Education in the City – Will Kaplan ‘13

Education in the City – Will Kaplan ‘13

Interviewed by Sophia Gourley ‘19

SG: What have you done since leaving Trinity? That can be something work-related, career-related, family-related, really whatever you want to share.

WK: I finished Trinity and, like a lot of people, at least in my year, I didn’t have a great game plan. I didn’t know exactly what to do, so I did an AmeriCorps program and loved working in schools and loved learning about education policy, so I decided to do Teach for America right here in Chicago, my home. I did Teach for America for two years and loved teaching and working in schools and I wasn’t ready to stop, so this is my fifth year teaching. Next year I’m going to grad school to study to become a principal.

SG: That’s awesome, good for you!

WK: I’m really excited about it. In Chicago we also have local school councils, which is sort of like an elected board that run individual public schools. I ran for two school councils that are in my neighborhood and now I work on the school board there.

SG: That’s great! It sounds like you’ve done a lot since graduating Trinity. Do you know where you’re going to grad school yet?

WK: I’m going to The Harvard Graduate School of Education.

SG: That’s amazing! So you’re coming back to New England?

WK: I am! I’m excited, I miss it a little bit. Chicago is home, it’s where I grew up, so I’ve always wanted to live here and I want to come back after school, but I’m excited to go for a year and study instead of work and just enjoy the Northeast.

SG: That’s great. What did you learn at Trinity that has helped you in your career so far?

WK: I didn’t have any hardcore job specific skills really. It wasn’t like I came out and was like, “Yeah now I know how to be a great teacher.” I didn’t. But it did prepare me to navigate everything after college. I can sit down in a meeting and be able to discuss and give my perspective and take something out of a text or do a lot of the things that are really important to all jobs, like communicating, making observations, thinking critically. Trinity really gave me a lot of those things. I felt unprepared for the working world but knew a lot about urban studies and sociology and politics, yet that wasn’t really tangible. But as I got older, compared to other people, I feel like I can navigate a lot of different environments and go to grad school, which is something I’ve always wanted to do and Trinity prepared me really well for that application and process.

SG: That makes a lot of sense. What is your proudest accomplishment since graduating from Trinity? It seems like getting into Harvard and being elected to the school board would definitely be two great accomplishments.

WK: Definitely being elected to two local school councils. I got pretty pumped up about that. They were really small elections like under 100 votes, but it was exciting to stand out there and talk to people and hand out flyers and tell parents why I think I would help the school out. I’m at one school that’s arguably the top school in the city of Chicago and just a couple miles away I’m at a school that’s way under enrolled and struggling and test scores are way down. So I think it’s been fascinating to see the “Tale of Two Cities” just a couple miles apart.

SG: So right now you teach at a public school in Chicago?

WK: Right now I teach at a charter school. There’s a lot of misconceptions around charter schools. We are a public school, any kid can come here, but we’re run by an organization that’s not the city so we set our own rules and have a lot more freedom to do whatever we want. It’s called the Noble Network of Charter Schools. It’s the most successful charter network in Chicago and of the open enrollment schools, where anyone can go, we’re in the top 10 for the city.

SG: What you would like other alumni or Trinity to know about you, any important milestones?

WK: I think being elected to the school board and getting into Harvard would be two accomplishments I am proud of.

Life, Death and Nuclear War – Brian Durkin ’87

Life, Death and Nuclear War – Brian Durkin ’87

Interviewed by Sophia Gourley ’19 

SG: My first question is pretty broad—what have you done since leaving Trinity?

BD: I went to Marine Corps Officer Candidate School during the summer of my sophomore and junior year so when I graduated, I was offered a commission and did four years in the Marine Corps. I lived in Okinawa, Japan, for a year. I was involved in Operation Desert Storm. After the Marine Corps, I started in medical equipment sales. I never expected to go into sales, but I found it rewarding. I’m now the vice president of a company that sells blood analyzers in laboratories in operating rooms in the US and Canada, responsible for sales and marketing and service, and customer training.

SG: That sounds great. It seems like you like the company if you’ve been with them for so long. Was there anything that you learned at Trinity, either with your political science degree or not, that you think was helpful in shaping your career?

