Alumni Board Officers

Kate Sonka

President

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Graduated: 2005
Major: Bachelor's in Spanish with concentrations in Latin American Studies and Anthropology
Current Position: Assistant Director of Academic Technology at Michigan State University
How has a degree in the arts and humanities contributed to your success? 
My humanities degree provided a foundation upon which I'm able to think flexibly, work collaboratively, and communicate effectively. My degree prepared me for a lifetime of engaging interactions with people all across the world through both personal and professional travel. I was also primed to think around any issue until the solution becomes clear, or if not clear at least something that will continue to advance the mission of the project. A decade later and I still draw upon the skills and knowledge my humanities degree gave me.
How do you want to make an impact as a Board Member? What will be your legacy?
Going into my eighth year on the Board, and second year as President, my goal is to align our initiatives and activities with the work happening around the College in a way that will continue to engage our alums. I have the honor to be on campus every day, but I never lose sight of the fact that many of our alums are not so physically connected to this place. As such, my legacy will be one wherein CAL alums continue to feel a close bond in equal parts to their own personal MSU past, as well as the future of the College of Arts & Letters.


Brittany Parling

Vice President


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Graduated: 2005
Major: English
Current Position:
I am currently an associate at the law firm Jones Day in Detroit. Since graduation from MSU and then from law school, I have worked as a judicial law clerk, clinical fellow at the Roderick & Solange MacArthur Justice Center at Northwestern Law School, and an associate at various law firms in Chicago and Detroit.
When you think back to your time at MSU, what was your proudest moment?
Working full time while carrying a full load of classes.
How has a degree in the arts and humanities contributed to your success?
As a lawyer, I'm constantly writing, developing arguments, and trying to tell my client's story in a compelling way. My CAL degree allowed me to develop my voice as a writer, as well as my critical thinking skills. I can't think of a better degree to prepare for a career in the law.


Stefanie Pohl

Secretary

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Graduated: 2007
Major: English and Creative Writing
Current Position:
I am currently a stay-at-home mom to my two young daughters, but most recently worked as a Copy Editor in MSU’s Communications and Brand Strategy office. I have stayed on as a freelance editor with CABS and try to write whenever I can.
When you think back to your time at MSU, what was your proudest moment?
My proudest moment(s) were when I had breakthroughs in the classroom, particularly in my poetry and creative non-fiction classes. Writing can be very personal, so criticism of writing can be taken very personally. Having professors like Diane Wakoski and Marcia Aldrich, masters in their genres, helped me gain a thicker skin and better perspective on the craft of writing. I wasn’t the same writer after their mentorship.
What advice would you offer current MSU and Arts & Letters students?
My advice would be to take advantage of the academic and career advising at your disposal. Ruth Mowry helped me find my way as an English major and encouraged adding the Creative Writing concentration to my major when she knew I was interested in writing workshops. The “what do I do with my B.A. in English?” question was answered for me with the guidance of Courtney Chapin in Career Services, and without her I would not have had the confidence to pursue an MA after graduation. There are amazing resources specifically for CAL students. Use them!


Kathleen L. Johnston-Calati

Treasurer

 

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Graduated: 1969
Major: Humanities
Current Position: Program Manager, Michigan Disability Rights Coalition
How has a degree in the arts and humanities contributed to your success? 
My studies in arts and humanities have enriched my life by instilling in me a love for the sake of learning. I have had a wide variety of careers and my humanities background coupled with the love of learning have made it possible for me to be successful in diverse situations. As a person who transferred into MSU from a Community College, I would like to make sure all transfer students receive the same orientation into all MSU has to offer as do the incoming freshman. Had I been aware of all of the opportunities that existed, my experience at MSU would have been even richer.



