Spotlight on Social Sciences Alumni: Andrew Harris

harrisName: Andrew Harris

UR Major:  History

UR Minor: French

Additional Education: Notre Dame Law School (Class of 2015)

Current City, State of Residence: South Bend, Indiana

How did you choose your major?

I chose my major based on my passions and my career goals. As early as freshman year, I knew I wanted to go to law school. To that end, I sought to develop my writing skills. I selected my major in order to apply my interests with a practical end in mind.

What activities were you involved in as a student and what did you gain from them?

My primary involvement at UR was in the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity. While Greek life isn’t for everyone, my experiences with it helped me develop my professional persona and develop crucial networking skills.

What are some specific skills students should develop during an internship?

The most important skills to develop are time management, the ability to cultivate productive working relationships, and the ability to write with clarity and concision. No matter your intended field, these skills will be highly valued. Technical expertise is essential, but an inability to represent that expertise is a significant hindrance.

What is your opinion regarding graduate school vs. working right after graduation?

Whether your work right after graduation or go to graduate school, it is essential to make sure that you’re doing it for the right reasons. Some see graduate school as a convenient way to avoid the “real world” (for a few years, at least). Such a mindset is not a recipe for success. Excellence—in graduate school or in the workforce—is predicated on a sincere dedication to your work.

Where would you like to be in five years?

In five years, I intend to be at a corporate law firm in Chicago. Success in law is based on performance during key internships, which are acquired by excelling in class. The only way to do that, of course, is applying what I’ve learned over the course semester as well as the skills I fostered during my time as an undergraduate. Thanks to those skills, I’ve every confidence that I will be able to fulfill my dream of practicing mergers and acquisitions in a major firm.

Spotlight on Natural Sciences Alumni: Claire Agrawal

agrawalName:  Claire Agrawal

UR Major:  Biology

Other UR Majors/Minors: French, Psychology as a Social Science

Additional Education: Currently in University of Pittsburgh’s DPT program

Current City, State of Residence: Pittsburgh, PA

Community Activities:  Work one-on-one with a child with Down Syndrome and Autism at a Saturday morning program promoting motor and social development through gym and swimming activities

What activities were you involved in as a student and what did you gain from them? 

I was on the Bhangra dance team and the a cappella group After-Hours. The biggest things I gained from being involved in these activities are friendships and a realization of how important it is to find something outside of schoolwork/a career that you like to do.   Doing extracurricular activities in college showed me what I could do to feel balanced in life and also gave me a skills base in dancing and singing to build upon after college.  Knowing that these are the activities I like to do, I sought out more opportunities in dancing and music after moving to a new city for grad school. Doing so has helped me adjust to the new city faster, balance the stress of grad school, and meet people who enjoy doing the same things I do.

What are some specific skills students should develop during an internship?

An internship is an excellent opportunity to develop your professional skills.  Punctuality, presentation of yourself, positivity, flexibility, and initiative are all aspects of professional behavior that have been emphasized in grad school as vital components of surviving in the work-force.   In my case, it is in regards to patient care as a physical therapist. But I believe these skills are valuable in any setting, and truly open doors for you beyond good grades alone.  An internship is an ideal setting in which to practice these skills because your position changes from student to colleague and you work within a team to achieve a goal instead of a grade.

What did you wish you had known before graduating? What would you have done differently?

I wish I had taken better advantage of intern/volunteer opportunities during college (especially during summers) to investigate different careers.  I have a friend from U of R who applied to a wide variety of internships (some unpaid) in areas she was interested in, including some that did not obviously relate to her major.   While reflecting back on college with her, I was fascinated by how each of her seemingly unrelated experiences contributed to the job she now has (she works for a think tank). I admire how she followed her interests instead of just a predictable track for her major.

What early career advice can you give to current UR students studying biology?

My advice would be to consider the day-to-day job routine you can see yourself in.   Do you want to work independently or with a team or with patients/clients for the majority of the day? Do you want a fast-paced atmosphere or a quieter one where you have more time to think about decisions? If you’re interested in research, I would recommend trying to get involved in both lab and clinical research to see if you prefer one more than the other before ruling research out.  If you are interested in health-related careers, don’t forget about nursing, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, dentistry, pharmacy, and other allied health fields in addition to medicine

What do you do now and why did you choose this career? Where would you like to be in five years?

