By: Nick Santangelo

Liberal arts students aren’t content to settle. At Temple University’s College of Liberal Arts (CLA), they pursue critical-thinking and problem-solving skills to help them launch careers that are as fulfilling as they are successful. That’s why it’s so important for our students to begin developing professionally before they leave campus.

Recognizing this, Alex Rocca, CLA ’17, enrolled in Professional Development for History Majors during her final semester. The lessons Rocca learned in the course were strong enough that she landed an internship with Philadelphia City Hall Councilman Kenyatta Johnson after graduation. She thrived in the role, inspiring the councilman to keep her on staff for twice as long as initially planned. Eventually, on his recommendation, she landed a job at a small consulting firm and just this November accepted a role at the law firm Morgan Lewis.

After accepting, Rocca emailed her Professional Development for History Majors professor, Jay Lockenour, thanking him for his course creating “a domino effect” allowing her to find success in her young career. As a CLA student, Rocca says she learned professional writing and editing skills and developed an ability to communicate complex topics in simplified terms.

“Dr. Lockenour brought in people from different industries who are all history majors, and they talked about what they did with their major and how they honed their skills and advertised them to their respective industry,” recalls Rocca of the professional development course.

Rocca was also introduced to CLA’s Professional Development team and took a trip to Philadelphia City Hall to learn about internship opportunities.

“I think internships are very important,” says Rocca. “I think they’re good for employers to see that, too—that you’re willing to go somewhere, just to learn.”

In Rocca’s telling, proving that was especially important for her as a history major. She says there are a lot of misconceptions about studying history. Many people give her baffled looks and ask “why?” when she reveals her major. When taken at a surface level, majoring in history might seem to simply be about memorizing important dates.

“But that's not it,” asserts Rocca. “When I actually got into the major, there were so many important skills that I developed, because it's not learning history. It's learning the practice of telling a story.”

Rocca learned how to take an objective look at events and examine them from every angle while considering how different people’s perspectives shape our understanding of events. That’s helped her to become a better problem solver and to detect trends. It’s a skillset she’s found to be invaluable in the workplace.

“Also, you have to be a very skilled writer,” she adds. “You have to be a very dynamic writer and be able to write for different audiences. In my different classes, I sometimes had to write more academically and sometimes I had to write to a general audience.

“You have to be able to synthesize very complex topics into more simple terms. You have to be able to write academically in a more public format. You have to be a very skilled editor and then also learn to really hone your research skills.”

Those are skills that will come in handy in a future endeavor for Rocca, one she’s been considering since she was a student: law school. The daughter of an attorney, Rocca is already familiar with what that life is like. She knows that many law school grads end up working a tremendous number of hours in corporate law.

So, she decided experiencing working at a good firm and establishing herself was a better path. Pursuing that law degree is still on the table for the future, but so far Rocca has learned valuable lessons in college and in her career that she wants to pass on to future CLA students.

“You have to be resourceful. You have to get work. That is probably the most important thing you could do in college—that's the most important thing I've learned in my career. With every job I'd have to get work, and I’ve had to build relationships. You get out of things which you put into them.”

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