Professional Women's Alliance (Video)

Penn Arts and Sciences alumnae create a network of women to support undergraduate students and recent College graduates.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

By Erinn Carey

Video by Alex Schein 

The Penn Arts and Sciences Professional Women’s Alliance (PWA) connects professionally accomplished College alumnae, united by their deep appreciation and understanding of the value of a liberal arts education as it relates to the workplace, with students and young alumnae of the College. PWA hosts programs in New York City and on campus to facilitate networking, mentorship, career exploration, professional development, and intellectual engagement.


Jamie Handwerker, C’83, PAR’19, a partner at KSH Capital, a real estate private equity firm, has chaired PWA since its launch. She thinks that the wide-ranging careers PWA members have pursued is one of the group’s greatest strengths. “Our paths vary, but what we share is this deep appreciation and understanding of the value of a liberal arts education as it relates to the workplace and a commitment to being a resource, sharing advice, and creating professional development and networking opportunities for students and young alumnae of the College.” 

Earlier this year, the group hosted an event at HBO in New York City featuring a panel of College alumnae called Navigating the Career Labyrinth. Panelists spoke about how they navigated their career paths and shared advice on topics including taking smart risks, getting over the fear of failure, marketing skills across industries, and negotiating with confidence. On campus, PWA partners with Career Services and Women in Leadership Series, a student group, to host a career roundtable event. Using a small group, speed-mentoring format, College alumnae from different industries lead discussions to help students learn about the wide variety of career paths possible with a liberal arts education. This event has become a favorite among students.

Evangeline Giannopoulos, C’18, says the advice she’s received and connections she’s made through the events have played a big part in her career development. “It is honestly one of the most valuable events I’ve attended at Penn,” she explains. “Because the roundtable groups are small, students get to know the alumnae well enough to feel comfortable reaching out to them after the event to grow the relationship further.” 

Sola Park, C’17, SPP'18, found that connections with PWA members last well after an event ends. She was able to participate in a stock pitch competition thanks to a PWA member. “At a place like Penn where it’s pre-professional, I think it’s really great that PWA exists—it’s important to have a network that understands the practical application of a liberal arts education in the workplace and can connect students in the College with opportunities to learn and actually experience different career possibilities.”  

Alisha Chowdhury, C’18 who also participated explained, “I learned how to work on a valuation which was challenging at first, as I don't have much of a finance or accounting background. The experience motivated me to learn aspects of finance and valuation metrics, and gave me a better understanding of what key things investors look for in securities. All of these skills are now being used in my current internship.”

“I set up a call with one of the members and her advice was so helpful—she even edited my resume for me,” Giannopoulos continues. “Another member helped me think through the best way to maximize my summer. I was debating whether to go back to be a camp counselor again or pursue an internship. Her advice had a big impact. I ended up pursuing an internship, while still dedicating some time to work at camp.” 

Handwerker says that the PWA members came together to support students and young alumnae, but have found other unexpected perks. “We’ve built relationships with one another, and that is a benefit that we hadn’t even thought of originally. A byproduct of working together is that we found each other, and that has made it so much fun.” 

Giannopoulos predicts that PWA’s efforts will have lasting impact. “We see the PWA members as role models—not only are they successful professionally, but you can just tell that they genuinely care and want to help. It’s really admirable what they’re doing and I hope that in the future I can play a similar role.”