Recent Alumni Find Purpose and Balance Post-Pandemic

Despite the pandemic, or perhaps because of it, recent University graduates have found purpose, flexibility and balance in their young careers.

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College students and graduates all over the world were thrust into a labor market disrupted by COVID-19. Some of the best-laid plans — internships, first jobs, graduate school — went awry, but many young Scranton alumni adjusted — even benefitted — from having time to think deeply about what came next.

Uncertainty Turns to Certainty

Emilie Tronoski ’19, a seventh-grade math teacher at Pope John Paul II Regional Catholic School in West Brandywine, began her teaching career in 2020. Just months later, she found herself teaching pre-algebra from her dining room table to students on a screen.

“I was already overwhelmed and unsure of what I was doing,” she said. “I had to essentially reteach myself how to be a teacher in this new virtual world. The career I signed up for changed completely.”

The year left her frustrated and full of uncertainty but dealing with the disruption taught her flexibility.

“I have always been someone who needs a schedule. If things digress from that schedule, I can recover but don’t love when things change,” she said. Now, she understood, “Anything and everything can change at, literally, any moment.”

When she returned to the classroom, she said she was certain that the profession was for her, but perhaps, one day, she'd like to teach one-on-one as a reading specialist, a realization that came from having to evaluate her career so early on, she said.

Abigail Corrigan ’21, now a marketing and communications associate for consulting company Guidehouse, was a junior when the pandemic hit. As a student involved in various clubs and activities on campus, she suddenly found herself with extra time she wasn’t sure how to use.

“There were months throughout the pandemic where I felt that I needed to constantly ‘hustle’ in order to feel like I was being productive, simply because there wasn’t anything else to do! I soon felt burnt out and unmotivated,” she said.

Instead of trying to do everything, she found that she should try to focus on one or two things that really interested her. An internship with the mayor of Scranton turned into a full-time job, something she felt like she could manage with her virtual classes and fewer extracurriculars during her senior year. And she also discovered something many take decades to learn: the importance of work-life balance.

“I think making sure, especially when working remotely, you ‘clock out’ every day and do something you enjoy, and not something that you’re obligated to do, will give you good balance and help you feel rested for the next day on the job,” she said.

"If there is a silver lining to all of the events of the past 18 months, I am getting big-city experience while in a familiar place and somewhere I truly call home. It’s really been the best of both worlds."

- Abigail Corrigan ’21

Corrigan’s job with Guidehouse, which is based in Washington D.C., remains remote, which has been comfortable, for now. She had taken a “big leap of faith,” taking the job, she said, but because it’s remote, she’s around friends and family in Scranton and is also beginning to understand D.C. work culture.

“If there is a silver lining to all of the events of the past 18 months,” she said, “I am getting big-city experience while in a familiar place and somewhere I truly call home. It’s really been the best of both worlds.”

Aspirations Renewed

As someone who had a clear goal throughout college — to work in marketing for NASCAR — Mark Miller ’19 simply stayed the course. Recently, he became a manager of partnership marketing at the company. But then came his first day in March 2020.

“My first day at NASCAR was the first day that the organization transitioned into a remote workforce. I met my coworkers for the first time on a video call,” he said. Despite the transition, Miller said, he continues to be passionate about his job, even if he prefers to be with his team “in the office and on the racetrack.”

“My aspirations have not changed,” he said. “Since becoming a part of the team at NASCAR, my passion for the sport has only grown. I never want to be complacent in my role, and my mentors at NASCAR have pushed me out of my comfort zone and have taught me a lot about marketing during a unique time.”

Anna Giannantonio ’19, G’20, too, said she remains passionate about her chosen path, despite an intense first year. She is an occupational therapist at Project Renewal in New York City where she works with the unhoused population to support them in increasing their independence in daily life skills as they seek housing, health care and employment. Unlike so many who shifted to remote work, Giannantonio did not.

“Services in the shelter system don’t cease to exist even in a global pandemic,” she said. “The pandemic highlighted the needs of and disparities faced by vulnerable populations even more than they were before.”

Giannantonio, who was involved with the Center for Service and Social Justice as a student, said that her years at Scranton and this past year, plus fieldwork placement, with Project Renewal helped her understand that she wanted to join two passions — service work and occupational therapy — for good.

“I want to recreate the inclusive community I experienced at Scranton wherever I go, with my coworkers and clients alike,” she said. “The fact that a pandemic hasn’t poorly impacted my experience or my passion for the work I do really confirms for me the fact that I made the right decision in choosing my career and company.”

The recent graduates seem ready for whatever comes next. “I want to work with underserved populations no matter what we’re facing,” said Giannantonio, “be it a global pandemic or something else entirely.”

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