BD: It may sound cliché, but I had a broad range of classes. My first-year seminar was called “Life, Death and Nuclear War” and was a really interesting seminar. I took a creative writing class, which is important too, to be able to write. A broad, well-rounded experience. As it turned out, my advisor’s son had gone through OCS, officer candidate school. I talked to him about that opportunity. My senior seminar was on the Marine Corps and they were recruiting. It was very interesting.

SG: That’s awesome. What would you say your proudest accomplishment is since leaving Trinity?

BD: My proudest is my children, from a personal side; professionally, serving in Desert Storm, from the military side; and from the business side, leading the North America organization.

SG: That sounds great. Do you have any hobbies or passions that you want Trinity to be aware of?

BD: Another thing I loved about Trinity was it being a smaller school, so I was able to play on the JV basketball team. I wouldn’t say I was very good, but it gave me a chance. It’s something that I still do today. I was also a percussionist drummer and I still play in a band in my 50’s. I guess what I really loved about Trinity is that I took everything from economics to constitutional law, but every semester I was in the jazz band. It allowed me to be involved with a different thing.

SG: It sounds like you had a really well-rounded experience while you’re here.

BD: Yes, and a lot of great pride still attached to it.

Entrepreneurship in Business – Brett Albren ’94

Entrepreneurship in Business – Brett Albren ’94

Interviewed by Kevin Torres ’21

KT: What have you done since leaving Trinity?

BA: Right after Trinity, I went to law school in Boston and from there I started a law firm from scratch with a couple of my colleagues, growing it to 200 people, within 8 years. We focused on disability representation on a national basis and converted the firm to a company to build value and offer additional services. We were fortunate to sell the company in 2010 to a large insurance intermediary. Since then, I focused on investing in start-ups and mentoring small business owners, while also launching a technology solutions business in the insurance space. I certainly took an interesting path from Trinity to law school and then to various entrepreneurial endeavors.

KT: Is there anything you learned at Trinity that you used to help with your career?

BA: Absolutely. Trinity, being a small liberal arts school with vast opportunities, enabled me to take classes that helped me look at both sides of issues, as well as learn how to communicate whether it was verbally or in writing. The classes are generally small, so Trinity allows students to effectively express themselves as well as regularly interact with professors inside and outside of the classroom setting. Trinity’s academic structure builds one’s confidence quickly and enables for personal and intellectual growth which benefits students as they enter the job market or graduate school.

KT: What is your proudest accomplishment since leaving Trinity?

BA: Since leaving Trinity, other than the obvious of starting a family and watching my kids grow up, I would say starting the firm/company from scratch and achieving a successful exit. I persevered with the help of others and built a team of employees who helped to create a strong culture and provided viable solutions for our customers.

KT: What is something you want other alums to know about you?

BA: I would want them to know that I didn’t chart a specific career path. My focus was to prepare myself for any field by learning various skills, building strong relationships along the way, and engaging in many work/internship/volunteer experiences. It’s important to continue to network during all stages of your career. My years at Trinity gave me the confidence to interact with people, ask questions and learn from their experiences.

KT: What are some hobbies/passion projects, successes, or milestones, that you would like Trinity to be aware of?

BA: From a business perspective, my company has been fortunate to be named to the Inc. 5000, fastest growing private company list, three times (twice for my prior company and once for my current company once). Outside of work, I thoroughly enjoyed coaching youth basketball and soccer for over 10 years. It’s extremely important to have a solid work-life balance, so I strongly encourage to take a break from work, even if it’s a few hours here and there to recharge.

Experiential Learning in the Trinity Experience – Connor Nolan ‘11

Experiential Learning in the Trinity Experience – Connor Nolan ‘11

Interviewed by Bella Blumenschein ‘21

BB: What have you been doing since you left Trinity in terms of your career?

CN: I graduated in 2011. I was an econ and poli sci double major. I went into financial services consulting, a job I received from a Trinity alum. Peter Bennet who was running career services at the time, was instrumental in helping me prepare for the interviews, so Trinity was pretty important in that regard. I was a consultant for four years for a variety of projects for a number of financial services companies and then I decided I wanted to pursue business as my career, so I went to the University of Michigan to get an MBA. When I was in Michigan, I entered a rotational program at Amazon, worked first in the textbook rental team, and now I am a product manager for consumable private brands.

