Alumni panelists share their experiences with adversity

Career Education sponsored an alumni panel dedicated to hear about the experiences of alumni with adversity throughout their career on Friday, Sept. 23. The event also provided lunch for the first 100 attendees.

The event — hosted in Schultz Banquet Hall — covered various issues having to do with race, gender, discrimination and hardships alumni have experienced in the workplace, and how they overcame them. Partner and Chief Diversity Officer at Ulmer and Berne Timothy Downing, ’85, served as moderator for the panel.

The panelists present were VIP Business Development at Data Ideology and business owner at Semper Gratus Ian Coyle, ’08; Director of Jewish Enrichment at BBYO Rachel Dingman, ’08; Associative Director of National Technical Assistance at Community Progress Liz Kozub, ’10; Psychiatrist Dr. Trever York, ’11; and VP Customer Management at The Craneware Group Naveed Ismail, ’12. 

York spoke about the struggles he faced in medical school as a black man. In his years at Allegheny, York was surrounded with support he previously never had in his hometown in New Hampshire, however his experience in medical school came with many realizations about the medical field. 

“Having my patients say that they never had a black doctor before and not being believed or trusted with certain things was really tough through medical school,” York said. “The pipeline for people of color and African Americans going from high school, to college, to medical school, to residency to a board certified physician is very leaky and we have a long way to go.” 

Downing independently conducted research on unconscious bias and found that 42% of people believe men make better leaders. Downing brought his findings up to the panelists, specifically the women.

Kozub shared the struggles she faced as a woman in the workplace where she was underestimated and undermined despite having played a bigger role in preparing an Environmental Protection Agency grant. 

“I was doing a lot of the back work to prepare for that grant and going into that meeting, there was a conversation with a colleague who believed the information would be better received from a male colleague,” Kozub said. “When I was really early on in my career I would just shut up and do what I was told.” 

According to Kozub, a way she has overcome some of the bias against women in her current field of code enforcement is by having allies among her male colleagues. 

“I really appreciate their support,” Kozub said. “Having conversations with my male colleagues about how these situations affect me has allowed me to lean on them to advocate for me to be included in conversations where I might be left out.” 

Students attending the panel had positive experiences with hearing how panelists were able to overcome challenges in the workplace. 

Jess Bickart, ’26, shared her impression of the panel and what she got from listening to a diverse range of experiences. 

“I think it is interesting to learn about how they overcome difficulties and their paths,” Bickart said. “As a woman there is like the glass ceiling in the workforce where our society right now kind of favors males in a lot of jobs. It is inspiring to hear that everyone can overcome things too.” 

Panelists had advice for students about how they can continue to move past adversity and continue to have the motivation to challenge themselves. 

Coyle shared how he was able to wear many different hats despite financial adversity. He emphasized the importance of building relationships with peers and faculty while at Allegheny. 

“I think life is about building relationships and a lot of times you have to play the human element in building these relationships,” Coyle said. “If someone is going to present you with an opportunity you have to take advantage of that. I think that there is so much adversity through life and it is just a matter of how you want to face that, how you want to be and how you want to be known.”

Kozub expressed that she hopes this panel will show that there are different opportunities through different types of avenues. 

“I always enjoy coming back to talk about my personal career growth and personal growth because when I was at Allegheny others did that for me too,” Kozub said.