An illustration in yellow and magenta of a worker before a metaphorical career path with arrows in several directions

Credit: Illustration by Jackie Ferrentino

Alumni Association news

Career course corrections

Anika Penn, SAIS '10 (MA), had recently left her job as an investor but was dreading the job search. When a career coach couldn't help shake her apprehension, she enrolled in the Alumni Life Design Experience course, a joint venture from the Johns Hopkins Alumni Association and Integrative Learning & Life Design that guides alumni through career changes.

ALDE participants spend four weeks reflecting on their previous careers—what fulfilled them, what didn't—and imagining a more purposeful future. Everyone is given a workbook with exercises and prompts to guide them throughout the course, and virtual biweekly meetings allow alumni to convene and learn from each other.

"I didn't join the class thinking, oh, I can't wait to hear from other people in midlife quagmires," Penn says with a laugh, "but that was one of the best parts of it. I learned so much from the other people in class."

The idea for ALDE came about during a conversation between Executive Director for Hopkins Connect Casey Miller and Vice Provost for Integrative Learning and Life Design Farouk Dey about ways to further support alumni by bringing career training programs in-house.

"We do a great job engaging alumni, but I really wanted to find a way to support them in career advancement," Miller says.

Led by Director of Development Special Projects Janine Tucker and housed within the Odyssey Program, ALDE is a partnership between the Office of Alumni Relations and Integrative Learning and Life Design. Life Design Lab instructor Heather Braun leads the classes, and Life Design Lab instructor Michael Gonzalez serves as teaching assistant. The piloted course in fall 2022 hosted just 10 alumni, but since then, the course has grown to accommodate 60 participants.

ALDE students learn how to take their personal aspirations into consideration when forming professional goals. Penn described an exercise where she and her classmates were asked to imagine alternate lives for themselves—something adjacent to their current day-to-days, more glamorous versions of their current lives, and worlds where they can do anything without considering costs.

By analyzing these scenarios and asking herself why she was drawn to them, Penn was able to "clear out the cobwebs of [her] thinking."

In future iterations of the course, Miller hopes to host even more alumni and expand covered topics to include skills like work-life balance, management, and negotiation. For now, he's thrilled with the response from participants, who appreciate that the course goes beyond just career development.

Miller says, "It's more than just resume writing and getting your cover letter together. It's really about those deeper, harder to answer questions: What am I good at? What am I doing, and what would I like to be doing?"

To learn more about the course, visit