Graduate Alum-in-Residence Natalie Berkman *18 (FIT) Connects with Grad Students, GradFUTURES, and Princeton at Large During Three Day Residency

Aug. 15, 2023

Graduate Alum Natalie Berkman earned a PhD in French and Italian in 2018, and returned to campus to connect with Grad Students and the GradFUTURES team during a three day stint as a Graduate Alum-in-Residence. 

Natalie Berkman *18 (Ph.D. in French and Italian) flew across the Atlantic to spend three packed days embedded at Princeton as the fourth Graduate Alum-in-Residence. Berkman is currently an Instructional Design Manager at ESSEC Business School in Paris, where among other duties, she leads a team composed of instructional designers and production professionals who develop engaging and effective digital learning experiences for ESSEC's diverse student and faculty community.

After a breakfast with the GradFUTURES team on August 1st, Natalie began her first day on campus meeting with graduate students 1:1 during office hours held in Clio Hall. (Over the course of the three days, Natalie met with 10+ graduate students from departments that included Spanish and Portuguese, Economics, History, Music, Philosophy, French and Italian, and English.) In part, some of her conversations touched on instructional design as a compelling career option across fields.

“Like many Ph.D. candidates, I absolutely loved teaching — and especially to adult learners,” Berkman says. "Instructional design has allowed me to take all of the pedagogical training and experience I acquired during my Ph.D. and translate it into a new context, helping others teach better through designing instructional materials, implementing technology in the classroom, or even helping to create entirely asynchronous, eLearning experiences. This field combines so many of the skills we cultivate during the Ph.D.: project management, research, teaching, even storytelling!" 

Natalie Berkman LinkedIn Post

After lunch with a recent participant in the Community College Teaching Fellowship Program, Natalie met with Hellen Wainaina (GS, English, and Executive Producer of the GradFUTURES Podcast) to record a podcast episode which will be available in September.

Natalie Berkman and Hellen Wainaina

Hellen Wainaina (GS, ENG) interviews Natalie Berkman *18 for the GradFUTURES Podcast. Photo: James M. Van Wyck

The following day included a slate of office hours appointments with graduate students, after which Natalie was an active and engaged participant during a luncheon presentation that featured campus partners from across the University. 

During the third and final day, Natalie gave a presentation entitled "Publishing Off the Tenure Track," in which she outlined the ways she remains engaged in the production and circulation of research, with peer-reviewed articles, book chapters, and a monograph, OuLiPo and the Mathematics of Literature (Peter Lang, 2022). Natalie shared a compelling vision for how to foster publishing beyond academia with GradFUTURES partners, including representatives from the Modern Language Association and Princeton University Press.

Reflecting on this three-day residency, Berkman highlights the power of fostering connections between graduate alumni and current graduate students. "The fact that this program puts alumni in one-to-one contact with current graduate students is such a strength! I remember when I was in the late stages of my degree, I would scour placement pages to see what types of careers others before me had found, but this information was often incomplete or discouraging,” she says. "It was through speaking with Ph.D.s off the tenure track that I was able to conceive of new career possibilities. I’m so grateful to the GradFUTURES team for creating such a robust network and for giving alumni like me a voice to tell current students that they can find fulfilling careers off the tenure track!" 

Berkman encourages current graduate students to take advantage of that network both now and as they engage their furure(s).

"Reflecting on my own career path, I’m one of the surprising few who has gotten every opportunity from cold sending a resume to a job ad,” she reflects. "That said, my employers have recognized the value that I bring to organizations as a Princeton PhD, even abroad. Thanks to GradFUTURES, the alumni network is becoming more and more visible, and I’m able to envision even more opportunities while also sharing my story with current students." 

About the Graduate Alum-in-Residence Program

GradFUTURES emphasizes the profound impact of graduate-alum engagement as part of its five pillar approach to graduate professional development. A valuable resource during graduate school, these opportunities to engage can also inspire lifelong personal and professional networks. In keeping with the many ways in which Princeton alums have added depth and dimension across GradFUTURES programming, our alum-in-residence volunteers expand the role of alum mentors on campus.

Current graduate students are invited to speak with graduate alums working in a variety of roles across the academic, government, nonprofit, and private sectors during 30-minute, 1:1 consultations. Engaging with individuals across industries, each of whom took a unique path to defining their future(s), you are empowered to consider your own. Use this time to discuss your evolving interests and professional development goals, receive advice and referrals, and gain insight into career pathways.