Alumni Board Members

 

Jennifer Adams

 

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Graduated: 1992
Major: English
Current Position:
Coordinator of Library & Learning Support Services, Hagerstown Community College
How has a degree in the arts and humanities contributed to your success?
My degree in the arts and humanities has contributed to my success in ways that other degrees simply could not. As the only CAL student among my friends at MSU, I was always presumed to be the one who would never land a job in my field or earn enough income to make a living. Of course, these were mainly my business and engineering pals talking. The first response after learning that I was an English major was perpetually, “Oh, so you’re going to be a teacher,” to which I’d immediately retort, “No, I’m going to write.” Usually, a pitying wince would follow. I’m so grateful that my dad had encouraged me since grade school to choose a field that would make me happy, regardless of the financial payoff. This mindset was definitely not the norm in the late ‘80s, and I suspect that hasn’t changed much today. However, my close friends confessed, “You’re so lucky your parents let you do what you want.” Many had no choice, which seemed sad to me. I had acquaintances in traditional go-getter job fields who were envious of my freedom to choose, though concerned about my future. But I stuck with what I was passionate about, and I’m proud to report that I not only landed a job “in my field,” within six months of graduation, but also remained consistently employed in full-time writing positions (with benefits) for the next 13 years, when I decided to pursue a master’s degree. Do not underrate the ability to write well; it is a skill that most employers consider a rarity and a gift. The unique skillsets that we CAL graduates possess help to comprise an extremely valuable employee – one who offers a creative voice that thinks outside the box. I brought these skills with me into my second and current career of academic librarianship. There is no doubt in my mind that my CAL degree provided the foundation the higher-level positions in administration that I have unwittingly landed since then. CAL has indeed been an integral part of the holistic success that I’ve achieved: true personal fulfillment through my career, in addition to the perks of a respectable salary and great colleagues.
What advice would you offer current MSU and Arts & Letters students?
See my last answer! You chose this field because you’re different. The world needs more people like us – especially now. The skills you acquire through CAL will make you highly employable if they are infused with some enthusiasm, a healthy level of humility, and a good sense of humor.


Kim Bowen

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Graduated: 1974
Major: German and Education (Honors College)
Current Position: Elementary and High School Teacher, Assistant Professor
When you think back to your time at MSU, what was your proudest moment? 
Graduation.
Any advice for current students? 
Persevere. 


Maude Campbell


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Graduated: 2014
Major: Professional Writing
Current Position: Copy Editor, Popular Mechanics, Freelance Copy Editor, ELLE
When you think back to your time at MSU, what was your proudest moment?
When I got accepted into the NYU Summer Publishing Institute my senior year.
What advice would you offer current MSU and Arts & Letters students? 
Do not be afraid to try, it doesn’t hurt. How has a degree in the arts and humanities contributed to your success? It has contributed 100 percent to my success, without this degree and the connections I made during my time at MSU, I would not be where I am today, in a position in my field.


Ian Clark


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Graduated: 2016
Major: Experience Architecture
Current Position: UX Analyst Auto-Owners Insurance, Freelance UX Designer
When you think back to your time at MSU, what was your proudest moment? ​​​​​
Founding the student group for experience architecture students. And being voted RHA hall government president.
What advice would you offer current MSU and Arts & Letters students? 
Worry about processes and people skills. Talk to professors about concerns and aspirations as they can guide you towards a better career. How has a degree in the arts and humanities contributed to your success? Given me the confidence to approach problems in nontraditional or unconventional ways without fear of disapproval or skepticism.


Tonya Cole Collier


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Graduated: 1987
Major: English
Current Position: Secondary Educator English and Literature until 1999
How has a degree in the arts and humanities contributed to your success?
Studying arts and humanities enhanced my appreciation of world culture and social justice. My English and History background has been essential to both my professional and community involvement. Additionally, I work and volunteer in areas that promote social consciousness and social engagement. I would call that a success.
When you think back to your time at MSU, what was your proudest moment? 
I was a student ambassador for The African Diaspora Writing conference hosted by CAL. I met many well known authors and was introduced to others all who would influence my academic studies and interest.
What advice would you offer current MSU and Arts & Letters students? 
Your undergraduate education is a time of discovery. Take courses and engage in activities that stretch your imagination. Be sure to utilize the resources available on campus and in the college. The people you meet and interact with have a lasting impact.
 

Bryce Colquitt

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Graduated: 2011
Major: English
Current Position: Founder, Colquitt Group
How has a degree in the arts and humanities contributed to your success? 
I've learned great critical thinking skills that have served me well in a few fields -- politics, public relations, and entrepreneurship. It's allowed me to analyze language and history in a way unique among my peers, and to be creative in business and politics.
What advice would you offer current MSU and Arts & Letters students? 
You'll never have a better time in your life to explore -- take advantage of it. Try new things, get internships, and build relationships.


