Where are they now? Communication and Music alumni check in

From Southern California to Indiana, we are checking in with SOAC alumni from the 2011-2012 academic year who share their life experiences and advice. Below, see what Jason Saunders ’11 (Music) and Alex Peterson ’12 (Communication) have put their PLU education to in the last year. To check in on Art and Theatre alumni, see the March issue of SOACtivities. 

Jason Saunders ’11

saunders.jpgDegree: BFA Music Education with Secondary Choral emphasis

What clubs, orgs, musical groups etc. were you involved in? “As a choral student, I sang in the University Chorale for a year, Choir of the West for three years, and the Men’s Chorus for two. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to serve as assistant conductor of the Men’s Chorus, and had a chance to guest conduct Choir of the West as well. I also helped found the PLU American Choral Directors Association student chapter, and served as the first president for that club. Outside of the music department, I was involved with Student Media—I was co-editor for Saxifrage 36, and worked as a web and design editor for the Mast during the 2010-2011 school year.”

Where are you now? “After graduating from PLU, I worked as a substitute teacher in the Bethel School District during Spring 2012, where I frequently subbed for music teachers. I am now attending the University of Southern California and pursuing a master’s degree in Choral Music.”

What is the most valuable thing you learned from PLU?  “PLU taught me the value of critically examining and deconstructing what I see, hear, and do. My courses at PLU engendered in me a desire to discover and acknowledge the true essence of things, which has helped me become a stronger academic, a more efficient and expressive musician, and a person of integrity.”

What is a skill that you learned at PLU that has transferred to your “real world” work? “PLU provided me many opportunities to hone my craft in choral conducting in front of real ensembles—an experience afforded to few undergraduate music majors. The knowledge I gained from this has proven invaluable during my graduate studies in choral music.”

What is one piece of advice you would give graduating SOAC students about the future? “Make opportunities for yourself, at PLU and afterward. Being assertive about what you want can often open the door to experiences you might not otherwise have.”


Alex Peterson ’12

petersonDegree: BAC: Public Relations & Advertising

What clubs, orgs, musical groups etc. were you involved in? “University Chorale – (three years), University Symphony Orchestra – Cellist, (one year, Hinderlie Residence Hall Council – President/VP for (two and a half years), ASPLU – Impact Business Director – (one year), Student Philanthropy Committee/Grad Gift – (one year), Student Conduct Review Board – Chair (one year), University Tobacco Free Committee, University Admissions and Retention Committee, Student Orientation Coordinator.”

Where are you now? “I am currently working on my Master’s Degree in Student Affairs in Higher Education (college administration) at Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) in Indiana, PA. On admittance to my program I was also offered an assistantship as an Assistant Residence Director with IUP’s Office of Residential Living, Housing, and Dining. I work at IUP’s Punxsutawney campus of 300 students. IUP Punxsutawney is a unique learning experience not only because of its size, but because it is focused on enhancing the experience of our students who are predominately academically-at-risk first-years – there are no upperclassmen. I serve on four departmental committees and will chair the Graduate Student Selection, Retention, and Development committee starting this summer. Next year I will work at the Indiana campus in a single residence hall with twice the number of residents then the entire Punxsutawney campus population. To round out my education, next year I will also do a practicum in student activities and student conduct in the fall and spring, respectively.”

What is the most valuable thing you learned from PLU? “The concept of ‘I vs. we’ thinking as it impacts all group interactions and work.

Between participating in organizations, hanging out with friends, and having class projects – PLU students work with many different groups of students. How you approach those interactions heavily impacts the quality of both the interaction and the final product. People often get stuck in ‘I’ thinking, considering solely one’s personal needs, wants, roles, and opinions. When we work in groups, this mentality can drive a wedge between group members and slow the work process, as people only care about what ‘I’ must do or what ‘I’ want to happen. The ‘we’ mentality takes the personal (I) wants/needs out of the equation. The question becomes, what do ‘we’ need. With this focus, team members work more cohesively towards common group values and goals. Individuals may not get to do what they want, but the work/role they play in the group process will always contribute to a better product/result.

It is hard to hold back the personal needs or desires, but by asking ‘we’ focused questions people can start to shift their thinking and as a result will reach greater results than they could with ‘I’ thinking or working alone.”

What is a skill that you learned at PLU that has transferred to your “real world” work? “Two skills that have transferred to the “real world” is managing an image and persistence. In public relations we learn a lot about what we can do to represent an image of a client or organization – but the reality is that a lot of what we talk about can be applied to ourselves. Our behaviors, interactions with people, and the way we are seen impacts our personal image. We have to weigh who are the important stake holders, apologize when we make mistakes, and make sure that we are living out how we want to be branded – as others will brand us and give us an identity if we don’t care for it. It is not an easy task, as image management is a skill that is developed as we travel on thin ice, make mistakes, and hit walls of failure. For this, persistence is necessary. You have to be get back on your feet, fix what is broken, and learn to move past what would otherwise hold you back. I know I am not perfect at managing my image, but because I have learned to become more persistent – I know I can improve, learn, and grow in whatever I do.”

What is one piece of advice you would give graduating SOAC students about the future? “Don’t panic! Graduating from SOAC means that you have been working on not only a degree, but concrete knowledge and skills that will transfer right into the work you will do as a professional – regardless of the field. Be it professionally writing, managing a classroom full of music students, or understanding the importance of white space and using a grid – you can apply your knowledge and skills to any job anywhere. The important thing is that you have an open mind. Having an open mind will allow you to readjust your knowledge and skills so that you can apply them to new contexts you were not taught to apply them to.”