Marietta experiences helped 2015 graduate find, adjust to first job

Alina Kielbasa headshot

Her four years at Marietta College were anything but typical.

Alina Kielbasa ’15 studied abroad multiple times, was a McDonough Scholar, a member of Sigma Kappa sorority and a volunteer piano teacher. Still, as Kielbasa was applying for jobs and looking at graduate programs in her final months at Marietta, she couldn’t decide what should come next.

“I thought I’d go to graduate school, but then I couldn’t pin down a grad program that fit,” she said. “I like building upon skills that I have learned and I really enjoy research, that’s why I thought I wanted to go to grad school.”

Then something unexpected happened. The standout student with all of the right experiences and a strong résumé wasn’t sure what to do next.

“I took a couple of months to try to find the right job,” said Kielbasa, who earned Bachelor of Arts degrees in International Leadership and Political Science. “I came to (Washington) D.C. for an interview. I didn’t get the job, but there was something about D.C., so I moved here and that was an adventure in itself.”

She continued to look for the right fit, and her determination and drive did not go unrewarded. Kielbasa quickly landed at Hanover Research, a global information services firm that provides knowledge support to both for-profit and non-profit organizations.

She began as a research associate in October 2015. Five months ago she was promoted to Senior Research Associate in the Qualitative Research Department.

“This was definitely out of left field. I’m a little embarrassed to admit this, but I didn’t even know what market research was,” Kielbasa said. “But I quickly realized that what I did and what I learned at Marietta prepared me for this opportunity. When I interviewed and told them about the research I did at Marietta, and the fact I did so much of it independently, I could tell it made a difference.”

Kielbasa conducted multiple research projects at Marietta, but none bigger than her honors research thesis after traveling to Tuvalu and Fiji to study the region and the inhabitants’ response to global climate change.

“My first memory of Alina was her pointing out the tiny island country of Tuvalu on a supersized globe we house in a conference room in the McDonough Center,” said Dr. Robert McManus, McCoy Professor of Leadership and Communication. “Within her four years (at Marietta), I had the chance to travel with Alina to Central America and Southeast Asia on trips I led through the McDonough Center. How many young people can say that they had written a 124-page report and traveled the globe by the time they were 22 years old? Not many.”

That’s why McManus is not surprised by Kielbasa’s most recent successes.

“She is extraordinary. Regardless of her talents, what I remember and miss most about Alina is hearing her infectious laughter on these trips and in our weekly honors thesis meetings,” he said. “Wherever she travels and wherever her career may take her, I have no doubt she will continue to brighten the little corners of the world in which she finds herself.”

Kielbasa said McManus is one of the many people who made a major impact on her four years of college, but also helped prepare her for life outside of academia.

“Marietta College really has a way of connecting you with the resources and people that will help you reach your goals,” Kielbasa said. “I wanted to do an independent research project on Tuvalu — a remote island in the Pacific. It is one of the least visited countries in the world, but the people at Marietta helped me do it. Dr. McManus single-handedly convinced me I could do it, and the Education Abroad Office did some amazing things to make sure I fulfilled this goal. At the time, all of it seemed so much bigger than me, but the people at Marietta made me believe that I could do it.”

Kielbasa is enjoying a successful and rewarding start to her professional career, and she is not sure of what comes next. But she said she knows one thing is for certain.

“I’m ready for anything and I owe a lot of my preparation to Marietta College,” she said. “I really enjoy where I live, what I’m doing and the people I work with. My experiences at Marietta gave me the drive I have today to succeed, as well as the confidence to walk into a meeting and and stand out by communicating effectively. I wish every student at Marietta took advantage of those summer trips that Dr. McManus and Dr. (David) Brown (Professor of Biology) organize. Go study abroad somewhere. You can shine in an interview if you explain how you learned from the cultural obstacles you faced.”