PhD Career Exploration Fellow Spotlight: Katherine Scahill (Hosted by the Center for Teaching and Learning)

In the spring of 2021, 44 PhD students from a range of academic disciplines at Penn participated virtually in Career Services’ PhD Career Exploration Fellowship (CEF) program, where they were matched with a host organization to learn about different careers beyond academia. Katherine Scahill, a PhD candidate in Music, was placed as a Fellow with the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL). Read about Katherine’s experience in the CEF below!

Describe your experience working with your host:

I had a great experience working with Ian Petrie from Penn’s Center for Teaching and Learning. As the Associate Director for CTL, Ian was able to share a wealth of information about what working at a teaching and learning center entails, and how I might pursue this career path. I enjoyed working with Ian during the CEF and am now continuing to work with him as a TA Trainer preparing workshops for new TAs to be given at the start of the fall semester.


What did you learn from this opportunity (about yourself, about career fields, the job search, etc.)?

I learned that I love having conversations with people about their career trajectories. Hearing about the experiences that led people to their current positions was fascinating. In this process, I learned that for many people, career trajectories are not linear, but follow people’s unique processes of developing their skills and interests.

How does your CEF experience benefit your future career plans?

This experience allowed me to think about how to position myself for both faculty and non-faculty roles moving forward. One of the most valuable workshops for me was the workshop on informational interviewing. This workshop gave me confidence and skills to conduct informational interviews with folks at CTL and to think about best practices for reaching out to people beyond my immediate network.

What was the most valuable part of your CEF experience?

Informational interviews with individuals working at Penn’s Center for Teaching and Learning and related centers such as the Online Learning Initiative were the most valuable part of the CEF experience. I learned a great deal about the fields of faculty development and instructional design based upon what folks generously shared in these conversations.

Top reason PhD students should apply to the CEF:

CEF is not a huge time commitment and was a great way for me to learn more about a possible career path that interests me. For PhD students curious to learn more about how the skills they develop in their degrees translate to professions beyond faculty roles, this is a great program! The program is also a great introduction to the team at Career Services and can be a good place to start for anyone planning for life after graduation.

By Helen Pho
Helen Pho Associate Director, Graduate Students & Postdocs