(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
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
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
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’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
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.