Our grads go places

The careers available to those with degrees in the humanities and social sciences are as diverse as the graduates themselves. We caught up with a few graduates to find out how they are putting their H&SS education to work.


Vee Butler ’15

Vee Butler ’15

Credit: Penn State Behrend

Vee Butler ’15, Arts Administration

Box Office Manager at Williamstown Theatre Festival, a Tony Award-winning resident summer theatre on the campus of Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts.

How did Behrend help get you where you are today? Behrend allowed me to think outside the box and gave me the opportunity to find my passion of working in non-profit arts without being on the production end. Furthermore, my Arts Administration degree prepared me to earn an M.F.A. in Arts Leadership from Seattle University.

What do you love about your job? Working in patron services is fun and challenging to me. It is my job to make the theatre experience better and more convenient. So many people think about the art on stage (which is, of course, important), but few think about how the lobby signage, the website, the cost of refreshments, and such affects patrons. My job is to make people happy and relaxed without them knowing I am doing it, and I love that!


Ainslie Ulmer Brosig ’01, Communication

Executive Director of the expERIEnce Children’s Museum in Erie.

How did Behrend help get you where you are today? I made many lifelong friendships and professional connections while at Behrend. The professors were so encouraging! I will never forget Mike Simmons’ class on writing for the media. It truly laid the foundation for my future.

What do you love about your job? I love that I am making a difference in my community. I love that, through my work at the museum, families are engaging in play together and creating memories.


Jon McConnell ’09 (with his fiancé, Liz Pashley)

Jon McConnell ’09 (with his fiancé, Liz Pashley)

Credit: Penn State Behrend

Jon McConnell ’09, Creative Writing

Content Syndication Manager at LightWorkers, a subsidiary of MGM Studios, in Los Angeles.

How did Behrend help get you where you are today? I started as a Computer Engineering major, but I was really struggling. With the support of faculty and staff members, I came to realize that it was not that I wasn’t capable, but that maybe engineering just was not for me. I was encouraged to explore different classes. As a nervous teen who was convinced I’d screwed up my whole life plan, I found it exceedingly valuable to hear that the arts were worth pursuing, and that it’s okay to not know exactly what you’re doing.

What do you love about your job? The biggest thing for me is being “in it,” being in the entertainment world, where I’m working on novels, stories, and screenplays, and I am surrounded by creative people who inspire me. My current job involves learning about the business side of entertainment, and I enjoy helping to deliver the creative work of others to as wide an audience as possible.


Gregory Cass ’17, Elementary and Early Childhood Education

Cass graduated in May and is currently interviewing for elementary education teaching positions.

How did Behrend help get you where you are today? I wouldn’t be where I am today without all of the incredibly kind, patient, and caring faculty and staff members who encouraged me. After the fall semester of my sophomore year, I failed my Middle Field Placement test, which meant I would not be able to begin student teaching. I was devastated. I wanted to give up, but my parents and my Behrend professors inspired me not only to continue but also to strive to excel.

What are you most looking forward to about teaching? I cannot wait to have a classroom and students of my own. I believe that the absolute most important qualities for a teacher to possess are empathy and compassion. When you care deeply about your students and what you are doing, you create a nurturing place for learning to occur.


Crystal Velasquez ’97

Crystal Velasquez ’97

Credit: Penn State Behrend

Crystal Velasquez ’97, English

Author of Just Princesses, the Hunters of Chaos series, the Your Life, But… series, and four Maya and Miguel books. Editor, freelance writer and proofreader at Working Partners Ltd.

What do you love most about your job? In my job as an editor for a middle-school/young-adult book packager, I get to be creative every day. My whole job is coming up with new ideas for kid’s books and helping turn those ideas into finished novels. I get to give new writers a chance to get paid to write, which is awesome! As far as writing books myself, well, that was my dream and it came true! How could I not love making up stories, playing with language, and letting my imagination go crazy? The best part, though, is when kids who read my work tell me how much they loved it or that they want to be writers, too. Sometimes, I can’t believe this is really my life!

How did you get published? My path was unconventional. I worked as a production editor for years and learned how to put books together before I wrote one of my own. My first paid writing job actually came from responding to an ad on Craigslist! I’ve found that one opportunity, no matter how small, usually leads to more.


Kristina Peszel ’15, English (Professional Writing Option) 

Associate IT Analyst in User Experience at Erie Insurance.

How did Behrend help get you where you are today? My English degree gave me an edge over my peers in being able to communicate effectively and clearly. Poor communication is a considerable problem for many companies, and my degree gave me the skillset to be competitive in this space. My undergrad coursework also helped me develop critical analytical skills, which positioned me for success as an IT analyst.

Advice for students? Don’t be afraid to apply for an internship or job opportunity just because your major isn’t listed as a required field of study. H&SS majors are inherently flexible. You just need to demonstrate how the skills you learned are applicable to the job.


Christal Lepak ‘12

Christal Lepak ‘12

Credit: Penn State Behrend

Christal Lepak ’12, History

Youth Service Program Coordinator at Youth Leadership Institute of Erie.

Tell us about your job. I work for a nonprofit after-school leadership program where the students are empowered through service learning and true leadership. With my history background, I have been able to teach them about their heritage and help them explore different cultures. They have developed an understanding of Erie’s diverse cultures and are excited to plan community events that bring people together. They say it takes a village to raise a child, but you have to build the village first. It is ironic that it’s the youth who are trying to build the village, but they are eager to be agents of change.

What do you love about your job? I love that it doesn’t feel like work! Also, it is a rewarding job. I enjoy helping parents see how valuable they are to their children and vice versa. When I see my students engage with leaders and members of our community and become civically engaged, it gives me hope for the future and for the youth we serve who dare to dream of bettering their lives and their community.


Lauren Piera Jowell ’04, Political Science

International Relations Officer and Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist with the U.S. Department of Labor.

How did Behrend help get you where you are today? I went on my first trip abroad with the Behrend Concert Band. During my political science classes, I was inspired to become a Peace Corps volunteer in Ukraine, which launched my career. Writing an honors thesis was also critical for enhancing my writing and analytical skills. What do you love about your job? I love working toward eliminating child labor worldwide and ensuring government accountability for the use of grant funds.


James Hodge, ’09

James Hodge, ’09

Credit: Penn State Behrend

James Hodge ’09, Psychology

Director of Evaluation at Susan Hirt Hagen Center for Community Outreach, Research and Evaluation (CORE) at Penn State Behrend.

How did Behrend help get you where you are today? The education and support I received was phenomenal. I entered graduate school with a level of knowledge and experience that many of my peers did not have. My degrees made me uniquely positioned to understand and promote positive social change from a scientific perspective, which dovetails perfectly with the work I am doing at CORE.

What do you love about your job? I am making a real, measurable difference at CORE. We work extensively with non-profit organizations and incredibly dedicated college students and community members, and it has been beyond rewarding to witness the extent to which we have helped foster positive social change in Erie County, particularly among youth. Another thing that I love about my job is that I am back at my alma mater! I bleed blue and white, and it makes me so happy to call Penn State Behrend my home.