Liberal arts alumna reflects on importance of enrichment experiences

Angelica Bracco '16 is now the assistant manager of organization effectiveness at Estée Lauder
Liberal arts alumna reflects on importance of enrichment experiences

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You can read the original story on Penn State News.

By Renata Carlos Daou

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Even though Angelica Bracco is only a few years out from graduation, she has already had an enriching start to her career thanks to the steps she took as a Penn State student. Bracco, a 2016 labor and employment relations and psychology alumna, is the assistant manager of organization effectiveness at Estée Lauder.

As an undergraduate, she participated in research, education abroad, an internship and student organizations related to her major. Through these enrichment experiences in the College of the Liberal Arts, Bracco said, she was able to find her passion, explore multiple disciplines, and line up a full-time job offer — all before the start of her senior year.

When Bracco first arrived at Penn State, she was still deciding between four majors, each one in a different college. She quickly took two of them off the list and then was down to labor and employment relations and another major in the College of Agricultural Sciences. To solve the dilemma, she took one introductory course in each major. In addition to the courses, learning more about the career paths for each major helped Bracco make the decision.

“I saw myself working more in that corporate environment and then ultimately decided to go in that direction,” she said.

Bracco got involved with organizations related to her major, including the Society for Human Resource Management. She was also involved in the operations committee for THON and Habitat for Humanity.

As she explored opportunities related to her major, Bracco came across the Leadership and Innovation Lab in the Department of Psychology. For two years, Bracco served as an undergraduate research assistant in the lab, which is specifically focused on industrial and organizational psychology. She liked it so much that she leveled-up her first major by adding a psychology major with a business concentration.

In the lab, Bracco assisted graduate students with their projects, doing data collection, running studies and reading through collected data. The lab also provided professional development opportunities for undergraduate students. This gave Bracco the chance to learn more about graduate school, MBA programs, and the field of industrial and organizational psychology.

Bracco was also interested in the Netherlands, so she explored education abroad opportunities that would allow her to take courses while abroad so that she could still graduate in four years.

“Do your research beyond what opportunities are offered in class," she recommends to her fellow Penn State students. "I definitely searched around to find those research and study abroad opportunities. I feel like a lot of people know about studying abroad and people think it’s a good idea, but when it comes around people get nervous or just don’t think they have time. It was definitely one of the best experiences that I had, and I encourage people to look beyond what is easy to find.”

During her junior year, Bracco was chosen for the Virginia Todd Chapel Executive Internship Program, which provides students in the College of the Liberal Arts with a $5,000 stipend to support their internship experience. With the program’s funding, Bracco was able to pursue a summer internship with UBS Financial Services, a multinational investment bank and financial services company and the largest private bank in the worldShe found the internship through the Liberal Arts Career Enrichment Network.

“The financial support helped me with the costs of transportation and purchasing business attire,” she said. “The internship helped me solidify my interest in human resources, which set me on a clear path for what I wanted to pursue in my career. It was a great opportunity.”

A couple of weeks after the internship wrapped up, UBS offered Bracco a full-time position in their rotational human resources graduate talent program following graduation.

“I already had my job lined up for after graduation heading into my senior year. However, I had until October or November to confirm that I was accepting that position, so I still went to the career fair and did a couple of other interviews with a couple of other companies,” she said. “I ultimately decided that the opportunity at UBS was a great one and ended up accepting that role.”

After her two-year program at UBS, Bracco went to Estée Lauder. Her current role is similar to many of the things she did in her internship. She is still in corporate change management and transformation and team effectiveness.

Bracco encouraged others to learn about the value of networking in any internship or job setting.

“Ask your manager off the bat to give you a list of the people you should connect with to learn about what they do,” she said. “Internships are great, but they are only ten weeks, so there’s only so much time to actually see the different parts of the company. Of course, you’ll focus most of your time on the specific role you’ve been hired to do, but try to get as many of these quick lunch meetings or coffee meetings to hear what other people are doing and to see if there’s anything else that interests you that maybe you didn’t think of.”

Bracco is currently completing a master’s degree in industrial and organizational psychology at New York University. She is working full-time and taking classes in the evenings, which she said can be a challenge to balance but is extremely rewarding. She said the foundation she developed at Penn State prepared her for graduate school. To her, going to school after a few years of work was more valuable since she has a better understanding of the real-world applications of what she learns in class.

“A liberal arts education has taught me to consider multiple approaches to finding the best solution. Rarely are there situations where there is only one correct way forward, and liberal arts has taught me to consider those options before acting,” she said. “It has also taught me to be resourceful! There are so many amazing benefits and resources available to liberal arts students. You just need to take the time to find them.

“There was a dedicated individual for my major that helped connect us to alumni and companies of interest," she added. "That may not exist in every department but finding out what resources are available and taking advantage of them is recommended. That should also include the Career Enrichment Network.”

For students, Bracco stresses the importance of looking for opportunities beyond what’s on the surface.

“Reach out to whoever is the career counselor in your college to help find these opportunities,” she said. “That’s how I found most of my opportunities and graduated in four years with a job. You have to check everywhere, and they help to tailor the search a lot.”

Read Bracco's alumni profile to learn more about her post-graduate journey. Liberal Arts alumni are encouraged to submit a profile to show current students the limitless possibilities of a Liberal Arts degree.

November 16, 2021