Career colloquium guides MGA students on path to professional success

A popular new course at the Keough School of Global Affairs aims to equip master of global affairs students with the tools and skills they need to embark upon rewarding careers.

The Keough Career Colloquium, which spans all four semesters of the Master of Global Affairs program, helps students prepare for professional success from the moment they arrive on campus. The colloquium begins with a focus on career discernment and goal setting, and features regular presentations from global affairs professionals in a variety of sectors and fields.

“Our students appreciate the fact that professional development is emphasized from the very beginning,” said Melinda Fountain, associate director for professional development and alumni relations and the lead instructor for the course. “It’s integrated into their learning rather than something they have to do on their own on the side.”

networking photo
The Keough Career Colloquium helps master of global affairs students develop their professional networking skills.

The colloquium also includes regular, personalized guidance from Keough School faculty, career consultants from the Notre Dame Graduate School, and mentors from Irish Compass, a networking community of Notre Dame alumni. Students enrolled in the colloquium create polished resumes, craft effective cover letters, hone interview skills, and receive expert instruction on maximizing job search tools such as LinkedIn. 

“Students have many opportunities to ask questions of and learn from people who are very supportive and interested in their success,” Fountain said. 

Second-year master of global affairs student Samdrup Phurbu (also called Sangzhu Pubu), who is from Tibet, China, said he appreciated insights from guest lecturer Ray Offenheiser, the William J. Pulte Director of the Pulte Institute for Global Development and the former president of Oxfam America, who offered an overview of the international development field. Phurbu said he also gleaned helpful tips from Erik Oswald, a Notre Dame Graduate School career consultant, who taught a resume-writing workshop and conducted mock interviews.

“Having a structured class helps me ensure I’m on track,” said Phurbu, who hopes to work in the education field after graduation. “I’m feeling very prepared for my job search.”  

Phurbu also said he appreciates the alumni contacts he has made through Irish Compass. 

“When you reach out, people write back right away,” he said. “The Keough School is young, but the Notre Dame alumni network is well established, and it’s a gem.”

Laura Guerra, a first-year master of global affairs student from Mexico and the United States, hopes to work as a consultant in the private sector. She said she benefited from a colloquium presentation given by Patrick Calderon, MGA ‘19, a consultant for Qatalyst Research Group Inc., a Vancouver, British Columbia-based consulting firm for public sector and nonprofit clients. 

Patrick Calderon speaking
Keough School alumnus Patrick Calderon (MGA ’19) recently spoke to current students about his work as a private-sector consultant based in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Through the colloquium, Guerra has been paired with an Irish Compass mentor who currently works as a consultant in Austin, Texas.

“I really like my mentor,” she said. “We have conversations every couple of weeks. Her parents are from my hometown, and she’s Hispanic like me. She’s shared her own career trajectory, the pros and cons of the field, and advised me on how to pursue a career in this industry. I’m so grateful.”

Fountain said that while the students have enjoyed learning from various guest presenters and alumni mentors, they’ve also found it helpful to learn from each other. Each MGA class, which includes students from about 20 countries, brings rich and varied experiences in a variety of professional fields. 

“Many of our students have already had a lot of professional experiences,” she said. “It’s valuable to have a forum where we can learn together and help one another.” 

The master of global affairs, a two-year, professional degree program, prepares students for skilled, effective leadership and careers in government, nongovernmental and civil society organizations, and the private sector.

The program integrates rigorous coursework, close engagement with policymakers, multi-disciplinary faculty and students from around the world, and extended field work through the Integration Lab (i-Lab) and partners—in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, and Washington, DC—working to address global challenges.


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