Alumni gather around tech, ethics, and the liberal arts

During a Beloiter Days event, alumni, parents, and students talked about the connections between an education at Beloit and working in the tech field.

a woman with brown hair and bangs stands in front of a building Emily Eagle’06 led 4 panelists through a discussion of ethics, technology, and the liberal arts.During a Beloiter Days weekend full of sunshine, merriment, and joyful reconnections, a room full of alumni, current students, and parents of current Beloiters met to consider how a liberal arts education influences careers in tech. Led by Emily Eagle’06, lead UX designer and current Beloit Executive-in-Residence, four Beloiters talked about their career in tech, the ethical issues they have encountered, and how their liberal arts education helped them succeed in their fields.

The lively discussion covered issues large and small – from narrow considerations of software free trials to world-changing implications of AI in the classroom and on the battlefield. The panelists also spoke about their education at Beloit, and how it led them to success in their current fields.

Karin Carlson’12 is a service designer working in the educational technology (“ed tech”) industry, who found her way into the industry after exploring other jobs. After doing a survey about user experience design as a favor to a friend entering the field, she explored the field herself and found it was a great fit. “I had an a-ha moment,” said Karin. “The work was engaging, and mattered, and it paid well. I decided this is what I wanted to do.”

Another alum shared his perspective on success in a field very different from what he studied at Beloit. Brian Gallagher’05, a philosophy and psychology major at Beloit College, now does solution engineering at a start-up in the defense industry, working side-by-side with many retired military personnel. “Be curious. Be intensely curious,” Brian said. “It might be hard to get in the door, but once you’re in, you’ll rise to the top with your liberal arts skills.”

Antariksh Sharma’23 is launching into the workforce, after recently landing a job as a systems analyst at the Wisconsin Economic Development Board. “I studied computer science to do tech, and studied political science to understand everything else,” said Antariksh, who graduated with a computer science major and a political science minor last May. Antariksh spoke about finding a job with opportunities for growth and meaning. “It’s easy to be a code monkey, but it’s also important to have an understanding of how the world works, who is in it, who is disadvantaged, and what can be done.”

Emily Eagle'06 and Antariksh Sharma'24 show the power of netw... Emily Eagle'06 and Antariksh Sharma'24 show the power of networking. After a chance meeting at the Buccaneer Boathouse in 2022, their connections led to this panel in 2023.

 

Jaida Wesley’24, a current Beloit College student and panelist at the event, is doing research on Art and Artificial Intelligence (AI), which she’ll be presenting at the Beloit College Beloit & Beyond Conference this fall. In addition to discussing her research, she took the opportunity to ask the panelists about one particular issue: how they approach conflicts of interests in their work lives. Emily Eagle shared that user experience designers don’t shy from conflict: they get people with different interests to the table, help get them aligned, and establish shared values at the start of projects.

Emily ended the panel by asking each panelist to share one thing in tech that gives them hope. In true Beloit fashion, answers were thoughtful and varied. Panelists spoke about possibilities in medical technology, the hope that comes from strong and ethical leadership in the field, and U.S. Senate hearings on AI. Brian Gallagher shared his hope for ChatGPT to make change for the better. “I’m already a huge ChatGPT fan,” said Brian. “Did you know it can generate any number of bedtime stories on any number of topics specifically requested by a 5-year old in seconds?!”

After the formal panel session ended, attendees were invited to stay for a social hour. Emily prompted everyone to find someone they didn’t know and share an ethical challenge they have faced and the liberal arts perspective they brought to it. Lively conversation ensued, with folks from many walks of life expanding on the themes of the session with their own experiences.

Peter Gorham’68 was in attendance and shared afterwards, “I felt as if I were experiencing the Beloit I experienced fifty years ago. [The Tech, Ethics, & Liberal Arts] seminar was a vital moment for me.”

4 panelists and a moderater sit at chairs in the science center conference room with other people listening. Panelists and audience members filled the Sanger Science Center conference room.

October 03, 2023

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