Shawnia Yon ’24

Shawnia Yon ’24 interns at Christie’s after her first year.

Shanwnia YonAn experienced dancer, Shawnia Yon ’24 firmly believes that you find what you love by experiencing it firsthand. And since career prep at Conn starts on day one, she’ll have many opportunities to hone her interests and plan for a fulfilling future.

After just one year at Conn, Yon, a dance and self-designed business double major and finance minor, interned at Christie’s international auction house in the trust, estates and appraisals department. There, she helped organize and manage appraisal projects for a variety of purposes, including estate planning and charitable donations. She also completed a final project which included pitching a marketing and sales plan for an individual work of art to a top client.

“Christie’s provided me with an amazing opportunity to experience what it’s like to work in a corporate setting,” Yon said.

“Through this internship, I became a stronger negotiator, problem-solver and relationship builder. The transferable skills—in particular, relationship management—align with my career goals and will make me a resourceful team member who can excel in any company I chose to work with and/or start.”

Yon, who this year joined the Entrepreneurship, Social Innovation, Value and Change Pathway, credits the Hale Center for Career Preparation with readying her for the internship, helping her explore opportunities and providing guidance on specifics, like creating a professional LinkedIn profile.

She has also learned the value of networking.

“I am thankful for the Conn alumni I have networked with who have helped me grow as a student and a professional,” she said.

Yon is currently exploring opportunities for her next internship, which she hopes will be in the marketing department for an entertainment or sports company. After graduation, she plans to dance professionally and pursue a career in marketing.

“Through marketing, I hope to combine my love for creativity and the arts,” she said.

 

Kayla Austin ’22

An aspiring conservation biologist restores habitats in the Caribbean and in the Thames

Kayla Austin

 

As a teenager growing up in the coastal town of Ventura, Calif., Kayla Austin ’22 saw the damage invasive species can do to aquatic ecosystems. She got involved with a local removal and relocation project, then interned with an organization that monitors oceanic bacteria levels near wastewater drains in local communities.

As a first-year student at Conn, Austin decided to follow her burgeoning passion for conservation biology. She took courses with George & Carol Milne Assistant Professor of Biology Maria Rosa, who specializes in marine biology and ecology, and was soon working with Rosa to conduct research on marine ecosystem restoration.

That work has now stretched from the shores of the Thames River on campus to the mangrove forests of the British Virgin Islands (BVI).

This past summer, Austin, a Biology major with a concentration in ecology and an environmental studies minor, was one of 19 students selected as a Bessel Fellow. The program, made possible by a generous bequest from Diane Bessel ’59, is designed to bring awareness to the social, environmental and economic causes and impacts of global challenges and support students as they consider holistically sustainable solutions to these challenges.

As part of the fellowship, Austin traveled with Rosa to Tortola, BVI, to work with the Unite BVI Foundation on a project to restore the mangrove habitats destroyed during Hurricanes Maria and Irma.

“While on the island, summer interns were able to attend workshops and meetings with other scientists and organizations working on sustainability, including coral restoration, food security and sustainable agriculture on the island, and energy sustainability in the Caribbean,” Austin said.

On campus, Austin is working with Rosa on a project to build an artificial reef that will restore Conn’s riverfront into a sustainable aquatic habitat and living laboratory. Rosa received a $10,000 grant from Kenny Chesney’s No Shoes Reefs to partner with the Reef Ball Foundation to pilot a reef ball program in the Thames near the new docks.

After she graduates this spring, Austin plans to pursue a doctorate in marine conservation biology, focusing on coral reef ecology and invertebrate resiliency in the wake of climate change. She hopes to eventually become a professor and conduct research at a university or lead a conservation team at an aquarium or other foundation.

Rand Suffolk ’90

Connecting the Atlanta community with art

Rand Suffolk

As the director of the High Museum of Art, Rand Suffolk ’90 has transformed the Atlanta landmark into a stunning example of how art museums can truly reflect their communities, striking the delicate balance between progress and preservation.