John Donohoe

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Graduated: 1987
Major: Graphic Design
Current Position: Account/Project Management/Services CiesaDesign
How has a degree in the arts and humanities contributed to your success?
Along with an understanding of visual problem solving, I learned skills in communication and social intelligence that have served well in times of stress and high pressure.
When you think back to your time at MSU, what was your proudest moment?
The letter which began: “Congratulations! You’re a Spartan!"
What advice would you offer current MSU and Arts & Letters students?
Make the most of your time at MSU, where you learn how to learn for the rest of your life!
How do you want to make an impact as a Board Member? What will be your legacy?
To positively position and promote the CAL Alumni Association as a critical support to students during their education and upon graduation.


Eric Federspiel

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Graduated: BA in 1999, MA in 2005
Major: English ('99), Curriculum and Teaching ('05)
Current Position: Instructional Designer at GM Financial International Operations
How has a degree in the arts and humanities contributed to your success?
Though I'm no longer a teacher, I've made a new career in which I take difficult concepts and help adult learners to grasp them and apply them on the job. I'm also a critical thinker, never satisfied until I've tackled a problem/issue from every possible angle.
When you think back to your time at MSU, what was your proudest moment?
Writing an essay and taking part in an open discussion that a classmate (whom I didn't know at the time) told me about years later.
What advice would you offer current MSU and Arts & Letters students?
GET INVOLVED. I didn't take advantage of 1/100 of the opportunities available to me while at MSU, and I greatly regret it.


Megan Gawlik

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Graduated: 2007
Major: BA in English / OPTU Film Studies
Current Position: Innovation Research Manager, Disney Parks and Resorts Digital
How has a degree in the arts and humanities contributed to your success?
It's opened my mind creatively and allowed me to seek out opportunities that might not align with my career goals on paper, but gave me great experience. The arts, media have influenced my career in so many different ways. I've worked for TV shows, Film studios, Publishing Houses, Production companies and the Happiest Place on Earth, but my roles have been different in each. I've been able to take each experience and expand upon it into my next.
When you think back to your time at MSU, what was your proudest moment?
There are so many moments both educational and recreational, but the moment in which I joined The State News and received my name plaque as a member of the State News Board of Directors, was significant. I believe in freedom of information and the students need to have their own voice represented. I was proud to join the Board and have an impact on the direction of the student newspaper during my time at school.
What advice would you offer current MSU and Arts & Letters students?
You will never know the paths your career will take you. Don't be afraid to grow in new areas and leap into opportunities that may not line up with the work and career you had originally envisioned for yourself. Stay open to new and different things in your career and fantastic experiences will come your way.


Terence D. Gipson

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Graduated: 2015
Major: Global Studies in the Arts and Humanities
Current Position:
International Community Health Advisor at Michigan State University (and Master of Public Health Administration Student)
How has a degree in the arts and humanities contributed to your success?
Being a GSAH major has provided me with a unique cultural and social global perspective, thus yielding for me a strong voice within the international community. My academic training in the program has shaped the context in which I work and view our increasingly globalized society, and for this I could not be more grateful to the amazing faculty, administrators, and staff within the College of Arts & Letters.
What advice would you offer current MSU and Arts & Letters students?
Perhaps the best advice I could give to my fellow Spartans is to take risks by pushing yourself beyond your most intuitive and natural auspices. I truly believe that we learn the most about ourselves and others in the most abnormal of circumstances, so don’t be afraid to try something new or to ask questions! We can only grow from each experience we encounter!


Erin Goebel

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Graduated: 2010
Major: Professional Writing
Current Position: Legal Counsel, Whirlpool Corporation
How has a degree in the arts and humanities contributed to your success?
Perhaps most importantly, I'm a much better writer because of my degree. Further, I'm a better learner. The arts and humanities teaches you how to learn, adapt, and think critically.
When you think back to your time at MSU, what was your proudest moment?
Having the courage to step outside my comfort zone to pursue substantive employment (where I was able to apply the skills I had learned) within the College of Social Science and MSU's On-campus print shop. These employment opportunities led to my pursuit of law.
What advice would you offer current MSU and Arts & Letters students?
Get involved: join campus groups outside of your inner/comfortable circle, listen to guest speakers and attend panel discussions on topics about which you know nothing, sit in on classes of interest, actually go to office hours, and sit on the lawn by Beaumont Tower to take in the beauty and opportunity of MSU.


