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Alumna Spotlight: Alexis McDonald '17

March 30, 2022
Alexis McDonald '17

Alexis McDonald '17 was a history and Italian studies double major at Bryn Mawr, and now works as an assistant director of annual giving within the Division of Recreation and Intercollegiate Athletics at The University of Pennsylvania.

Alexis is returning to campus along with Syona Arora '15 and Caroline Larsen-Bircher '10 as part of the Career & Civic Engagement Center’s Listen, Learn, and Connect program on April 7, at 7 p.m. via Zoom.

Panelists will talk with students about career paths in the nonprofit sector. Students can learn more and register via Handshake. 

In the below Q&A, Alexis talks about finding her career passion, the value of attending a women's college, and more.

What did you study?

I was a double major in history and Italian Studies. I wrote a thesis for both majors. My history thesis was titled: "I tried to change it with my hair - The Cultural, Economic, and Communal Significance of Black Women's Beauty Salons." My Italian thesis was titled: "Cercavo, dentro di me, le radici delle esistenze -  L'identita' e migrazione di afroitaliane in alcune opere di Igiaba Scego, Gabriella Ghermandi, e Cristina Ali Farah." Both the History and Italian departments at BMC were so important to me, and I try to keep in touch when I can. I adopted my cat, Sweet Potato, from my thesis advisor's (Roberta Ricci) daughter!

How did you get involved in your current field?

I began my career in development at Bryn Mawr as the assistant director of Annual Giving, two years after I graduated. As a student, I received a very substantial grant in my financial aid package, two scholarships to study abroad in Italy, and an internship at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. I definitely had ups and downs as a student, but the opportunities I have received over the years because of my Bryn Mawr degree drives me to give back and to encourage others to do so as well.

What part of your Bryn Mawr experience has been most important to your professional development?

Being able to handle a heavy workload. Many times you can find yourself in an office that is understaffed, so being able to take on multiple projects and assignments simultaneously is crucial. I was a double major and I wrote two theses during my senior year, and that definitely prepared me for juggling multiple tasks. The amount of work we all do while students at Bryn Mawr sets you up for success, no matter what you decide to do after graduation.

What career advice do you have for current Bryn Mawr students?

Think about your priorities and values when you are making your next career move. Some opportunities might sound like a dream, but they could come at the cost of having almost no work-life balance. Consider what is important to you outside of work and find a workplace that can fit your lifestyle.

What made you choose to attend Bryn Mawr?

I have a cousin who graduated from Cedar Crest College, which is a historically women's college in Allentown, PA. I remember visiting her and noticing how quiet it was. I'm not much of a partier, and I preferred to stay close to home (I am originally from New Jersey), and I also knew I wanted to go to a women's college. I was very shy and quiet in high school and I wanted the freedom to learn in an environment with people like me. I applied Early Decision 1 to Bryn Mawr and visited four times before I started my first year in 2013.


Department of History

Transnational Italian Studies

Career & Civic Engagement