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Sharon Callahan

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’83 French Business | Retired Executive Manager, CIA | Washington, D.C.
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Sharon Callahan

Liberal Arts Major: French Business

Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA

Current Location: Washington, D.C.

What enrichment activities did you participate in as a student?

As part of my major, I studied abroad for seven months at the Institut Universitaire de Technologie (IUT) in Nice, France. Penn State created this program to give us an opportunity to study business concepts in French. Without this experience, I wouldn't have gotten my position with the federal government, which is always looking for graduates with foreign language and overseas experience.

What was your first job after graduating from Penn State?

My first job was an entry-level position with an import-export company, which gave me an opportunity to work in the international field. My second job with an international development firm did the same. It wasn't until my third position, with the federal government, that I really felt I had the opportunity for a career and continued learning and growth, and I have stayed thus far for more than thirty-four years.

What were your favorite classes?

My favorite classes were always foreign language—in addition to majoring in French, I also studied Spanish and Italian at Penn State.

How did your liberal arts education and skills prepare you for life after graduation?

As I mentioned above, without the opportunity to study foreign language, study abroad, and participate in related activities, I would not have been able to get started in my profession. I also believe that related skills, such as being able to analyze, write and brief, are critical in professional life.

What networking advice would you share with current students?

I would encourage students to reach out and network, even if you find it difficult. There are so many people who really want to share their experience with you. If they don't know the answer or have the experience you want to talk about, they can often put you in touch with someone who does. Penn State's huge alumni network is everywhere—take advantage of it!

What role have mentors played in your career progression?

Mentors, both informal and formal, have had a significant effect on my career and have enabled me to pursue opportunities I might not otherwise have had.

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