AP NEWS

Charting paths beyond Bascom Hill

May 6, 2019

A few years ago, Alexis Handley was translating Latin on Bascom Hill.

Today, she’s helping medical researchers save lives using artificial intelligence.

Her path from ancient texts to modern miracles wasn’t an accident. Handley credits her decision to double major in classical humanities and biology with landing her dream job as a data analyst at Tempus, a Fortune 500 biotech firm.

“Whether through translation work, studying ancient history or philosophy, my courses taught me to be a rigorous, analytic thinker,” she says.

Handley’s degree helped her develop the critical thinking, communication and leadership skills sought by the top employers in Wisconsin and the country.

Yet we know that a college degree is no longer enough to break into your first job.

A major doesn’t always lead to a narrow career path, so students need to explore career opportunities and try them out; they need internships and leadership opportunities; and they need a network of professionals to support and open doors for them.

Employers like to hire graduates who can hit the ground running. That’s why we launched SuccessWorks at the College of Letters & Science, a center for personal and professional development, where career preparation is an integral part of our students’ experience from their first year.

As Handley sought ways to put her biology and classical humanities majors to work, she connected with a SuccessWorks adviser, who gave her job search and interview strategies that led to her first full-time position.

While participating in our “Taking Initiative” career development course, sophomore English major Christina Stiff realized the combination of her love of writing and computer coding formed the foundation of a future beyond UW-Madison.

“Creative thinking is a key to success for both writing and coding,” she says. Today, Stiff puts her skills to use at

Verona-based Epic as a liaison between tech teams and the company’s clients.

“Technical know-how can be learned,” she says. “Being an effective communicator takes practice, and there’s no better practice than a degree in the humanities.”

Tara Martino, talent recruiter at Epic, told us why the electronic medical records company loves hiring L&S students. “We put a history major, a computer science major, and a psychology major in the same room, and the problem solving is magical,” she says.

I love telling current students about the paths Handley and Stiff took to career success. At SuccessWorks, we’re in the business of helping to spark our students’ imaginations for what’s possible and to plan their bright futures.

Asked why she chose to study both classical humanities and biology, Handley says: “A person’s education should reflect the complexity and diversity we find in the world at large. That’s true even if you think you know exactly what you want to do with the rest of your life.”

This approach is what sets the College of Letters & Science apart, and what helps ensure our students are prepared for a rapidly changing, innovating workforce.