 I am currently in grad school to become a physical therapist.  I chose this path because I want a career that has me on my feet instead of behind a desk, that involves direct social interaction with people, and that relates the biological sciences to improving human health.  I also chose it because of the opportunity to do clinical work, teaching, and research all in the same job down the road. In five years, I hope to be practicing as a physical therapist with a specialty in Women’s Health Rehab or Neurology.  My goal is to practice physical therapy abroad as well, in order to gain a better perspective of the role of a PT in different health care systems.

Modern Languages & Cultures Department Honors Book Award Recipients

Dept. of Modern Languages and Cultures – On May 3, 2012, the Department of Modern Languages and Cultures hosted the 2012 Book Awards where they lauded students studying a variety of languages. The students that were presented with the book awards are as follows:

French: Kriti Thapa ’14, Emma Alperin ’15, Rebecca Herlich ’14, Christopher Nishimura ’15

Japanese: Jonathan Budnik ’14, Cameron La Point ’13, Valerie Mueller ’14

German: Kathryn Conheady ’15, Leslie Gordon ’13, Veronica Price ’13

Comparative Literature: Hannah Chute ’14, Laura Dolan ’13, Olivia Earle ’13

Russian Studies: Kathleen Dickson ’14, Eric Hand ’14

Italian: Philip Sutera ’14, Ke Xiang ’14, Simone Zehren ’14

Chinese: Carolyn Magri ’13, Quinlan Mitchell ’13, Cihangir Okuyan ’12, Emily Slack ’12

Russian: Zhao Li ’14 May Zhee Lim ’14, Yiyang Zhu ’14

Spanish: Samuel Beckwith ’14, Amelia Engel ’14, Marjorie Grace Van der Ven ’14, Victoria Zhou ’14

Article and photo courtesy of Yick Chong Lam ’13. In the Photo: Kriti Thapa ’14 is given a 2012 Book Award

Spotlight on Humanities Alumni:Elizabeth Canfield

Elizabeth Canfield
Age:  30
Occupation:  AP French and Spanish teacher at a college prep public high school within the Boston Public School district
Education (UR and additional): B.A. French, Highest Distinction & Honors, University of Rochester, 2004; M.A. in Education, Teaching of French, Stanford University, 2005; M.A. in Education, K-12 Public School Leadership, University of California at Berkeley,  2009; Doctor of Education, Education Policy and Reform, Boston University, Estimated May 2013.
Current city/state of residence: Boston, MA
Community activities:  Running clubs & Boston Marathon; Community service with adolescent youth

What activities were you involved in as a student and what did you gain from them?

I ran cross-country as well as indoor and outdoor track, while studying at UR. As a student-athlete, I developed a series of short and long-range performance goals as a runner, a teammate, and student. I learned how to set reasonable timelines to achieve my expectations, how to transform setbacks into opportunities, and how to stay focused on the leverage points I could influence – and let go of the rest. In my life today, as a marathoner, working professional, and doctoral student, I attribute my ability to maintain my life-balance to the lessons I learned at UR, both on an off the track.

What resources did you use on campus that you recommend current students use?

I developed a positive relationship with the study abroad office my junior year. I would encourage students to go to the study abroad office and start reading through all their binders and files about places to go. Get your passport up to date and fly off to another country for a term where you don’t know anyone and have to make new friends and find your true inner voice. If you can live with a family and get “adopted”, it will likely change your life in a beautiful and powerful way.

What did you do immediately after graduation? How did you decide to take that path?

Upon graduating from UR in 2004, I chose to continue my studies, and pursued an MA Ed in Teaching of World Languages at Stanford University. I applied to Stanford’s GSE from France, while doing an internship teaching English to French middle school students.  I realized I wanted share my love of the French and Spanish language with American students. I didn’t appreciate at the time (2004) that I would go to complete an MA Ed in Leadership at U.C. Berkeley (2009) and then an EdD in Education Leadership, Policy, and Development (anticipated 2013). The language skills and international relationships I acquired at UR have opened countless doors to both social and professional networks. U of R prepared me well for the challenges and discipline required for success in graduate school.  Study at Stanford was a tremendous experience and I’m thankful to have had the privilege to study with wonderful classmates under the University’s esteemed professors.

What do you do now and why did you choose this career?

My grandfather was a politician and college professor and my mom is an elementary school teacher. I grew up having debates with my PopPop during Sunday night dinners about social responsibility and the importance of community building. I knew I wanted a career in public service from an early age. Along the way, I considered using my language skills for international journalism, but I found my real passion was in the urban public school community. Today, I teach AP French and Spanish to Boston public high school students. I also use my language skills to connect non-English speaking families to the schools and advocate for student access to content and curriculum, to ensure our students have a meaningful educational experience that prepares them for collegiate success.

