Former students share real world perspective

Brittany Ballantyne

Social Media Director


Keene State College Alumni members shared their tricks of the trade and personal experiences with Technology, Design, and Safety majors to show current students that the key to success lies in their own hands. Alumni spoke at Architecture, Safety, and Stainability, Product, Design Innovation panels in the TDS Center on Friday, Oct. 12.

Lara Cole, a 2007 safety graduate who now works as a health and safety advisor with the New Hampshire Local Government Center, said, “Never turn down an opportunity. Take as many opportunities as you can to broaden the scope of your knowledge and experience.”

Many of the alumni agreed that getting involved in your major both in and outside of the classroom yields accomplishments.

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“Get your hands dirty first,” Nate Mallard, a 2009 architecture graduate, said. Mallard is now an energy specialist working in a conservationist group.

Almost every panelist in each of the three panels said they pursued internships.

Cole, like many of the other panelists, said these opportunities provided them with real on-the-job experience. “Don’t underestimate the values of your internships,” she said.

Kyle Ackerman, an architecture major who graduated last May, said, “Keep studying and make sure that you diversify your learning in your fields.”

Ackerman now does design and draft work for Bone and Architects Associates.

Many panelists agreed that KSC helped to prepare them for life after college by having such a diverse TDS program.   “We get a little bit of everything and that’s incredibly helpful when you get out in the field, you need to know a little bit about everything,” Cole said.

Panelists advised students to take their majors and classes seriously and suggested they stay in to do some work instead of rushing to go out on a Thursday night.

Ackerman said, “The most valuable thing that I’ve learned is to keep learning, keep reading up and developing your skills even after you get out of school.”

Senior Matt Shinske, a safety major, said he learned that not everyone sticks with the first job they get after college because there are different areas in the safety field to choose from.

“Once you get out there, you’ll be able to find out what you really want,” Shinske said after listening to various panelists talk about their jobs they picked up shortly after leaving KSC.

“It’s kind of like a relief to say okay, as long as you stick with it, you’ll be able to find something regardless of when you get it,” he continued regarding finding a job after he graduates.

Upon entering the job force, a majority of alumni speakers said the courses they took at KSC and the professors who taught them prepared them well.  Mallard expressed the way he felt when he first began working and said, “You’re locked in, you already know what they’re going to teach you in training so you’re just like, alright, you’re already ahead of the game and then your boss already likes you.”

Ethan Lippit, another architecture graduate from 2009, said one of his professors taught him a skill he thought he would never use: hand-drafting.

Lippit pointed out how valuable the skill became once he started his job. He is now a senior quality and quality assurance patrol inspector.

Schniske commented, “For kids in college, they [students] don’t really know what’s going to happen after they’re done,” but having the panelists speak helped guide current students to a promising career path.

“What we know is that our alums are probably our most valuable resource to the campus,”  Kay MacLean, assistant director of Alumni and Parent Relations, said. She continued, “When you think about all those alums that have preceded the current students and have worked in all of those professions, they have a wealth of information that they can share so we’re working hard to make that happen.”

Clinical Faculty Instructor for Technology, Design, and Safety, Jaime Ingalls said, “It’s a pleasure to be involved with this (panel). It shows them just how different the program is and has changed which is great, because safety changes, so it shows that the program is continuously updated and right now we’re trying to teach them this concept of continued improvement in safety and that all these people are trying to improve and change.”

MacLean explained that programs are molded and said, “These are the people that are working out in the industry, so they’ve always been a sounding board for the program. It’s more just seeing a cross-section of how those programs have aged and what the demands are. They still understand what the needs are out in the industry, what the industry’s looking for.” Shinske said he was “glad to see that the education that we’re [students] getting could really be put towards the future for us.”

MacLean said she had no trouble getting alumni panelists for the event because graduates are generally supportive of the programs they once studied and even had what she called an “outpouring” of alumni reach out for the event.

Ingalls said the program was what she considered a family that belongs together and networks together. “We have a common bond and it doesn’t matter what year you graduate, we still belong together. We’re still safety,” she said.  Ingalls continued, “Even though the program changes, the quality of the people is still great.”


                Brittany Ballantyne can be contacted at








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