Alumni relationships provide work experience for W&J junior

Created: August 25, 2017
Last Updated: July 16, 2020

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WASHINGTON, PA (Aug. 25, 2017) – Maya Nilkant ’19 won’t let any opportunities pass her by – and her alumni mentors are here to help.

The Washington & Jefferson College (W&J) chemistry and economics double major has made the most out of W&J’s Alumni Mentor Program, combining advice from her mentor with her own drive and work ethic. The program is a feature of the W&J education supported by the Office of Career Services.

It was Nilkant’s alumni mentor, Mitchell Bassi ’85, who gave her a tip about an internship with the American Chemical Society (ACS). She took the initiative to apply and found herself working as a strategy intern with the web strategy and operations division of ACS. Funding from the W&J Maxwell Internship Award supplemented a stipend from the internship, allowing Nilkant to support herself while living in Washington D.C. for the summer.

Nilkant worked on a number of projects with ACS, including examining the financial viability of a web provider switch, crafting education guidelines for high schools and colleges, designing strategy for ACS international chapters, redrafting chemical safety regulations, managing volunteer outreach, and conducting market research for the ACS’s undergraduate magazine, InChemistry.

This isn’t the first time Nilkant has gone after work experience with alumni encouragement; in 2016, she had a chance to work with Amy Hartman ’98. Nilkant found this research opportunity with help from professor of biology Candy DeBerry, Ph.D.

“W&J has an extensive alumni network with mentors and resources that have a vested interest in current students,” Nilkant said. “In January 2016, I went to Dr. DeBerry to ask her about how I could get an internship that would give me valuable experience as a freshman. Because of my interest in infectious disease, her advice was to get in contact with Dr. Amy Hartman, an alumna of W&J with a lab of her own at the Center for Vaccine Research at the University of Pittsburgh. After reviewing my CV, transcript and cover letter, she granted me an interview and offered me a position in her lab. The experience I had last summer with Dr. Hartman is invaluable and I still talk about it when asked about W&J.”

Feeling supported by the community at W&J has encouraged Nilkant to explore different career options in her field, and she plans to pursue a career in health policy or healthcare economics.

“If not for the liberal arts education that I’ve received at W&J, I never would have found my true passion or had the support to pursue it,” Nilkant said. “The amazing facet of W&J is that every single member of the faculty and staff is looking out for you. It doesn’t matter if they’re your advisor, a member of residence life, or a commons worker; they are always willing to give you their time to answer questions and offer advice.”

About Washington & Jefferson College

Washington & Jefferson College, located in Washington, Pa., is a selective liberal arts college founded in 1781. Committed to providing each of its students with the highest-quality undergraduate education available, W&J offers a traditional arts and sciences curriculum emphasizing interdisciplinary study and independent study work. For more information about W&J, visit www.washjeff.edu, or call 888-W-AND-JAY.

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