet owners do,” she said.

Beres believes that she still has a lot of room for growth in her career.

“I’d eventually like to move up because I’m really enjoying it. I’d never want to totally leave the technical/medical side,” she said. “I like that the industry is always cutting edge, and you learn the latest science.”

Clark, also a veterinarian, advised students to “look for guidance in the most unexpected places”.

Nurse practitioner Harrison, who is interested in eventually teaching, talked about balancing the demands of her job.

“I think we all go into medicine to help people and have good experiences, but when you have such a large volume of patients, there is a lot of pressure to do a lot of work in a short amount of time. If I could make it perfect, I would give myself a lot more time with each patient,” she said.

Harrison suggested that students not to stay too long in a position if they find themselves in a situation with too many limits.

“The career mistake I made was probably working a job where I put in a lot of effort and there were no promotions or opportunities for growth. I was doing everything right — working hard, training people, and there were literally no other opportunities,” she said. “I stayed there longer than I should have, but when I left, I never looked back. I now look for jobs where there are more opportunities, and if there aren’t, it won’t work for me.”

Zweidler, the engineer, counseled students to take advantage of what CPD offers.

“CPD has connections that extend deep into the professional workforce locally and nationally, and they collect business intelligence from firms about their hiring needs and practices. A meeting with CPD staff is a key step in starting your professional career,” he said.

“As a student, I participated in all of the CPD events that I could spare the time to attend in an effort to meet new people and practice my 'elevator speech' that described me, my interests, and aspirations. Even university events that weren't technically CPD events, but had industry representatives present, were important for me to attend," Zweidler said. 

"I met managers, chief engineers, C-suite executives, and board members of multinational corporations at events like these. By the time on-campus interviews begin, you will already know a lot about the companies and possible positions for which they are recruiting. Then, CPD works their magic to put you in the right place at the right time for a job interview,” he said.

In addition to the panelists, Nyellis Marmol, vice president of the Pre-Health Organization, offered some insight on the club. It was created last semester to bring together Abington students who are interested in pursuing health professions. They are working toward bringing in professionals who can share their stories and experiences with students, and they send out links for possible volunteering opportunities, study groups, and resources for applying to different graduate programs. The organization can be found on Instagram as @psuabprehealth and on Discord.

About Penn State Abington

Penn State Abington provides an affordable, accessible and high-impact education resulting in the success of a diverse student body. It is committed to student success through innovative approaches to 21st-century public higher education within a world-class research university. With nearly 4,000 students, Penn State Abington is a residential campus that offers baccalaureate degrees in 22 majors, undergraduate research, the Schreyer Honors College, NCAA Division III athletics, and more.

Faith Attig, the author of this article, is a corporate communication major at Penn State Abington.