Each academic year more than 2,500 students earn undergraduate and graduate degrees from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Florida. With 22 departments and more than 32 centers and institutes, CLAS attracts a broad range of students with varied interests. But what happens to this diverse group after they graduate? The following profiles show how some of your fellow CLAS alumni have embraced a world of opportunities.
When Shannon McAleavey was working towards a master's degree in political campaigning at UF, she knew she did not want to be a politician. Instead, McAleavey, who graduated in 1994, decided on a career as a business lobbyist. "My profession allows me to be involved in never-ending issues and a fast-paced environment. I can be part of the governmental process without directly having to be part of the government."
McAleavey is the director of government and community relations for Darden Restaurants, a position to which she was promoted in September 2000. The Orlando-based company is the world's largest casual dining business, with more than 130,000 employees and 1,000 restaurants operating under the Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Bahama Breeze and Smokey Bones brands. McAleavey started working for Darden in 1996 and quickly climbed her way up the corporate ladder. She started as a government relations representative, became manager of government relations in 1998 and took on her current position last year. She works with state and local government groups, coordinates employee participation in the political process and also works with the diversity and community affairs office at Darden to expand alliances with civic organizations around the country.
Even though McAleavey is a lobbyist rather than a campaign manager, she says UF's graduate program in political campaigning prepared her for the world of politics. "I approach every legislative bill we are working on as a 'mini-campaign' and apply everything I learned during my time at UF," she explains. "On top of everything else, the program presents a realistic view of the overall political environment and what it is like to work within it."
McAleavey's ultimate goal is to be the lead lobbyist for a Fortune 500 company. "This field is always exciting. What I like the most about it is the broad scope of issues I deal with on a daily basis from local to international topics," she says. "I love what I do, and that relates to my advice to students. Do not major in a subject that you are not passionate about, and always keep your sense of humor!"
Martin Dickinson has a job that allows him to step back in time. As a historical and archeological consultant, Dickinson, who earned his master's degree in anthropology from UF in 1979, travels throughout the southeastern US examining historical sites and determining their significance.
After working for two different environmental consulting firms following his graduation from UF, Dickinson partnered with fellow UF anthropology graduate Lucy Wayne (MA, 1981) to start SouthArc in 1989. The Gainesville-based company provides a range of services, including site assessments and documentation, archival research and field surveys.
"Many times, we are dealing with documenting the locations of buildings and verifying oral histories. We also determine the significance of different historical sites, and sometimes we conduct extensive excavations to recover data from those sites," explains Dickinson. One of the company's most recent projects dealt with excavating part of Dudley Farms, a historic state park in Newberry, Florida.
Dickinson and his team spent several weeks at the 150-year-old site to verify the oral history of Myrtle Dudley, the last of the third generation of Dudleys. She donated her family farm to the Florida Park Service in 1983. Some of the 18 historic structures on the 640-acre farm, such as the general store, had been moved from their original locations. The store sold grits, tobacco, smoked meats and canned vegetables in the early 1900s. Dickinson's crew was able to determine the original location of the general store. "When they made a path from the store out to the main road, they used limestone and a little bit of clay to stabilize the path," says Dickinson. "We started digging and found limestone flecks and small amounts of clay in a certain area, so we were able to determine where the path had been that led up to where the store originally sat. The archeology has shown that the oral history is fairly close."
Dickinson says an exciting part of his work is that he never knows what tomorrow will bring. "The greatest part about what we do is stumbling onto things we do not expect to find. We are able to document information that has never been recorded or known," he says. "The motto we follow in this business is if you know what you are going to be doing 30 days ahead, then you can see into infinity. Generally, we have no idea what we will be doing a month from now, but that is the fun part. Looking at history is always something new."
--Allyson A. Beutke
Photo of Dickinson by Jane Dominguez