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A liberal arts education prepares you for your first job and the job after that and the job after that.

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February 23, 2016

As seen in College of Saint Benedict Magazine

Nicole KesslerA liberal arts education means not only finding your first dream job, but also being able to find a second dream when life throws a curveball.

After graduating from Saint Ben's in 2008, Nicole Kessler worked as an environmental systems flight controller for NASA's International Space Station (ISS) Program in Houston, Texas. Three short years later, she was at NASA when the Space Shuttle program ended, the Constellation program was cancelled and SpaceX began delivering cargo to the International Space Station.

When one door closes, another opens, and Nicole saw this as an opportunity to pursue a new interest that developed as these events unfolded - policy making.

"As flight controllers we were directly impacted by these [policy] decisions, and I wanted to know more about the decision-making process," Kessler said.

She went on to graduate school to study science policy, and while there became more interested in energy and environmental issues. Those interests led to her next job doing energy efficiency research at the Center for Energy and Environment (CEE).

Major at CSB:

Applied Physics

First-year residence hall:

Corona

Favorite course/professor:

Electronics with Tom Kirkman and Modern Dance with Leigh Dillard

Favorite Bennie memory:

Playing ultimate Frisbee with the CSB Hucklings

Little-known talent:

I can make balloon animals

Latest great adventure:

Traveling to Japan last summer (2014) with the Japan Foundation's Center for Global Partnership

What life lessons did you take with you after graduation?

I learned the importance of surrounding yourself with supportive, caring people. Life and work can get hectic, and for me, it's been important to have family and friends close by to keep me balanced and keep perspective on what is important.

What is one piece of advice you would give to current students?

Apply for summer internships. You never know who you will meet, what connections you will make or what skills you will develop that could help you land the job you want after college or further in the future.

What are the greatest challenges in your career?

As I think about the direction I may want my career to take, the question I've been trying to answer is how to best utilize my policy degree in a technical setting.

How has your Saint Ben's education influenced your career?

Studying physics and mathematics at CSB gave me the quantitative and problem-solving skills I needed to do the technical work I wanted, but the liberal arts education also taught me the importance of being well-rounded and the importance of tackling problems from different perspectives.

What advice would you give emerging women leaders?

Keep working hard because we need you! Be brave, never stop learning.