“I see my role as that of the museum’s chief diversity officer, with four main pillars that inform everything we do: growth, inclusivity, collaboration and connectivity,” he explained. “I think the key for me was to change the museum from within and challenge the exclusivity that is typically associated with art and museum patronage.”

Suffolk first fell in love with art as a high school student in Rome, Italy, where his father was offered a job when Suffolk was 15. At Conn, he immersed himself in English courses and art history, then earned a master’s degree in art history from Bryn Mawr College.

Suffolk’s big break came when he was hired by the Hyde Collection, a hidden gem of an art museum in upstate New York, where he quickly worked his way up to director. After seven years at the Hyde, Suffolk caught the attention of the Philbrook Museum of Art, in Tulsa, Okla., and was recruited to serve as its director and CEO. In 2015, he accepted the director position at the High, arguably the most prominent institution of its kind in the southeast.

“For me, a big part of the attraction to this job is focusing on accessibility and creating new gateways for people to connect with their museum,” Suffolk said, emphasizing that the museum belongs to everybody in the city, not just to art collectors and the philanthropic class.

Suffolk and his team engage the city’s full spectrum of residents—regardless of age, ethnicity, sexual orientation or socioeconomic backgrounds—in ways that the High traditionally hasn’t been willing or able to use.

Since Suffolk took over, more than 60 percent of the museum’s exhibitions have highlighted or focused on artists of color, gay artists or women artists. And he is determined to continue that momentum.

“Every day, we come to work and ask ourselves, ‘What are we going to do to change Atlanta?’” Suffolk said. “‘What does it mean to be the place where all of Atlanta feels comfortable coming together? Where the richest of the rich can be with the poorest of the poor?’ Everybody from the LGBTQ rainbow can hang out with everybody from the ethnicity rainbow. Every day we work at being that place.”

Ethan Brown ’94

Ethan Brown ’94 is the founder, president and CEO of Beyond Meat

Ethan Brown

Ethan Brown is disrupting the food industry. In 2009, Brown founded Beyond Meat, a company singularly focused on providing plant-based options that taste like actual beef, pork and poultry in order to positively affect the planet, the environment, the climate and our own personal health by reducing our reliance on animal proteins.

So far, Beyond Meat has been an enormous success: The company’s valuation stands at about $8.75 billion.

Brown, one of the newest members of the Connecticut College Board of Trustees, majored in government and history while competing on the men’s basketball team and serving as publisher of the Connecticut College Review. He went on to earn a master of business administration degree at Columbia and a master of public policy degree at the University of Maryland.

“This combination of history, policy, business, journalism and competitive sports would prove to be a formidable foundation for his future career,” President Katherine Bergeron wrote in a letter announcing Brown’s selection as the keynote speaker at the College’s 103rd Commencement, held on May 23, 2021.

“So much of what I work on today I was able to explore here, given the school’s unwavering belief in a broad and deep liberal arts education,” Brown said during his keynote address.

Alexandra Felfle ’10

Alexandra Felfle ’10 builds a pipeline for Conn finance grads

A double major in economics and international relations at Conn, Alexandra Felfle was hired as an analyst in Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group’s (MUFG) Latin America corporate investment banking division and was quickly promoted to associate. Since she joined the bank, it has become the leading lender in Latin America, and—in terms of assets—one of the five largest banks in the world.

When a new internship program launched at MUFG, Felfle made it her mission to include Conn as a target school, and now is working to expand the Conn alumni network within the bank.

Since the program’s inception in 2016, Conn alumni have secured internships and employment at MUFG — consistently beating out candidates from the world’s most prestigious universities.

Felfle cites Conn students’ understanding of cultural nuance and ability to view problems from multiple perspectives as instrumental to success in a multinational bank.

In other words, Conn students are people capable of bringing multi-disciplinary perspectives to the workplace. In other words, they defy boundaries.

 While the MUFG pipeline is firmly in place, Felfle is now the VP of Global Corporate Banking at JP Morgan Chase, opening up even more opportunities for Conn students. 

Career Preparation