Written by Grace Schrobilgen as part of the series of event coverage for Liberal Arts Week.
From October 23-October 27, Liberal Arts Council celebrated Liberal Arts Week by putting on events to emphasize the importance of the liberal arts and highlight their relevance to current affairs, careers, nonprofits, and daily life. Thursday’s event, “Espresso with Experts,” allowed students the opportunity to interact with working professionals whose careers are interesting, engaging, and intersect with the liberal arts. These experts included Eileen Flynn, Jeffrey Dickerson, Kevin Robbins, and Daniel Zarazua. I had the opportunity to speak with Flynn and Zarazua.
Eileen Flynn is a journalist who focuses on religion. A former writer for the Austin American-Statesman, she currently teaches at UT and St. Edwards and does freelance writing for various publications. While discussing her career in journalism, she emphasized the importance of having a topic of specialty, as this helps you gain credibility.
As to whether she thinks journalists should stand up for themselves as the validity of various news outlets is questioned, she surprised us by saying that she does not.
She said that instead of drawing more attention to the situation, journalists should simply continue to compose valid, credible work in the hope that people will choose to believe them.
When asked what the hardest part of her job as a journalist was, Flynn said that it was, without a doubt, the daily grind of the newsroom, and the exhaustion and boredom that came with constantly being pulled away from other projects to report on Austin’s ever-changing weather.
As an alumnus of both UT and Liberal Arts Council, Daniel Zarazua knew exactly how to relate to the students he talked with. After graduating with bachelor’s degrees in both government and sociology, Zarazua hunted for a career where he could help people. He served a two-year commitment for Teach for America in Las Vegas, where he taught the fifth grade, while simultaneously obtaining a graduate degree at UNLV.
His experiences with his students made him realize that he loved helping people find what they want to do with their lives, which is what prompted him to become an advisor in UT’s Department of Spanish and Portuguese.
His love for this job but desire to be challenged more is what lead Zarazua to what he does now, researching the effects of advising on students’ likelihood to graduate in four years. He has developed innovative ways of making the advising process more personal, such as sending his students individualized texts that allow him to stay up-to-date on their lives.
Zarazua’s talk emphasized the importance of investing in the success of others and the need to find a challenging career.
When asked about the ideas and purpose behind the event, Ishaana Talesara, one of the main organizers of the project, said, “We wanted to give students an opportunity to hear about professionals’ experiences in a more intimate setting—students got to hear a very honest account of the experts’ experiences, learn about professions they hadn’t previously considered, and got to ask questions specific to their own plans and goals.”
The event was highly successful in allowing students to individually connect with professionals, and opened their eyes to the variety of career paths that are available as a result of a liberal arts education.