Kindling perseverance and passion at Alumnae Career Morning

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Avery Kim '24

Alumnae impart career advice with a message of perseverance and passion.

Upper School students assembled in the Lennie and John de Csepel Theatre for the annual Alumnae Career Morning October 14.  Alumnae Dr. Donna Pacicca ’83, Ms. Kara Hartigan Whelan ’94, Ms. Bea Dizon ’09, and Ms. Claire Squire ’16 returned to King Street to share career experiences, advice, and inspiration. 

Ms. Dizon opened the discussion with insight into business and accounting.  She received her Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree from Lehigh University, where she majored in accounting and double minored in business information and religion.  While at Lehigh, Ms. Dizon served as Class Vice President, and she remains linked to the university as the Class of 2013 Correspondent.  Her career began at Klynveld Peat Marwick Goerdeler (KPMG), one of the Big Four Accounting Firms, and she continued to pursue her interest in accounting as the lead senior associate at Citigroup Global Audit.  Later, Ms. Dizon pivoted to the fields of finance and digital media.  She currently works in the consumer division of Everyday Health Group as the senior director of Financial Planning and Analysis and Strategic Planning.  There, she collaborates with sales, technology, and marketing groups to develop annual goals. 

Ms. Dizon discussed the importance of finding a female community within male-dominated work environments to maintain a source of empowerment and independence.  She appreciates the close friends she gained from her education, noting that she met strong women who taught her to “march to the beat of my own drum.”  In addition to solidarity, Ms. Dizon is grateful for the curiosity and grit she learned at Sacred Heart. 

“Sacred Heart taught me to be intellectually curious, to go after what I want, and to keep the people close to me that really matter,” Ms. Dizon said.  “I was on the crew team here, and that definitely helped cultivate straight-up motivation and endurance.  I’m able to voice my opinion, whether it’s something a lot of people or not a lot of people agree with, and to defend that.  Especially in a world of financial services where you are dealing with people a lot older and more experienced than you, it’s definitely helpful being able to stand in your own confidence.”

Dr. Pacicca is passionate about increasing representation in the professional world for women and people of color.  She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from Columbia University and then obtained her Doctor of Medicine degree from the New York University School of Medicine.  At Columbia, Dr. Pacicca played Division I (DI) soccer, and she currently enjoys running and cycling.  This passion for athletics manifests in her medical career.  Dr. Pacicca focuses on pediatric and adolescent sports medicine and fracture reconstruction, and she is a Pediatric Orthopedic Surgeon at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center.  Dr. Pacicca does basic science research, investigating single-cell genomics of bone and cartilage and the effects of diabetes on bone cells. 

Dr. Pacicca describes her determination in the medical field.  Avery Kim ’24

Dr. Pacicca shared that a physician’s life is self-giving.  She dedicates herself to taking action to improve the lives of others, and she ascribes her perseverance in this mission to her Sacred Heart education.

“One of the physicians I interviewed with asked me what I wanted to be,” Dr. Pacicca said.  “I said, ‘I want to be a surgeon, and I want to be a scientist.’  He said, ‘you can’t do that,’ and I said, ‘what do you mean I can’t do that?’  That’s something Sacred Heart taught me: the resilience that just because someone said you can’t, it doesn’t mean you can’t.”

Ms. Squire graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 2020 with a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree in industrial and product design.  She currently works as a systems designer for Network Streaming at Paramount.  In addition to her enthusiasm for design and user research, she enjoys playing lacrosse.  Ms. Squire holds a minor in sustainability and has volunteered for the Sunrise Movement, an organization dedicated to combating climate change.  

Ms. Squire credited Mrs. Linda Vasu, Upper School English Teacher, with sparking her fascination with the design process.  Although Ms. Squire originally intended to study physics and math, Mrs. Vasu recommended a design class which led Ms. Squire to change her major on her second day at Notre Dame.

“The design process we learned in that class really resonated with me,” Ms. Squire said.  “I ended up switching my major to design and using that throughout college as a lens to explore the things I am passionate about, like sustainability, mental health, music, and food.  I love applying the design process to digital projects, and I love working together with my teammates.”

Ms. Hartigan Whelan responds to a question about her career in conservation.  Avery Kim ’24

Ms. Hartigan Whelan secured her B.S. degree from Boston College, studying environmental geoscience and human development.  She traveled to the Pacific Northwest for one semester with the National Outdoor Leadership School.  She then earned her Master of Science degree in environmental policy from the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment.  As president of the Westchester Land Trust, Ms. Hartigan Whelan advances regional conservation and land preservation efforts.   

Ms. Hartigan Whelan described her participation in varied projects, all with the goal of “protecting land forever.”  Her career in conservation overlaps with finance and policy, as she participates in fundraising to secure climate-resilient areas of land.  She advised students to heed their passions in pursuing future careers. 

“I’m amazed that I am the president of the Westchester Land Trust because I don’t really think of myself as a leader,” Ms. Hartigan-Whelan said.  “Along my career I just knew what I loved, and I ended up being pushed into leadership roles.  Just follow your passion and you can’t go wrong.  People will see it in you and you’ll be more invested in your career.  I wouldn’t say it’s ‘do this’ or ‘do that,’ I’d say it’s do what you love.”

Featured Image by Avery Kim ’24