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On a recent Thursday afternoon, sophomores in Professor MaryAnne Borrelli’s “U.S. Government and Politics” course hosted guests from one of the world’s premier biopharmaceutical companies: Trustee Emerita Sally Susman ’84, executive vice president of corporate affairs at Pfizer, and her colleagues, Chief of Staff and Senior Director of Operations for Corporate Affairs Anneka Norgren, and Director of Pfizer Political Action Committee Matt Meehan. The students interviewed Susman, Norgren and Meehan before breaking into small groups for less-formal conversations about lobbying, corporate ethics, political action committees, corporate organization, and gender in business and politics.
Dexter Willett ’20, who is interested in the ethics of corporate interactions with the government, said he was able to ask specific questions relevant to his research.
“I gained insight into how Pfizer’s PAC operates, how they make decisions with their money, and how the company feels about and is working to solve the opioid crisis,” he said. “You simply can’t get that kind of personal insight from reading articles and reports.”
Ashley Camacho ’20 said she relished the opportunity to talk one-on-one with someone so well established in her field.
“Ms. Susman’s interview enhanced my understanding of how the corporate world works, and what steps need to be taken in order for actual change to occur in communities that corporations work with closely.”
Susman said the discussion with students was energizing and gratifying.
“It’s a real treat for us to get out of our offices and be able to come here and meet students. I graduated in 1984, and we never had a class like this,” she said. “Weaving practical application into theoretical courses is an excellent way for students to gain an understanding of a subject. I think it’s fantastic.”
Cheryl Banker, senior associate director of the Office of Career and Professional Development, said Susman’s enthusiasm has been echoed by other alumni serving as career experts for Career Informed Learning courses.
“The feedback has been wonderful. Alumni love the interaction with the students. They love to give back, and this program allows them to do so in a special way.”
Jefferson Singer, dean of the college and Faulk Foundation Professor of Psychology, said faculty are offering 10 Career Informed Learning courses this semester. The program has already received support with a gift from a member of the Class of 1980, and he anticipates seeing the program continue to grow.
“Career Informed Learning teaches students to innovate and to come up with solutions to real problems. They are learning to be flexible problem-solvers, as well as to present and communicate more effectively,” Singer said.
The Career Informed Learning experience is important because it better prepares students for the workplace, and gives students the skills employers are looking for, he added.
“It’s helping students develop a quality of mind that is needed for today’s society. Students have to be more nimble than ever before. This is what employers are asking of employees in the workplace, and it’s what our contemporary liberal arts experience delivers.”