(This story appears in the 2013 Com­mence­ment issue of the Voice.)

North­eastern stu­dents may be headed down many dif­ferent paths after grad­u­a­tion, but they share a common direc­tion: up.

Whether they’re landing dynamic posi­tions in their fields or advancing their edu­ca­tion in top grad­uate pro­grams, most seniors will say their expe­ri­en­tial learning oppor­tu­ni­ties at Northeastern—including the university’s sig­na­ture co-​​op program—have guided them in their jour­neys toward success.

The North­eastern expe­ri­ence gives stu­dents a career edge after grad­u­a­tion. More than 90 per­cent of grad­u­ates from 2006 through 2011 were employed or enrolled in grad­uate school nine months after grad­u­a­tion. Eighty-​​seven per­cent of 2011 full-​​time employed grad­u­ates are doing work that is related to their major. Within that group, 50 per­cent received a job offer from a pre­vious co-​​op employer.

Read what these six seniors and recent grad­u­ates have to say about how their North­eastern expe­ri­ences have pro­pelled them toward exciting careers.

 

Labs spawn career inspiration

Jose Orozco’s resumé reads like the cur­riculum vitae of a renowned physi­cian sci­en­tist. He studied stem cells at the Memo­rial Sloan-​​Kettering Cancer Center; cur­rently explores the genetic basis of Type 2 dia­betes at the National Insti­tutes of Health; and has recently been accepted into the Har­vard Uni­ver­sity and Mass­a­chu­setts Insti­tute of Tech­nology M.D.-Ph.D. program.

I want to work at a med­ical school run­ning my own lab and doing my own research,” said Orozco, a 2012 grad­uate with degrees in math­e­matics and bio­chem­istry, “but I also want to train the next gen­er­a­tion of scientists.”

He praised his experiential-​​learning oppor­tu­ni­ties at North­eastern for placing him on this ambi­tious career path, specif­i­cally noting the trans­for­ma­tive expe­ri­ence of studying round­worms in asso­ciate pro­fessor of biology Erin Cram’s lab.

When I joined the lab, I real­ized I wanted to do research,” said Orozco, a Gold­water Schol­ar­ship recip­ient. If I didn’t have these career expe­ri­ences, I wouldn’t have been accepted into this pro­gram,” he added.

Clearly the market leader

Brittany Waitte

Busi­ness major Brit­tany Waitte’s trans­for­ma­tive expe­ri­ences at North­eastern have sparked a pas­sion for mar­keting and sup­plied lessons in leadership.

On co-​​op at Bisnode Holding, Europe’s leading provider of dig­ital busi­ness infor­ma­tion, in Ger­many, Waitte devel­oped a lead­er­ship pro­gram for top talent within the com­pany and launched a mar­keting cam­paign for the 170th birthday of Dun & Brad­street Deutsch­land, one of Bisnode’s subsidiaries.

On campus, Waitte served as pres­i­dent of the North­eastern Uni­ver­sity Mar­keting Asso­ci­a­tion, where she men­tored fellow stu­dents and brought in industry rep­re­sen­ta­tives to share their real-​​world expe­ri­ence with club members.

After grad­u­a­tion, Waitte will join Tri­pAd­visor, a leading global travel site, for a two-​​year mar­keting rota­tion pro­gram in the U.S. and abroad that offers work expe­ri­ence in areas like product man­age­ment, web ana­lytics, social media, and busi­ness development.

Mar­keting allows me to explore both my cre­ative and my ana­lyt­ical side. I enjoy coming up with big ideas and fig­uring out how they’re going to be imple­mented and mea­sured,” Waitte said.

Lost—and found—in trans­la­tion

Daniel King

Say someone wants to build a com­puter pro­gram that pro­tects con­sumers’ credit card infor­ma­tion. Instead of writing end­less lines of code, wouldn’t it be great if the pro­grammer could just explain it in Eng­lish to the computer?

