One man and two women speak outdoors at microphones
By Roanoke College News

PLACE alumni panel offers tips, connections for students and alumni

Three recent alumni helped Roanoke College’s new center for Purpose, Life and Career Exploration (PLACE) open in style during Alumni Weekend. 

Dr. Tyler Barnes ‘14, Hannah Curtis ‘15 and William Pratt ‘18 spoke to a group of students, alumni, staff, faculty and community members on April 22 as part of an open house for PLACE. PLACE is an updated version of Career Services, adopting a series of best practices for connecting students with high-value careers and identifying one’s purpose in life. 

Chris Turnbull ‘00, senior director of corporate communications and operational continuity at Carilion Clinic in Roanoke, moderated the discussion. The panelists spoke about their experiences at Roanoke, networking, staying flexible as their career paths evolved, finding mentors, becoming mentors and more.  

Barnes, who is currently an emergency veterinarian in Northern Virginia, majored in biology at Roanoke and was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Alpha Sigma Alpha. She later earned her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Cornell University. Barnes came to Roanoke wanting to become a veterinarian, but her path within the veterinary world has changed a few times. She urged college-age attendees to explore a few different options while they’re in college. 

“You might find a hobby, you might meet new people, you might meet someone that could help you along the way with your career later,” Barnes said. “Take advantage of all these opportunities while you're in college, because you have the time and the freedom to do that.” 

Curtis was a communications studies major at Roanoke in addition to running for the track and cross country teams. She joined the media relations team at Carilion Clinic in Roanoke. She then earned her Master of Healthcare Administration degree from Radford University. She now works as a media relations consultant for Carilion Clinic, and was recently named to The Roanoker Magazine’s “40 Under 40” list. 

One piece of advice Curtis gave was to prepare for job interviews by having anecdotes and examples ready for questions about strengths, weaknesses, triumphs and challenges. 

“What I wish I had done was make note of those stories throughout my time, whether it was my time on cross country and track or with comms or with the Honors Program, whatever it may have been,” Curtis said. “Being able to log those and reflect back on them and see the growth over time as well, is a great way to build your own version of a portfolio that will be ready-made for interviews. So build your stories.” 

That’s exactly what students will do through PLACE. Starting as freshmen, students will develop their personal narrative through writing prompts and discussions with career coaches. 

“One of the nice parts about getting an education in an environment like Roanoke College is you're constantly pushed to ask questions about where you're going and what you're doing. There's not an endpoint to that. My purpose has certainly shifted over the years.”

Chris Turnbull '00

Pratt majored in economics and now works in wealth management at Morgan Stanley in Salem, Virginia. While he was a student, he completed two internships and was ultimately hired by his Maroon Mentor. The Maroon Mentor program connects alumni to current students through one-on-one advising, visits to campus, keeping students informed of job opportunities and more. 

Pratt encouraged students to relentlessly pursue their interests while they’re in school, and he had one very specific bit of networking advice. 

“Once you meet someone in a networking environment, a potential mentor, send a handwritten note,” Pratt said. “It's the biggest thing. It has led to so many new clients, it has led to new mentors, relationships, etcetera. …that's something tangible they can hold on to. They have to open it, they have to read it.” 

Jonathan Lee ‘95, Roanoke College’s director of alumni engagement and student enrichment, said PLACE is not just a resource for current students. Alumni are always welcome to reach out for advice, networking resources and more. Turnbull pointed out that pursuing one’s purpose might begin at Roanoke, but it doesn’t end there. 

“One of the nice parts about getting an education in an environment like Roanoke College is you're constantly pushed to ask questions about where you're going and what you're doing,” Turnbull said. “There's not an endpoint to that. My purpose has certainly shifted over the years.” 

During the PLACE open house, students and alumni entered a drawing for a $250 Apple gift card. Sarah Hadded ‘22 was the student winner and Michelle Austin ‘93 was the alumni winner. 

Students interested in getting involved with PLACE can learn more here. They can set up an appointment via Handshake here. PLACE will post updates and events on its Instagram page here.