February 29, 2024

By Haley Dittbrenner ’25

Susquehanna students networked with over 100 alumni volunteers at the annual Break Through professional conference. Open to all majors and class years, Break Through connects current students to alumni in similar career paths and provides students with guidance on making the most of their time at Susquehanna, pursuing careers after graduation, finding internships, gaining professional skills and everything in between.

This year’s event consisted of nearly 40 panel discussions, both virtual and in person, on careers from advertising to communications and veterinary medicine to writing. Other sessions covered money management, understanding a job offer and managing mental health. Students also had the opportunity to sit for a professional headshot and participate in networking lunches.

Leading the Clinical Careers panel were alumni Sheila DeYoung ’14, a physician in hematology/oncology at Cooper University Hospital; Jared Dickson ’22, a medical student at Temple University; Shelby O’Riley ’15 Kerns, a physician assistant at Danbury Hospital; Gina Palazzi ’13, a podiatry resident physician at Geisinger Community Medical Center; and Fawn Staneruck ’99 Ruiz, a registered nurse and principal clinical supplies specialist at ICON.

The panelists discussed topics such as helping patients with chronic illnesses, taking gap years and understanding the importance of cross-disciplinary activities for future medical students.

Many expressed wanting to be a clinician as a child. They discussed their career journeys and the varied paths that led from one job to another. Ruiz initially wanted to work as a doctor, but instead ending up exploring the fields of intensive care nursing and pharmaceuticals. Palazzi experienced multiple setbacks on the way to earning her certification, including failed board exams and financial difficulties. Despite these challenges, her unwavering determination and advocacy for herself ultimately led to success.

“I advocated for myself and proved that I work hard so that the professors and people reviewing my case would advocate for me too,” Palazzi said.

Robert Masters '20 at the AI and the Future of Work panel. Robert Masters ’20 at the AI and the Future of Work panel.During another panel, tech professionals Joseph Morante ’21, data analyst at Bloomberg, and Robert Masters ’20, solutions analyst at Deloitte, discussed the future of AI in the workplace.

Morante highlighted the various misconceptions surrounding AI, particularly the fear of job displacement.

“Yes, some jobs go with new technology, but new tech creates new jobs,” Morante said.

One new career option, the prompt generator, was offered as an example of a new, post-AI career. A prompt generator is a person who writes and alters prompts to receive a specific response from an AI platform. Since vague prompts may not result in the desired product, prompt generators are trained in feeding the correct descriptions to an AI generator to receive the best results. Morante described this career as one that would be ideal for writers.

Masters delved into the disruptive potential of AI, citing the automation of product reviews and technical descriptions that have traditionally been written by people.

“AI removes the chance for human error in these highly technical, highly tedious roles,” Masters said.

At the Careers in Sports Media panel, led by alumnae Heather Casey ’20, assistant video producer at BetMGM; Alexa Gonzalez ’19, senior account executive at Taylor; and Kirsten Hatten ’19, associate producer at ESPN, students learned about career options for women in sports media. The panelists discussed their current jobs, early careers, experiences post-graduation and tips for making it in the industry. Some of their advice included self-advocacy, taking advantage of opportunities, pursuing extracurricular activities to gain real-world experience and preparing a quality portfolio.

They attributed their success to the many clubs and hands-on experiences Susquehanna can offer.

“There are lots of amazing opportunities at Susquehanna. You could join the newspaper or WQSU for real hands-on work,” Gonzales said. “There are plenty of ways to break through.”