McKenna Pencak joined the Keough School in December 2023 as the associate director for professional development and alumni engagement. Pencak brings a wealth of international knowledge and more than a decade of experience working with students. In the Q&A below, Pencak shares how she can help undergraduate and master of global affairs students develop their careers and set themselves up for professional success once they leave Notre Dame.
What is your role here at the Keough School?
As the associate director for professional development and alumni engagement, I connect students to professional development opportunities here at Notre Dame and beyond. I also serve as a liaison to the Keough School alumni network.
How did you become interested in working at the Keough School?
My background is in international education and student advising and programming. When I noticed the job posting, I saw that it combined my passion for helping students meet their academic and post-graduate career goals and my interest in global affairs. I’ve worked with Notre Dame students for more than a decade and hold a master’s degree in international education. I have also traveled to more than 30 countries and have studied or lived abroad in Spain, Mexico, Turkey and Argentina.
How can global affairs students learn more about career paths?
Notre Dame has so many opportunities for students to learn about careers in global affairs and gain hands-on experience. One thing that sets Notre Dame apart is the funding that’s available to help undergraduate and graduate students pursue service, research, internships, language learning and cross-cultural experiences.
Notre Dame also offers a plethora of professional development and networking events and opportunities. I always encourage students to research and take advantage of the many opportunities available so they can learn about global affairs career paths and gain hands-on professional experience. I’m also happy to meet one-on-one with students to learn more about their career goals and connect them with relevant resources and opportunities.
What are some interesting and impactful jobs held by Keough School alumni?
Keough School undergraduate and graduate alumni pursue a variety of career paths related to global affairs. More than half of our master of global affairs students pursue careers at nonprofit or non-governmental organizations while others enter the public and private sectors. We have alumni working in roles with organizations such as Catholic Relief Services, Chemonics, the Clinton Health Access Intiative, Oxfam, the U.S. Institute for Peace, the National Immigrant Justice Center, the U.S. Department of State, the United Nations, and many others.
What advice do you have for undergraduate students on preparing for professional success? Do you have any tips for master of global affairs students?
For undergraduates, it’s key to take advantage of the many experiential learning opportunities available at Notre Dame and beyond. These opportunities will not only help you build your resume, but also enable you to gain hands-on field experience, which is vital to securing the perfect job. I advise undergraduate students to study abroad, volunteer, learn a new language, apply for research grants, take advantage of the many career resources available at the Meruelo Center for Career Development and network with Notre Dame alumni who are in careers of interest.
Master of global affairs students should take advantage of the wealth of knowledge their professors offer, keep in touch with former employers, use the resources available through Graduate Career Services, make the most out of their field experiences, and network, network, network. Notre Dame has an incredible alumni community. Don’t be afraid to reach out to individuals who are working in relevant careers and conduct informational interviews.