BB: What was it like as a consultant?

CN: I think it was an interesting experience, to be brought in to solve problems for large corporations and learning early in my career how things can go wrong and having that experience allowed me to plan ahead, and look around the right corners and mitigate a lot of the right risks. It was a perfect role for me to start my career.

BB: What would you say is your biggest accomplishment since you left Trinity?

CN: It’s a good question. I can’t say I founded a company yet or anything like that but I think that for me the biggest accomplishment would just be where I landed in Amazon and the opportunity I got to work with many smart people.

BB: What do you think was something Trinity helped getting where you are now?

CN: I think all the writing that I did at Trinity. You don’t realize how beneficial it is going to be, especially, I think, professors that made me dissect a counterargument which is a really important skill to have and to approach problems with. Knowing how people with a different perspective are going to react and different ways of thinking.

BB: What is something you would like Trinity or other alums to know?

CN: I guess I would just encourage people to embrace technology, and I think what I came away with from my Trinity experience was what I learned in the experimental environment so I just encourage Trinity to provide internships and real-life experiences, which is really helpful at a younger age.

Journey to Tech Research – Katarina Pesa ‘17

Journey to Tech Research – Katarina Pesa ‘17

Interviewed by Mateo Vazquez ‘21

MV: Thank you for taking the time to speak with me. I guess one of my first questions would be what were you involved in at Trinity?

KP: So I did a few intramural sports. I played tennis and softball. And I did community service my freshman year. Actually, I was a research assistant for a professor. I spent a good amount of time doing that especially towards the end of my time there.

MV: What kind of research was that?

KP: It was with Professor Laws in poli sci.

MV: Oh she was my advisor.

KP: I love her. She’s absolutely the best in bankruptcy research. She was writing a book. I don’t know what’s happened to it since. But I helped her a lot with that.

MV: Wow. Oh that’s awesome. I had my first two seminars with her and she would often give lessons and refer to research you guys were doing the year previous. So I guess my next question is what did you do after Trinity?

KP: I work at Forrester Research which is a technology focused market research company and I work as a research associate over there and in security and risk.

MV: What does it look like on a day to day for you?

MV: So actually it’s somewhat similar to being a research assistant for a professor. I do a lot of vendor outreach. I do a lot of desk research, interviews, some ghostwriting, pretty much anything that would support the team. And so basically I support a number of analysts who are industry experts and do a lot of their background work.

MV: How was that transition right out of college and into the career? Was it hard work navigating that?

KP: So I took a little bit of time off for some family things, a few months. I don’t know. I went a little stir crazy. But from college to job, it’s a little bit different. And you know it’s not like everyone is out for themselves. It is so much more of a collaborative environment even though I’m working on my own a lot. It’s a little bit like if I were to write a paper, I would want other people to use it and take my ideas and make them their own. Whereas in college you take your paper and then hide it forever so nobody could ever plagiarize you. It’s a lot less independent that way. So I’d say it’s a lot more collaboration in the workforce.

MV: How do you like working in the Boston area?

KP: Oh I love Boston. I’m originally from New York so I wanted a little bit of a smaller place in a university. I absolutely love it. There’s a million and one Trinity people here. I actually lived with a Trinity alum as well. Yeah. So I can’t escape them but I like it up here.

MV: How do you find yourself using political science within your research?

KP: So the research associate track at Forrester is basically like—you can turn it into a career. You can still do and go through the ranks of your team. Having been there for a year now they’ve started asking me what I’m more interested in. I’m actually trying to go more towards the geopolitical risk side of things which are more in line with the poli sci stuff that I’ve done in college. I find that my day to day stuff that I work on now isn’t quite in the same subject area. But it’s very similar to the dynamic I had learned.

MV: Was there any class or argument in particular that stood out at Trinity or helped you out in your career?

KP: Well obviously the research assistant thing. I think the major as a whole was still writing intensive and I cannot stress enough how important that is at least in my role. And of course I love Professor Laws so any class with her. I remember my first one with her. The way she taught really inspired me.

MV: Yeah. And then you mentioned the writing intensive. So do you find yourself writing papers every day?

