Susan Kasten
March 31, 2023

How they landed their first five jobs (and what they learned along the way)

Students got advice from an alumni panel about navigating careers, facing personal and professional adversity, and applying their Beloit experiences toward a fulfilling life.

Nadir Carlson’16 arrived at Beloit College in 2012, certain that he wanted a future in political science and resisting the thought of graduation requirements in so many other subjects.

Nadir Carlson'16 and Cameron Dieter'16 Nadir Carlson’16 (right) with classmate Cameron Dieter’16 during their time at Beloit.
Credit: Greg Anderson Photography
Then one of his mentors, the extraordinarily insightful sociology professor Carla Davis, recognized his knack for making connections between individual experiences and societal issues — and his passion for addressing those issues. She steered him toward sociology, the field he works in today.

Carlson emerged into a student leader, serving as president of student government among many other things. Something he did not do was pursue a single major in political science. He double-majored in sociology and political science and graduated seeking a profession in service to others.

Likewise, Brienne Adams’08, who currently serves on Beloit’s alumni board, arrived on campus as a first-year student with plans. She declared a creative writing major and journalism minor with the desire to eventually pursue a journalism career. Many of her Beloit experiences though, most notably her involvement with the McNair Scholars program, opened her eyes to something else.

Brienne Adams'08 Brienne Adams’08She began to recognize the importance of faculty diversity in higher education. As a Black woman, she realized she could acquire the skills and education to help reverse what has been a historic underrepresentation of people of color in the field. After her experiences with McNair, she changed her Beloit major to literary studies and added a minor in American studies. She went on to earn her master’s degree from UCLA in African American studies and her Ph.D. in American studies from the University of Maryland. She’s now on the Georgetown University faculty as an assistant professor of African American studies.

In January, Carlson, Adams, and fellow alumni Tom Owenby’01, Farooq Pasha’03, and Stacie Rosenzweig’97 shared insights with current students just beginning to chart their own paths.

Although each had a unique journey, their stories featured a few common themes. One was that their Beloit undergraduate experiences helped change the way they think about the world. In fact, each of the five alumni panelists shaped futures for themselves that were markedly different from what they initially intended. What’s more, they said they felt well-equipped to continue reinventing themselves as they’ve moved through their careers. The panelists agreed that their Beloit experiences boosted their confidence in pursuing new challenges — even if it sometimes meant risking failure.

The discussion, called “First Five Jobs,” was among nearly 50 events offered through the Career Accelerator, a winter break series that helps students prepare for their post-Beloit lives.

The program’s success in its third year is due in large part to a high level of alumni, faculty, and staff involvement. Alumni in particular stepped up, with nearly 80 either attending Zoomed networking events with students or offering encouragement, insight, and advice during topical workshops. The college’s Career Works office, directed by alumna Jessica Fox-Wilson’98, organizes the annual event.

Paths to a satisfying job

Stacie Rosenzweig'97 Stacie Rosenzweig’97Panelist Stacie Rosenzweig’97 is an attorney and shareholder in the Milwaukee-based law firm Halling & Cayo. She’s built a successful practice focusing on legal ethics, professional responsibility, and election law. But the legal profession was not on her radar when she arrived at Beloit ready to double down on a creative writing major and a career as a writer.

“I am a walking, talking, breathing example of success not being linear,” she told students.

She recounted her trajectory after graduation: teaching English for a year in Wisconsin, then joining the editorial staff of a trade magazine. The magazine gig seemed perfect for someone who had been “writing since she could hold a pen,” but after nearly eight years, she grew restless in the position.

During a divorce and the subsequent sale of her home, she realized she could hold her own during challenging legal transactions. She took the LSAT for entry into law school, and ascended to practicing law, the chapter in her career that has been the most satisfying so far.

Farooq Pasha'03 Farooq Pasha’03For his part, panelist Farooq Pasha’03, a member of Beloit’s alumni board, came to the college as an international student from Pakistan, planning to major in computer science. He took an economics course with professor Bob Elder, whose teaching was so amazing, Pasha said, it hooked him on the subject. He ended up double-majoring in mathematics and economics.

Since his first job out of college as a marketing analyst for ABC Supply Company in Beloit, which he told students he acquired through networking, Pasha has pivoted several times. He earned his Ph.D. in economics from Boston College, landed a coveted position as a lead economist with the State Bank of Pakistan (Pakistan’s central bank), then sought a new challenge through his current role as regional economist at the Standard Chartered Bank in Karachi. He explained that he learned how to make productive changes and evolve professionally while at Beloit, where it was common for students to pursue multiple interests in a supportive environment.

“I think everyone has a different experience, but making tough decisions and not always succeeding and learning from the failure is something I learned at Beloit,” he said. “You need to have the ability to adapt and to change quickly. And you need a realization of the skills that you have.”

Tom Owenby'01 Tom Owenby’01Because neither of his parents had the chance to attend college, Tom Owenby’01 said his family placed a high value on education. Aside from the certainty that he would go to college, he was initially unsure of what subject to study.

Led by his Beloit academic work and other activities, such as serving as an RA, joining student groups including Black Students United, and participating in intramural athletics and dance, Owenby said he began to discover what attracted him. “It became clear that I wanted to engage with people in a meaningful way. I majored in history and saw education as a way to actualize that.”

After teaching in Wisconsin, Southern California, and South Africa, Owenby moved to South Korea and taught there, but he had an itch to do something different. He pursued a master’s degree in political science in South Korea, then returned to the States and joined the Beloit College staff in the Help Yourself Program before pursuing his Ph.D.

