Trailblazers Beyond the Tenure Track: Graduate Alum Stories & Profiles

In the Trailblazers Beyond the Tenure Track series, current Princeton graduate students interview graduate alums pursuing a range of careers beyond the tenure track. Collectively, these stories help you develop a vision of the journey ahead by exploring the experiences of trailblazers who have gone before you. 

Trailblazers Beyond the Tenure Track: Jay Xu *08 (ART)

"The museum really exists in the interface between academia and the general public. Everything we do is based on the best scholarship and often the curators’ job is to translate that scholarship into the most engaging, relevant, and appealing form for the general public. This translation carries the function of the museum beyond that of the research institute. It is an institution with a special emphasis on serving the public."

Trailblazers Beyond the Tenure Track: Ingeborg Rocker *10 (Art and Architecture)

"Years into being an industry executive, I do not think about a life “beyond or after academia,” I rather think these days about a life in conjunction with academia. At this point – given the worldwide challenges we are all facing, a strong collaborative innovation effort is needed to link  government, higher education, and industry. I often ask myself: how do we achieve collaboration across these different groups? And how do we do so in a way that is truly a circular economy, which would have a different set of values than just monetary success. Within this context, I strongly believe that PhDs coming out of Princeton are prepared to help create the change we need."

Trailblazers Beyond the Tenure Track: Maayan Dauber *15 (English)

"I wish I had been slightly more open to jobs beyond the academy earlier in my studies. Forming relationships outside of academia and learning about other careers is crucial to making the transition. There are so many resources now to help students with the transition from academia to the working world, and Princeton is a leader in this effort. Rely on the people who want to help there. Rely on the alumni network."

Trailblazers Beyond the Tenure Track: Jason McSheene, *15, (Molecular Biology)

"I earned my PhD from the Department of Molecular Biology in the field of developmental biology, which is the study of how an organism develops from an early embryo to an adult organism. I learned a lot about genetics and cell biology which brought me closer what I wanted to do – become a diabetes expert. Almost everyone in my family has diabetes, so I always wanted to learn how to treat it. I’ve just finished five years as Associate Medical Director at ApotheCom, and I am an elected member to the Board of Education in Hamilton Township, NJ."

Trailblazers Beyond the Tenure Track: Christopher Tokita, *21, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB)

“When I’ve tried to “network,” I felt like the expectation was to always explicitly try to get a benefit from it, such as a referral to an open position. I think that comes across as very awkward. Instead, I think what's helpful is if you connect with people to find out more about their career paths. That can be obviously beneficial in figuring out what career you want, but also, I found that a lot of times if you're just yourself, often the person wants to help you, and they will offer to do things that you weren't expecting or didn't ask for.”

Trailblazers Beyond the Tenure Track: Matthew Krumholtz, *15 (ENG)

“I followed a very traditional path up until that moment when I started an internship at a mission-driven organization. By taking that internship, I really was able to see all kinds of new avenues and directions for my research and the skills I had developed over time in graduate school. Once I stepped out and took this internship, I saw a window open onto new possibilities..."

Trailblazers Beyond the Tenure Track: Deborah Schlein *19 (NES)

"Here at Princeton we also have the University Administrative Fellowship (UAF) program. As I started getting interested in that program, I realized that I had interests in working in Special Collections because of my background in manuscript research...."

Trailblazers Beyond the Tenure Track: Ingrid Ockert *18 (HOS)

“Connect with other students within your cohort who are looking at life outside academy. Strategize with them. Once you’ve got your first year under your belt, mentor others who ask for advice, even if you don’t feel like an expert yet. Trust me, you know more than you think!”

Trailblazers Beyond the Tenure Track: Benjamin Sacks *18 (HIS)

"I’m currently an Associate Policy Researcher at the RAND Corporation and a Professor of Political Geography at Pardee RAND Graduate School. I completed my PhD in history from Princeton in 2018. My doctoral dissertation examined how the expanding early modern French state and its agents iteratively developed a set of standardized imperial urban planning practices and, in so doing, helped establish geography (within European empires, at least) as a form of state authority making..."

Trailblazers Beyond the Tenure Track: Julio Herrera Estrada *17 (CEE)
"I know that some people don’t like the term “networking” but, really, it’s just about talking to people and finding out what they do. As I found out by connecting with professionals at the World Bank, for example, reaching out beyond academia can also help inform your own research questions."
Trailblazers Beyond the Tenure Track: Colette Johnson *18 (ENG)
"Landing a job beyond the academy requires a whole skillset and you have to put in the work to get it. But it’s also very fulfilling - so think about it more in terms of two plan A’s! Take it seriously and talk to someone at the Graduate School as a great first step."
Trailblazers Beyond the Tenure Track: John Tully *12 (CLA)
"I deeply believe in capacity building and coaching is central to everything I do, just like in academia. My role was always empowering others to lead, that was the thing that made me excited. There is a massive similarity about training and graduate work, and that’s what inspires me now – the day-to-day coaching and mentoring of senior leaders to help implement their visions better."
Trailblazers Beyond the Tenure Track: Jamie Sherman *11 (ANT)

"One thing I would say is that informational interviews, talking to people whose jobs you think might be interesting, finding out more about what they actually do, and how they go about it are incredibly useful. I don’t think I could have gotten this job without that process."

Trailblazers Beyond the Tenure Track: Andrea Morris *99 (MOL)

" You can always pivot and look for ways to reinvigorate and reinvent your career. And I think that's been the biggest lesson I thought about post-tenure."

Trailblazers Beyond the Tenure Track: Igor Rubinov *19 (ANT)
"I think that it can be really helpful to translate what you've done for lay audiences – and often that's as simple as making your resume legible. You might need to change your elevator pitch or the way that you talk about it, but you also don't have to shy away from it. Your academic work is valuable beyond the academy, even if you’re no longer an academic."
Trailblazers Beyond the Tenure Track: Alana Ballantyne *13 (GER)
"My job is to take commercial problems and make decisions that turn them into something a creative person would find it interesting to work on. So, I take this real-world problem and then wade through data and consumer research to look at what’s going on and think about how best to position the product in the market."
Trailblazers Beyond the Tenure Track: Natalie Berkman *18 (FIT)

"The biggest advice I’d give is try not to put all your eggs in that one academic basket..."

Trailblazers Beyond the Tenure Track: Elena Peregrina-Salvador *15 (SPA)

"If you can finish your PhD at Princeton, you are more than capable of developing a new career trajectory even if it seems wildly different from what you specialized in at Grad School!"

Trailblazers Beyond the Tenure Track: Elaine Enriquez *15 (SOC)
"...Have hope and drive. It can and will happen. I have seen many people make the transition from the academy to industry, and I know you can make it, too."
Trailblazers Beyond the Tenure Track: Alicia Ejsmond-Frey *19 (CLA)

" is important to establish an actual network of people outside of academia who can help you. This is key and something that graduate students often neglect."