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Student view: Traveling the Golden State

July 7, 2022 - Noah Scudder

person seated in front of Golden Gate Bridge

Noah Scudder (he/him) is a junior majoring in International Relations (IR) through James Madison College and public policy through the Department of Political Science in the College of Social Science. Scudder is a chapter co-chair for Roosevelt Network @ MSU, secretary of the Spartan Undergraduate Moot Court Team and a volunteer with MSU Center for Survivors.

The California cities of San Francisco and Los Angeles are two of the last places I would expect to find professionals with a degree in public affairs. With Silicon Valley tech dominating the Bay Area’s professional scene and Los Angeles seemingly saturated with TikTokkers and movie stars, I never thought of California as particularly hospitable to JMC grads. Yet, I found that California is home to countless Madison alumni who work in nearly every field imaginable.

Traveling to California immediately following spring semester had not been part of my original plan; I signed up for Career Exposure in California after my study abroad program in St. Petersburg, Russia was called off (for good reason). I decided to pursue the California experience because the idea of discovering new career paths sounded extremely appealing. I have envisioned myself attending law school after James Madison, but I am not entirely certain that law school is right for me. I needed to investigate what other paths are open to James Madison graduates, and after a brutal Michigan winter, who wouldn't want to escape to the famous sunshine of California?

My experience in California taught me more than I would have ever anticipated about careers after Madison. The alumni we met represented a diverse sample of post-graduate paths, such as a recruiter at Meta, a student at Pepperdine University’s Caruso Law School, the elected Los Angeles County Assessor and even a recent graduate who is developing autonomous rideshare aircraft (yeah, Über airplanes which fly themselves).

We were able to network one-on-one with the alumni and make genuine connections. Each professional was more than eager to discuss their time at Madison, chosen career paths, post-graduate advice and experience living in San Francisco or Los Angeles.

My favorite conversation was with Diana Hrabowecki, who is the Vice President of Library Rights Management at MGM Studios. As we walked along the upscale streets of Beverly Hills, I asked her what advice she had for someone who is unsure of the career they want to pursue. She said that while the most important thing is to follow your passion, you should also keep an open mind about careers you may not have previously considered. Like most JMC students, the thought of life after college is daunting. Alumni advice on the trip helped put my mind at ease.

While much of our time was spent with alumni discussing the possibilities that lie ahead for us and the paths that led them to where they are today, we found plenty of time to be tourists. We visited the Marin Headlands on the shore of the Golden Gate Bridge, hiked Runyon Canyon in Hollywood, walked around the historic Castro, Chinatown and Fisherman’s Wharf districts of San Francisco and, of course, spent a day at Santa Monica Beach.

All in all, the California Career Exposure program was a fantastic way to experience uncommon possibilities after graduation. With the dedication of Max Olivero, Karissa Chabot-Purchase and many others, the alumni we networked with provided extraordinary advice on how to navigate both the rest of my college experience and life afterward.