Owenby talked to current students about recognizing inflection points, such as graduate school essays, which are good opportunities for self-reflection.

“It’s a moment when the structure allows for creativity,” he said of the grad school application process. For him, at all those inflection points, he kept returning to his interest in teaching, learning, and education. Today, he is Associate Dean for Teacher Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Advice for the journey ahead

Adams, who led the panel discussion, steered alumni conversations to a number of helpful topics, including what paths led to their favorite jobs.

For Carlson, it was partly facing up to the realization that he didn’t want to live in Seattle, Wash., anymore, where he had relocated for his first job with the Americorps City Year program. He longed for the weather, the people, and the culture of the Midwest, a place where he could say hello to strangers without attracting suspicious stares.

Then, through a connection to Beloit’s longtime Residential Life Director John Winkelmann, he found a job as a hall director at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wis. During the pandemic, that position eventually led him back to graduate school in sociology and then to the National Association of Social Workers, where he coordinates membership and communication efforts for the organization’s Wisconsin Chapter.

“Every job I’ve gotten was through relationships,” he said. “Even the relationships that you don’t think will end up mattering, do matter.”

Adams asked alumni to talk about the adversity they’d faced since graduating. Everyone had a story.

For her part, Adams graduated in 2008, the beginning of the Great Recession. When she finished her Ph.D. program, it was 2022, another year in which a recession loomed.

“When you have things like the economy or global concerns that are out of your control, you have to continue to pivot,” she said. One way she’s coped is by staying flexible and keeping in contact with people who care about her and can provide feedback, such as English Professor Emerita Diane Lichtenstein, former history professor Linda Sturtz, and, until recently, the late Professor Emerita of Religious Studies Debra Majeed. “Their knowledge and support over the years have encouraged me in figuring out where I am, and having that sounding board has really helped,” she said.

Pasha called 2012 “the worst year of his life.” His daughter was born prematurely and doctors said she had a small chance of surviving. That same year, he was trying to complete his Ph.D. and to land what he considered to be his dream job at Pakistan’s central bank. He had returned to his home country after living in the United States for an extended period, and he relied on the support of family and friends to navigate what was probably the most challenging period of his life.

He emphasized to international students that they, too, will have to choose where they make their lives and careers. “Do you want to stay in the United States? Can you make a life there, or do you go back home?” he asked. “You have to be able to deal with adversity. You need to have some self-belief and resilience and a support system,” he said.

Rosenzweig recalled joining her current law firm and learning the ropes from a beloved senior colleague and mentor who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The colleague became gravely ill, had to leave the firm, and later died. In the meantime, Rosenzweig had to process her grief while also stepping in for her former mentor, all at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. How did she get through it?

“I’d like to say I marched through adversity and came out the other side,” she said. “But I ended up losing 20 pounds and becoming nocturnal.” She eventually moved through her grief, after time passed and ongoing external demands kept coming, but the understanding and support of her colleagues made things easier.

She reminded students that sometimes bad things will happen in their lives, but one of the ways to soften the blow is to choose carefully where and with whom you work.

“Find good places to work with good people,” she advised. “It won’t stop bad stuff from happening. But it makes those things manageable.”

As the panel discussion ran out of time, and students’ questions were still coming in, Adams asked which participating alumni would be willing to help students in the future. All five immediately pointed their thumbs up.


Susan Kasten is the former editor of Beloit College Magazine.


About the panelists

Brienne Adams'08

Brienne Adams’08

Assistant Professor of African American Studies, Georgetown University

  • First job out of Beloit: Substitute teacher and staffer for grant-funded Beloit LIHF (Lifecourse Initiative for Healthy Families) Collaborative for African American Families, a project to improve Black maternal health outcomes and reduce Black infant mortality
  • Parting advice to students: “Stay in contact with Beloit folks. It makes a major difference.”
Nadir Carlson'16

Nadir Carlson’16

Membership and Communications Coordinator, National Association of Social Workers, Wisconsin Chapter

  • First job out of Beloit: Americorps City Year in Seattle, Wash. 
  • Parting advice to students: “Something that’s really important is to listen to your gut and really pay attention to what it is telling you.”
Tom Owenby'01

Tom Owenby’01

Associate Dean for Teacher Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison

  • First job out of Beloit: Substitute teacher and middle school soccer coach, School District of Beloit
  • Parting advice to students: “As you cultivate your community at Beloit, also think about it at work. If you’re moving to a new spot, try to find those other networks of support that help you feel plugged in and seen and feel alive. The job is part of it – it’s necessary, but not sufficient.”
Farooq Pasha'03

Farooq Pasha’03

Middle East, North Africa, Pakistan economist for Standard Chartered Bank, Pakistan

  • First job out of Beloit: Marketing Analyst, ABC Supply
  • Parting advice to students: “I think everyone has a different experience, but making tough decisions and not always succeeding and learning from the failure is something I learned at Beloit.”
Stacie Rosenzweig'97

Stacie Rosenzweig’97

Shareholder and attorney for Halling & Cayo, Milwaukee

  • First job out of Beloit: English teacher, Racine (Wis.) Unified School District
  • Parting advice to students: “Find good places to work with good people. It won’t stop bad stuff from happening. But it makes those things manageable.”

Also In This Issue

  • Dr. Atiera Coleman’10

    Announcing the 2023 commencement speaker

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