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First-hand knowledge and candid advice: Culture and Society Alumni Panelists

First-hand knowledge and candid advice: Culture and Society Alumni Panelists

The Culture and Society PVCC Alumni Career Panel provided an opportunity for current students and the campus community to hear from several of our alumni about their personal stories and career paths. From their insights and experiences to how they arrived in their current professions, these alumni shared how their educational journey at PVCC helped them to achieve professional and personal success.

The inspiring Panelists and their current areas of career focus:

  • Paul Boyer, Legislator
  • Mallory Gleich, Journalist
  • Xavier Vasquez, Communications
  • Christopher Zimmer, City Planner

Was there a key moment in time that influenced you in your career path? If so, please share.

Paul - While at the PVCC library, I looked at all the different majors. I liked to read, so I decided on majoring in English. I became Editor in Chief of the student newspaper while at ASU West.  Everything I do involves some form of writing.

Mallory - I’ve always been a reader.  I had no idea what I wanted to do, but just knew I wanted a degree. I signed up for fun classes like Professor Roma- Deeley’s Creative Writing class.

There are many different career paths in the Culture & Society profession. How would you advise students on how to choose their path?

Mallory - Shared the saying, 'Do what you love and you will never work a day in your life!’ Step outside your comfort zone; you never know who you might meet.

Paul - On a trip to Israel, I met my future employer, that started my interest in politics. Sometimes it’s a thankless job. Find what you love and don’t say “no” to things. Do branch out. Look at what’s out there.

What do you know now that you wish you had known before you chose your career path?

Paul - I would have written my goals down.  Now, I write them down in December of each year; professional, educational, financial, etc. I put both my short term goals and my long term goals on paper and appreciate the satisfaction of crossing them off. I also would have started refining and honing in on my goals earlier.

Mallory - My goal was to get a degree. I wanted that piece of paper. Wish I had taken advantage of more classes being offered. Take advantage of all the opportunities offered.

How have your experiences at PVCC either directly or indirectly impacted the work that you do?

Mallory - The Creative Writing class launched my journalism career. The classes here showed me the way. I attended the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at ASU. I have gone from freelance writing to Managing Editor.

Paul - I worked and went to school full-time. I had a hard time enjoying school because I was super busy. I went to office hours and discussed literary theories with professors .

What advice would you like to share for current students interested in Culture & Society related professions?

Xavier - You are on the right path already. You’ll make connections that go far beyond PVCC. Get involved outside the classroom. Use LinkedIn to find those in your career path. Be a well-balanced student. Your GPA is important.

Chris - Get involved with your community. Make connections. Talk to leaders, mayors and city council members.

Is there anything you would have done differently on your educational journey? If so, please share.

Xavier - I am a first generation college student. Attending PVCC was the best decision I made. PVCC was a launching pad for me, I have no regrets. Transfer students are really important. I thought, “How can I pitch this to ASU?” The Transfer Success coaching program at ASU started with me. I’m proud to be a Puma, I did it my way. I felt like the odd man out because my friends went to the universities, but I was more prepared than they were.

Chris - I would have taken more writing classes as this would support the work that I do. I write resolutions and ordinances for the city. Jump into those classes when you can.

What was your biggest challenge in your educational journey and what did you do to overcome it?

Chris - My biggest challenge was transferring from one college to the next and graduating early.  I took 24 credits in one semester to graduate early.

Xavier - My biggest challenge was adjusting to college life and being an independent student. The financial burden was huge. I remember walking out of Honors after being told I got the Presidential Scholarship. I applied for scholarships outside of ASU. Solution based thinking at PVCC was a big thing for me. “PVCC will provide you with solutions from day one.”

While you were a student, were there any internships, job shadowing, volunteering or work experience that helped you gain employment after graduation? If so, please share.

Xavier - The Emerging Leaders Program through Student Life had a big impact on me. I was able to network in a way I never had before. Diversity, Inc. was also a huge influence. I volunteered for the ASU Architects of Change and through this experience I met the VP of Nike. I built relationships because I volunteered. My first internship was with Phoenix Rising.

Chris - Get involved, utilize your counselors and advisors. Get internships in what you are interested in. I had three internships with the cities of Queen Creek, Tempe and Mesa.

Questions from the audience:

There is no student newspaper at PVCC, so in this online era, how can students get together and build something on their own?

Mallory - Reach out to publishers or editors of local magazines.

Paul - Start writing letters to the editor pitching on opinion pieces. Find something you are really passionate about.

Was there a moment you felt like giving up?

Mallory - Don’t be afraid to ask questions. I had assignments that I didn’t think I could get through. My mom said, “Just keep going!”

Chris - Focus and get it done. Self-motivation to get through the process. If you work hard you will get it done.

Xavier - In Spring 2015, I took 21 credits and had two jobs. I talked to Mike Ho (Student Life) and Jim Rubin (Counseling), they helped me with managing the stress.

Paul - I was fired at the height of the Great Recession in 2008. I was asked to do unethical things. The movie Invincible helped me through that time. I then got a job with the House of Representatives.

What strengths have you developed in your profession?

Chris - Always ask questions, people are always there to help, it’s okay to ask for help.

Mallory - Just being here. Transferring to ASU, becoming an editor.

Paul - One summer I sold books door-to-door and worked 80 hours a week. I received the persistence award at the end of the summer. The experience taught me life skills.

Xavier - Relationship building. Develop authentic relationships just focused on getting to know the person. This has helped me get to where I am today with the Arizona Cardinals.

What goals do you have going forward?

Mallory - I want to write a book.  At the Arcadia News, we write a lot of feature pieces so I am developing my writing skills.

Paul - I’m in the second year of my second term. In the Senate we are working on policy proposals. My personal goal is to complete my second Masters degree in Humanities. I plan to graduate in May. I plan to continue teaching.

Xavier - PVCC created full circle moments for me. Cancer has struck my family hard. James Conner is a cancer survivor and now he is on the Cardinals team. I would like to coordinate something with James at Phoenix Children’s Hospital or Mayo Clinic.

What do you say to encourage students to go to community college over university?

Paul - Graduating debt free is a huge perk. Personalized instruction and the great dialogue you don’t get at the university level. Apply for scholarships. Talk to your counselors and explore career options.

Mallory - It was so fun to be in smaller groups of students.

Xavier - The financial aspect and personalization of instruction and support. Impactful relationships with my professors. Impactful learning that you won’t get at the university level.

Chris - Apply for scholarships. The scholarship department will assist you with your application. Take that first step in your college career to move forward one semester at a time.

What obstacles did you face as a first generation college student?

Xavier - I had to figure out what was available to me.  I didn’t know there were so many scholarships out there; you just have to find them. Everything can be overwhelming and your family can’t relate. Developing a school/life balance.  Being able to connect with first generation students here at PVCC was huge.

Chris - Talk to counselors, they will guide you. If you don’t know what you want to do, community college is the place to start.

What books influenced you to grow into the person you are today?

Paul - The Republic by Plato

Mallory - How to be a Badass

Xavier - Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike Phil Knight, Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins

Chris - Game of Thrones

Comes down to what you want to read and learn about.

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