Dan King thinks so, though he admits this may be a pipe dream for now. But he’s focused on get­ting the ball rolling. At North­eastern, King, a senior com­bined major in physics and com­puter sci­ence, has worked closely with asso­ciate pro­fessor Olin Shivers to better under­stand and opti­mize com­puter pro­grams. The key, he said, is to sim­plify the pro­gram­ming lan­guage but make sure the pre­cious details don’t get lost in trans­la­tion. In the fall, King will pursue sim­ilar research at Har­vard Uni­ver­sity, where he will begin a Ph.D. pro­gram in com­puter science.

My approach is at the fun­da­mental level—understanding how com­puter pro­grams func­tion and making them more effi­cient and effec­tive,” King said. “Then, hope­fully others can build on this work to actual create solu­tions” in areas like health­care and national security.

Fos­tering skills—and futures

Marquis Cabrera

After grad­u­ating in 2011 with a degree in crim­inal jus­tice, Mar­quis Cabrera turned down high-​​profile jobs and deferred top-​​tier grad­uate degree pro­grams in favor of con­tin­uing to develop Foster Skills, a non­profit orga­ni­za­tion he founded as an under­grad. The non­profit helps sup­port foster chil­dren in and around Boston. It’s a per­sonal cause for Cabrera, who grew up in foster care before being adopted as a teen.

Now, after two years at the helm, Cabrera is step­ping down from active lead­er­ship as the organization’s CEO, opting to serve as chairman of Foster Skills’ board. He’s been accepted to grad­uate pro­fes­sional pro­grams at Har­vard Uni­ver­sity and Stan­ford Uni­ver­sity, though he’s still deciding his next step.

Cabrera credits his North­eastern co-​​ops and other aca­d­emic expe­ri­ences at the White House, City Year, and the startup Way­fair for “devel­oping the skills and con­nec­tions that helped me build Foster Skills.”

From babies, a public health mission

Melanie Norton

Melanie Norton’s pro­fes­sional goal of becoming a social epi­demi­ol­o­gist traces back to her co-​​op expe­ri­ence in the Neonatal Research Lab at Brigham and Women’s Hos­pital in Boston, where she col­lected and ana­lyzed data on newborns.

Co-​​op made me realize that I am less inter­ested in the clin­ical aspects of health­care and more inter­ested in pre­ven­tion and public health,” said Norton, a grad­u­ating senior in the health sci­ence program.

Norton, a native of Plainville, Conn., will return to her home state in the fall to pursue her pas­sion, enrolling as a grad­uate stu­dent in the social and behav­ioral sci­ences divi­sion of the Yale School of Public Health.

She is eager to begin the next stage of her aca­d­emic journey, having already read up on her pro­fes­sors and their ground­breaking research. “I want to learn more about
the con­nec­tion between research and policy-​​making and con­tinue being exposed to dif­ferent areas of the health­care field,” Norton explained.

No resting on laurels

okuzawa300

Shuntaro Okuzawa is proud of his accom­plish­ments, which include being an Honors stu­dent, grad­u­ating with both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in indus­trial engi­neering, and being selected for the “Hunt­ington 100”—which rec­og­nizes out­standing seniors. But he’s far from sat­is­fied. Instead, he’s focused on the next mile­stone, and per­haps more impor­tantly, the next area where he can improve.

Small wonder Okuzawa is putting that men­tality to use in the work­place. While on co-​​op at IBM in the Philip­pines last year, he devel­oped an orga­ni­za­tional system that tracked the struc­ture and respon­si­bil­i­ties of the office’s rapidly growing work­force and helped iden­tify areas where improve­ments could be made.
“It’s inter­esting to me to explore how a com­pany oper­ates, top to bottom,” Okuzawa said. “This co-​​op gave me a birds-​​eye view of these oper­a­tions. It’s a mindset and a skill set I antic­i­pate using in my career.”

Okuzawa won’t have to wait long after grad­u­a­tion to climb back up on that perch. In June, he begins his job in Seattle on Amazon.com’s supply-​​chain finance team, where his work will involve ana­lyzing how the com­pany can con­tinue making oper­a­tional improve­ments that yield finan­cial and effi­ciency benefits.