What skills, tools, or knowledge from your major have been most useful to you since graduation?

I remember in the spring my senior year, I submitted the rough draft of my senior honors thesis to my professor to get some feedback.  I had been struggling with the essence of my argument; it had become circuitous and I needed someone to challenge my thinking and interrupt the cycle. He sat me down in his office after reading it and made a statement that still rings in my ears today: “Sloppy writing is slopping thinking.” It came as a blow because it was such a crisp comment – yet he was so right. My understanding of the issues I was trying to articulate was, at that phase in the process, quite superficial. I didn’t know nearly enough. As my professor and mentor, he pushed me to dig deeper into the arguments and reflect deeply upon the stakeholders and international context I was trying to capture. I learned so much more about my topic and ultimately produced a written work I was really proud of. His direct comments also came as some tough love that have made me a more resilient and courageous academic and professional.

How are you still connected with the University?

I attend alumni events in Boston, go home for Meliora Weekend in October, and follow the latest yellowjacket sports news. In the last several years, weddings have become mini-alumni gatherings. Regardless of my zip code, I know I’m a Pittsford Sutherland, Section V, U of R girl. As we used to say on the field, “Buzz sting ‘em!”

What advice do you have for current students?

Look around. Really look around. You are surrounded by greatness at UR. Challenge your thinking and challenge others, too. Get coffee with your professors.  Meet all the people in the study abroad office, pick a place, and travel for a summer or a term. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day requirements and expectations. Coach used to say, “Be comfortably uncomfortable”. To me that meant, push your boundaries – whether on race day or in life, it seems like a good mantra. – Especially if you believe in Meliora.

Open Letter Press Opens Doors for Sophomore Taylor McCabe

Open Letter Press – Think that just because you’re an underclassman the world of challenging, productive internships is out of reach? Think again. This summer, sophomore Taylor McCabe worked in the offices of the University’s Open Letter Press and led the effort to compile a new e-book to be published this week.

McCabe made plans to stay in Rochester for the summer after her freshman year and applied for the Open Letter internship when she saw that the work involved would compliment her knowledge and skill level. A French major, McCabe has been interested in the world of literary translation and publication.

Open Letter maintains a blog called Three Percent, regularly updated by Director Chad Post and other staff members. From the start of the internship in mid-May, McCabe was assigned the task of sifting through nearly 3,700 blog posts and choosing the ones that adequately and interestingly related to current issues in the publishing industry and the world of translation. The book is essentially a 394-page anthology of 69 articles, some created from single original posts and others being longer essays synthesized from several posts.

“It’s a rare opportunity for an undergrad to help put together a book for publication,” said Post, “Taylor really rose to the challenge though, and deserves a lot of praise for making this book what it is.”

McCabe says that the book will be a worthwhile read for anyone interested in the publishing industry and the complexities involved in publishing foreign literature in English.  While it is a comprehensive resource it is also full of jokes and anecdotes from within the industry.  “I would say it’s a good book to read if you’re going to have an interview at a publisher in a couple of weeks,” said McCabe.

“Now I have such a wealth of knowledge about publishing and international literature,”  she continued, explaining that her task this summer was both daunting and rewarding. McCabe is now intimately acquainted with all of the current issues in the translation and publication of foreign literature in America.  As a result she is considering a future career path into the world of publishing.

McCabe also found the Open Letter work environment stimulating but not intimidating or overly competitive. She and the other four interns had ample time to do research independently to familiarize themselves with the field. In addition to the Three Percent e-book, McCabe also read and reviewed two published books, read and wrote readers’ reports on two unpublished manuscripts, and copy edited one manuscript throughout the summer.

Having had this experience at such an early time in her undergraduate career, McCabe has decided to apply for the Translation Certificate and now views translators as super heroes.  “I’m definitely more impressed by translators that I was before,” she said, “After this internship I wound up reading more and more [international literature]. It gives you a good idea of the viewpoint and aesthetics of other cultures.”

Article written by Maya Dukmasova, a Take 5 Scholar at the University of Rochester and an intern at University Communications.  She majored in philosophy and religion and focused her Take 5 year on researching the way American media covers current events in the Muslim world.  An aspiring journalist, Dukmasova has freelanced for Rochester Magazine, the Phoenix New Times, and the Daily News Egypt in Cairo.  She also maintains two blogs, one devoted to culture and society in Russia ( and the other to photography (