Carolyn J. Hook

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Graduated: 1968
Major: Art Practice (Education)
Current Position:
Currently retired - Public Librarian for Over 34 years, Administrative Librarian for 25 years. Currently enjoying retirement and working as part time potter.
How has a degree in the arts and humanities contributed to your success?
My degree in Arts and Humanities has enriched my life and gave me a foundation to obtain a Master’s degree in Library Science. Art has always been an important part of my life and made me be a better Librarian and a more interesting person.
What advice would you offer current MSU and Arts & Letters students?
My advice to current students is to appreciate what you have at Michigan State while you are there. The beautiful campus, friendships that can last a lifetime and the education will change your life.


John Kajander

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Graduated: 1978
Major: English
Current Position: Strategic consultant: Life Sciences-Houston First Corporation
How has a degree in the arts and humanities contributed to your success?
I developed critical thinking and writing skills at CAL. I also exposed to different points of view and challenged. I learned to take advice and handle criticism in a constructive manner.
When you think back to your time at MSU, what was your proudest moment?
Being asked to join the CAL Alumni Board Advice to current students: Take the word's "can't" and "no" out of your vocabulary.
What advice would you offer current MSU and Arts & Letters students?
Be open to any future avenue. 


Whitney Miller

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Graduated: 1983
Major: History
Current Position: Archivist at MSU Archives and Historical Collections
How has a degree in the arts and humanities contributed to your success?
A degree in arts and humanities has meant everything to me and has been the primary driver to a successful career. I was a history major-- of course, this was when the History Department was part of CAL. This background allowed me to understand that history is not something in books, but that it provides a perspective for looking at and shaping the world today. I think that it is vital for a healthy society to understand its past and to learn from it. This is why I am an archivist (at MSU!) and have a career caring for historical documents and educating others how to use those items in today’s world.
What advice would you offer current MSU and Arts & Letters students?
Explore your options! Today, there are so many ways to use a humanities degree, so many unique ways that students can use their skills. While you are still in school, participate in as many kinds of internships, jobs, and volunteer opportunities that you can. Broaden your horizons and survey all the different ways that people are utilizing their CAL skills. Once you have found your passion, work as hard as you can (even if it is for free), to gain unique experience and to show off that passion.


Tom Mitchell

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Graduated: 1993
Major: German and International Studies
Current Position:
President at Messe Duesseldorf North America, which is the U.S. subsidiary of a large German exhibition and trade show organizer
When you think back to your time at MSU, what was your proudest moment?
Had several for sure, but what sticks out was being accepted for the summer semester overseas study program in Mayen, Germany. This was my first time overseas, and my time living and studying in Germany turned out to be critical for the career path I ended up in.
What advice would you offer current MSU and Arts & Letters students?
As much as your time and degree program allow, expose yourself to as many different classes and areas of study as possible. CAL students have the benefit of an amazing, well-rounded education, and the range of what you are able to learn and experience pays massive dividends later in life, no matter what type of work you end up in.


Jill Moore

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Graduated: 2006
Major: Professional Writing
Current Position: Software Engineer
How has a degree in the arts and humanities contributed to your success?
I credit my arts and humanities degree with unlocking my potential. The portable skills I developed as a CAL student have kept me nimble and primed for a career as a writer, editor, designer, experience architect, and now an engineer. 
 I owe much of this versatility to the innovations of the Professional Writing program. PW fostered my interest in technical communication and prepared me to adapt to evolving technologies. Understanding the influence of writing, design, and usability in the digital space has had the single greatest impact on my career.
 You won't be defined by an education in the arts and humanities, but rather empowered by the preparation, knowledge, and applicable experience it delivers. Life after CAL is only limited by how big you can dream.
What advice would you offer current MSU and Arts & Letters students?
Go to class. All of them. Study abroad. Explore. Push yourself. Make connections. Make mistakes. Grow from them. Be engaged. Give back. Feel proud to be a Spartan. And most of all, take time to appreciate and reflect on this exciting, transformative experience. Go Green!