KP:  I do a lot of the ghostwriting so I don’t get the credit for it. And it’s even down to the e-mails you write. You just have to know how to be concise and well written and sound competent. Especially because as a 24 year old I’m reaching out to the CEOs of big banks and everything and you need to sound somewhat intelligent doing that.

MV:  How do you like interacting with all these people in that kind of atmosphere?

KP: It’s kind of intimidating at first but you get used to it. They don’t know who you are. So they just, you know, kind of presume that you are someone important. And, so you know, you get on the phone and ask, “What do you do? What’s your research on?” They are all perfectly nice but still very intimidating just because you know they’re industry leaders.

MV: Is there anything that you’d recommend to students now in terms of wanting to pursue a poli sci career or something similar?

KP: Yes. I would say don’t panic if it feels that poli sci, specifically in subject matter, isn’t what you want to do because there are so many ways to apply the major and the skills that you learn. So many other different fields. I feel like I felt quite pigeonholed right after I graduated because I thought that I could only really do something directly applicable to my major and didn’t really see how widely it could be applied. So I guess that would be my advice.

MV: Did you find a lot of diversity in the career field?

KP: Yes and they tell you, kind of as you go along, that your major doesn’t matter as much as you might have thought when you graduated.  And then you realize the advice is true as you start your job. Because, I mean everyone I work with majored in widely diverse fields such as international relations, math, pretty much anything you could think of. No one is expecting you to be any sort of expert. They just expect for you to come in, know how to write and they’ll train you from there on. You don’t need to come in having a specific set of skills, at least if you’re doing something like I am. You just need to know how to be confident and how to have good writing skills and how to be able to communicate and work in a collaborative office environment.

MV: How do you like the career lifestyle versus the college lifestyle?

KP: Oh my gosh. I never ever took a Friday class in school ever.

MV: Oh that’s me right now.

KP: It is pretty wonderful. So that was kind of an adjustment. However my company really values fair work environments. We were consistently voted one of the best places to work in Boston. So they let us have Friday at home if we want. That was kind of nice. But college. I don’t know. It’s so different. I would do my work a lot in the very early morning and at night I was kind of a night owl. I’d get all my papers done and everything but here you’re very much forced to do like the 9 to 5 thing. Pretty big adjustment even though I have a pretty understanding manager. It’s still a very big culture swing and you don’t have as much free time as you previously had and all of a sudden now you’re waking up at 7 a.m. and there’s no way around it. But I see my college friends all the time. They all live nearby and I specifically chose Boston because they were here.

MV: Is there something you’d like all the alumni to know about you or your career in particular?

KP: Just a little bit more along the vein of you don’t need to major in something you’re going to do. I’m in tech now, the security industry. And never in a million years would I have thought that I would have any knowledge of that or be into this.

MV: Gotcha. It seems like you like the tech side.

KP:  It’s different. I took a one single computer science class in college and it was wonderful. But it did not prepare me for all of this. You know I’m sitting on a call in here talking about security and it’s over my head completely. So very big shift. But definitely interesting and definitely can’t go wrong in the career choice. Technology and the shift to security and everything is totally inevitable. So a good space to be in right now.

MV: Yeah definitely. I mean it seems like you were saying with poli sci you can do almost anything which is amazing.

KP: Definitely not something I had anticipated or seen myself doing. My boyfriend also went to Trinity and he was computer science and engineering and then he went to work for Cisco which makes sense. And he has conversations about this kind of stuff that bore me to death. I never thought that I would make such a pivot and go into tech myself. But here I am.

MV: Is there anything that you’d like us to know about or anything I didn’t cover that you’d like to share?

KP: I don’t think so. Maybe this was not so much geared towards the interview but we are hiring for people in my position. So if you know of anyone, definitely pass along that. I absolutely love my job and it’s not something I thought I would be in. So I feel like spreading the word of what I do. And the degree I got and how I got to it. It’s pretty important.

MV: Definitely. I don’t think everyone realizes where your major can take you or maybe limit you in the beginning.

KP: Yes and I definitely did. I’d come up with things like, “Oh my gosh, what do I do. I don’t want to go into politics.” But it doesn’t mean that you’re stuck in politics. It just means that you have a lot of great communication skills that you could tap into.