REDS Return to RPCS to Share Career Advice

REDS Return to RPCS to Share Career Advice
Last Friday, RPCS was thrilled to welcome 10 alumnae ranging from the Classes of 1994 to 2017 back to campus for the school’s annual Professional Connections program. Organized by the Alumnae Office, the RPCS graduates met with small groups of Upper School students, where they discussed how they chose their respective careers, offered sage advice for handling life’s challenges and revealed how being a RED helped prepare them for life after graduation.
Exploring Possibilities
Several alumnae advised the Upper School students to explore career possibilities by paying attention to what interests them now. “What are three things that you are curious about? What did you love to do when you were 10 years old?” Shawn Slotke Brown, 2001, a health and wellness coach, asked her groups. She encouraged the students to write down these thoughts in a journal before leading them through a breathing exercise. “If you do not explore, you will not find,” Shawn told them. 

Shawn Slotke Brown, 2001 leading the students through a breathing exercise.

Dr. Morgan Dvorkin, 2009, a veterinarian who changed careers after working as a business analyst shared similar sentiments in her sessions. “Listen to yourself and listen to your gut,” she told the students, explaining how remembering how happy she was around animals when she was younger ultimately led to her dream job. “It’s way easier to do something you love!”
“College is your opportunity to explore fields that you enjoyed in high school,” Dr. Tala Al-Talib, 2001, a cardiologist and RPCS parent, told the students. She also encouraged them to travel abroad to immerse themselves in different cultures to gain new perspectives. “The more you see what other people do, the more you will see what you like,” she said. 
Liz Lenrow, 2006, Executive Director and Banker at J.P. Morgan Private Bank in Baltimore, explained to the students how she tried a few internships and classes in college to ultimately find what interested her professionally. “Follow your passion and don’t give up,” she told the Upper Schoolers. 
Building Community in a Career
Another recurring theme among the presentations was advice for building connections and community through one’s career. “It’s okay to make mistakes as you learn and move up the chain,” commercial still life photographer Aurélie Graillot, 2002, advised the Upper School students. “What is important is making good connections.”

Maya Elizabeth Hairston, 2012

Corporate attorney Stasia Thomas Nardangeli, 1999, urged the students she spoke with to seek a mentor. “Find someone a little bit further along in the process of doing what you want to do and talk with them, get to know them.” Stasia also noted how she has always been able to connect with a community of women because of her time at RPCS and still considers her classmates as sisters today.
Professional musician Maya Elizabeth Hairston, 2012 also spoke about relationships. “It’s key to have community in life, but also in your career,” the singer-songwriter, recording artist and worship leader encouraged the students in her sessions. “Have people around you who remind you to the have the confidence from within, when you feel you do not.”
Continuous Growth and Flexibility
Several speakers also shared how their time at RPCS helped them grow and explained how careers and jobs are ever changing. For example, marine biologist Maddie Kaufman, 2012, credits her AP Biology teacher, Mr. Brock, with leading her to her career path today. Maddie spoke via Zoom about her path to becoming the Program and Outreach Director of Debris Free Oceans (DFO), a Miami-based nonprofit that empowers local communities to stop plastic pollution. “I can be on the beach picking up trash one day and sweating and, in a button-up shirt the next talking to elected officials on how we can eliminate ocean waste.”
Virginia Hodges Jeffery, 1994, a Project Manager for The Whiting-Turner Contracting Company, also credits RPCS for giving her the confidence and academic skills to excel at the University of Virginia, where she studied mechanical engineering and was one of three women in her program. She also encouraged the students to consider a degree in engineering to give them the flexibility to pursue a variety of professions. 

Virginia Hodges Jeffery, 1994

Grace Calhoun, 2017, a licensed private investigator, also spoke about the variety her work offers. She enjoys her career because no two cases are the same and she constantly has to think on her feet and change plans at a moment’s notice. 
A huge thank you to all of the alumnae who took the time to visit RPCS last week and share their career or career related experiences, wisdom and insights with our students!

Our annual Professional Connections program was held on Friday, January 6, 2023 for Upper School students. The following alumnae returned to campus (in person and virtually) to share the stories of their career paths and their best advice for current REDS: (from left to right): Dr. Morgan Dvorkin DVM, 2009; Dr. Tala Al-Talib, 2001; Shawn Slotke Brown, 2001; Stasia Thomas Nardangeli, 1999; Aurélie Graillot, 2002; Maya E. Hairston, 2012; Virginia Hodges Jeffery, 1994; Grace Calhoun, 2017; and Liz Lenrow, 2006. (Not pictured: Madeline Kaufman, 2012).