Raina Regan

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Graduated: 2008
Major: Art History and Visual Culture
Current Position: Senior Manager of Easements, National Trust for Historic Preservation
How has a degree in the arts and humanities contributed to your success?
Initially, my Michigan State degree in the arts and humanities prepared me to be successful in graduate school. I transitioned directly from Michigan State to graduate school. A good foundation in writing and research was invaluable in my graduate-level education. I learned to love the process of discovery through my degree in the arts and humanities. Trying to research and discover the history of a building or place, which helps us understand the current condition, is a unique process that varies from place to place. I find joy in finding a historic photo of a building or uncovering hidden architectural features.
When you think back to your time at MSU, what was your proudest moment?
I participated in the Michigan State Study Abroad program in Rome, Italy the summer between my Junior and Senior years. The previous spring semester, I took the course Baroque Art in Italy. I developed an interest in the work of Baroque architects Guarino Guarini and Francesco Borromini with my final research paper. While I was in Italy, I visited buildings designed by both Guarini and Borromini. Visiting Borromini’s Sant’Ivo alla Sapienza in Rome was particularly exhilarating, as it was the first moment where I felt a real-life connection to my Art History coursework. I was able to explain to my study abroad classmates about the importance of the church and about Borromini’s geometric design. My passion for historic architecture grew as a result of my study abroad experience, reinforcing my pursuit of a career in historic preservation. What advice would you offer current MSU and Arts & Letters students?
Be an active participant in your classes. Developing my voice as a scholar provided a good foundation for graduate school and my professional career. You can build good relationships with your professors through leading by example in the classroom.


Rich Sternberg

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Graduated: 1965
Major: History
Current Position: Retired School Principal
How has a degree in the arts and humanities contributed to your success?
My degree in the arts and humanities very much contributed to my career, and perhaps more significantly, to my life, in a considerable number of ways. Perhaps best of all with the advantage of an "exploratory curriculum", I had tremendous latitude in the course offerings to which I was exposed, and in which I took full advantage. For example, while I was a history major, I was able to take three [quarters, not semesters in that era] writing courses, during my sophomore year to include expository, persuasive, and creative writing, and very significantly to my future plans, a course in public speaking. These were incredibly helpful in my growth as a communicator and leader. I was also able to take several courses in psychology, advertising, philosophy, and even in business. In combination, I was, in essence, exploring so many different curricular offerings so as to truly broaden my entire perspective on how our culture functions. This total encapsulation of coursework made me a better prepared leader for my career, initially as an American history teacher, for several years, and then as the principal of high schools and middle schools for 26 years.
How do you want to make an impact as a Board Member? What will be your legacy?
I yet believe that our Board membership should undertake the responsibility of communicating, very directly and personally, with all living scholarship recipients, who were graduated from the College of Arts and Letters, from its beginning origin. [Maybe 55-60 years ago.] My strong belief is that anyone who received scholarship moneys [not loans] of at least 25% of his/her tuition, room and board, related fees, etc. should candidly be approached and asked, “If it were not for that scholarship to attend MSU, would you have accomplished what you have, and arrived at your current station in life?" I practically dare anyone to suggest that this is an unfair question. Therefore, those recipients of such scholarship assistance should be asked if it is not unreasonable for each of them to now complete what I refer to as the "360 degree angle" by contributing to the needs of those, who much like themselves, so many years earlier could not secure an MSU education, without the same assistance. Each of these alumni were clearly so generously provided something so very special, which changed their lives for the better. So, my legacy will have been to place in existence an expectation and a pathway by which to generate scholarship moneys for future CAL students, who without same could not attend college.


Jill Vondrasek

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Graduated: 1992
Major: Studio Art
Current Position: Marketing and Communications Director, MSU College of Nursing
How has a degree in the arts and humanities contributed to your success?
A degree in the arts and humanities helped to develop my critical and visual thinking skills. This is the place where passion meets higher education. This is the place that launched my career and where I found like-minded individuals with similar interests. Dean Long recently wrote a piece about the history of the ampersand and I was salivating over the content; the history of this artistic mark and 27th letter of the alphabet. No other group in my circle can relate to why this is fascinating. The College of Arts & Letters is a home away from home.
What advice would you offer current MSU and Arts & Letters students?
I learned many lessons during my time as an undergrad. As a first generation college student everything was a challenge. You do not know what you do not know and my support system did not know how to help me navigate through this journey either. My message is for first generation students – you can and you will! Your mettle will be tested, but in the true spirit of a Spartan you have extraordinary ability to overcome any challenge put in front of you. If it was easy, everyone would do it. That is what makes earning that degree so rewarding.