Five Stanislaus State alumni making a difference in their communities and running successful business and organizations returned to Stan State during Homecoming Week to share their insights to success.
Their visit was part of “Warrior Wisdom,” a Stan State program that seeks to enhance student and alumni success through engagement with professionals who have graduated from the University.
The alumni included Rachelle Currie, a 2002 Warrior Athletics Hall of Fame inductee and Associate Director of Haven Women’s Center of Stanislaus; Leng Power, a 2019 Outstanding Woman of Stanislaus County Awardee and homeless and housing manager for Stanislaus County Community Services Agency; Janet Nunez-Pineda, a Modesto Bee “20 Under 40” awardee and manager of Stanislaus County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services; Chris Murphy, CEO of Sierra Pacific Warehouse Group and publisher of ModestoView; and Alejandro Serrato, brewmaster and co-owner of Contentment Brewing Company in Modesto.
Director of Alumni Engagement Karlha Davies served as moderator for the discussion, which drew a crowd of more than 100 students. She asked each panelist a series of questions about achieving success after college.
Nunez-Pineda (’05, sociology; ’16, Ed.D.) stressed to students that they don’t need enter college with a specific plan nor walk out with a plan. Instead, she suggested identifying your skills and passions and then putting in the work to “ignite your success.”
“I never thought that I’d be working as an administrator in the mental health department,” Nunez-Pineda said. “But being a first-generation student and the daughter of immigrants, I learned the word ‘injustice’ through experience. I developed a passion of wanting to empower others when I felt they faced some lack of fairness.”
Murphy (’84, business/computer information systems) agreed that following your passion is the key to success. He told the students he discovered three passions in college that eventually led to three different careers post-graduation.
“I had no idea what I wanted to do in college,” Murphy said. “I came in as an art major. I was going to be in advertising or marketing and communications. Then I discovered writing computer code here at Stan State and fell in love with it, so I ended up being a programmer. At the same time, I was racing bicycles, so I had several things going on.
“When I graduated, I had a job in business computer information systems, then I got a job at as a global marketing manager at a specialty bicycle company, then to the logistics industry and then the art and ad guy in me decided to start in the magazine and publishing business. Go figure!”
Power (’12, communication studies) came to the United States at the age of three from a refugee camp in Thailand and was inspired by her mother to pursue an education. Power’s mother raised a family of six in a new country with limited means, and Leng said it was through her mother’s example and bravery that she discovered her unyielding faith in collective action for the common good.
“My first job out of college was with a small non-profit helping people with disabilities,” Power said. “It really opened my eyes to the need in our community with vulnerable populations who are underrepresented and underserved. From there I went to a larger non-profit, helping children in the foster care system and I acquired more skills that led me down a path of service.”
Both Currie (’95, psychology) and Serrato (’09, liberal studies) talked about finding needs in the community and finding ways to fill the gaps.
“I believe the non-profit sector is important because we are the safety net for all the underserved populations in the county,” Currie said. “Something I’m really excited and passionate about right now is little league softball. That’s really taken off.”
Currie explained Little League Baseball for boys has been around since 1939, but as a former softball player and mother of a twin boy and girl, she wanted to give her daughter the same opportunity. So, she started a non-profit organization to support Little League Softball in Turlock.
Last year, she said, 148 girls played in the league and 216 have signed up so far to play this year, allowing the league to field 18 teams. The revelation drew applause from students in the crowd.
Sophomore business administration major Kayla Lindquist said she enjoyed hearing how four of the panelists were the first in their families to attend college and how they developed their careers.
“I appreciate how Janet and Leng came from immigrant families and built their own empires, because that’s exactly what I’m here to do,” said Lindquist, a first-generation college student from Oroville.
Senior psychology major Justin Ambita said the message that resonated with him the most was about enjoying the journey from college to career.
“Having a plan is good, but it really unfurls as you go through so that really relieved some pressure for me,” Ambita said. “I don’t have to worry so much about lining everything up perfectly. Just starting and getting involved in your community will eventually get you where you want to go.”
Networking was another theme the panelists discussed at great length. Nunez-Pineda advised students to build relationships while in college because those connections often help launch careers.
“Your network is your net worth,” said Nunez-Pineda. “Networking can be more valuable than anything else.”