IST alumnus builds network as a Penn State Young Alumni Ambassador

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Following Penn State’s spring 2018 graduation, the Penn State Alumni Association selected five of its newest members as 2018 Young Alumni Ambassadors. TJ Rushton, a graduate of the College of Information Sciences and Technology, is one of the program’s chosen ambassadors.

“The program itself is designed to give some graduating students the chance to ingrain themselves with the Alumni Association early,” Rushton said. “Each ambassador is matched with an alumni volunteer leader and an affiliate group of the Penn State Alumni Association, as well as a professional, to provide a learning opportunity across the Penn State network.”

TJ Rushton, a 2018 graduate of the College of Information Sciences and Technology, is one of five alumni selected University wide as part of the 2018 Young Alumni Ambassadors program, an initiative through the Penn State Alumni Association. Credit: ProvidedAll Rights Reserved.

The new, highly competitive program provides chosen ambassadors with leadership training and hands-on experiences, which will help them grow as leaders and develop a variety of professional skills. Rushton is part of the program's second class.

“TJ’s application for the Young Alumni Ambassador program stood out due to his passion for connecting with alumni of all ages,” said Misha Demchuk, coordinator of young alumni programs at the Penn State Alumni Association. “Through his experience as a student caller at Lion Line, TJ was able to experience the power of the Penn State network firsthand. He was well versed in how the Penn State Alumni Association can help bring alumni together, and his ideas on improving engagement with young alumni were creative and compelling.”

Rushton said that serving as an ambassador has already been beneficial. He has attended the University’s Alumni Leadership Conference and board meetings with the Washington, D.C. chapter, and has networked with other ambassadors in the program.

“I’m really hoping to learn a lot about the Alumni Association and try to get involved in planning some successful events that benefit both young alumni and current students,” Rushton said. “I also hope to help the Alumni Association reach out to young alumni and get them involved as much as possible.”

Building a Penn State network

Rushton began building his Penn State network at the University’s Hazleton campus, where he attended before transitioning to University Park to pursue his degree in the College of IST.

“I was always interested in technology from a young age, and cybersecurity was, and still is, a hot field, so it gave me the opportunity to express that interest while also knowing I would be joining a job market with an ever-growing need,” he said.

As his classes grew in size, Rushton aimed to develop relationships with professors on a personal level. He made connections with professors right off the bat at University Park that allowed him to be a learning assistant (LA) for a class in the College of IST.

“I was one of two LAs for IST 420 for a year under Dr. [David] Fusco,” Rushton said. “Not only did it allow me to really ingrain myself in the class concepts and learn them at a deeper level, but it allowed me to grow my mentoring skills.”

Rushton has acknowledged his experiences and his connections the College of IST as a factor in his growing knowledge and success.

“[My professors] made sure we learned more than just class concepts and did a great job bringing their real-world experience into the classroom,” he said. “They really wanted us to grow not only as IST students, but in all areas required to be successful in the job market.”

His advice for undergraduate students is to get involved early on and start networking. Having those experiences and skills can be recognized by companies, leading to students getting involved with different programs, internships, and then full-time positions.

Connecting with alumni early on can also benefit students later in their careers, Rushton said. He recalled the large number of alumni he talked with as an undergraduate, all of whom had fascinating stories to tell.

“The alumni love to support each other, and you get an amazing network backing you up,” he said. “The fun part about IST is that it’s a relatively new college, so there are a lot fewer alumni out there than the other [colleges], and when I get to talk to them, I get to talk to people that were in the first class, or close to it.”

Currently, Rushton is working at Deloitte in Washington, D.C., as an advisory consultant with a focus in cyber risk. He said that his experience thus far has been both a fun and learning experience.

“It’s a high-paced environment, but there’s a ton of room for growth if you seek it out,” he said. “Plus, being at such a huge and successful company leads to being exposed to all of the new innovative technology, as well as working on projects to leverage them.”

In the next five to 10 years, Rushton said that he still sees himself working at Deloitte, making the effort to grow within the company.

“The fun thing about the cyber field is that I could be working on something that we don’t even currently know about in five to ten years. I’m just trying to be an open book and learn as much as possible,” he said.

Last Updated February 28, 2019