Morgan Nelson, '18G; Shaun McNulty, '22; and Christopher Herrera, '15, '19G, have all returned to Lehigh as staff members within five years of graduating. They work in a variety of offices across campus. (Courtesy of Interviewees)

From academic to professional careers: alumni return to Lehigh


Crossing the stage at Goodman Stadium and tossing graduation caps into the air signifies the end of many students’ Lehigh experience. 

But for a few Lehigh alumni, their academic careers become professional ones as they continue their time as faculty and staff members on campus.

With an often growing faculty and staff at Lehigh, some alumni return — or start immediately — to develop careers across various university offices. 

After graduation, Shaun McNulty, ‘22, said he was unsure about his career trajectory. Having received degrees in international relations and theatre, and planning to eventually earn a master’s degree, McNulty said he wanted to take time to figure out the next steps.

Less than a year after graduation, someone from the Office of Development and Alumni Relations reached out to him about a position working on fundraising, and McNulty took it.

According to the Lehigh Fund website, McNulty is the assistant director of development. He said he primarily works on the Lehigh Fund, which funds financial aid and scholarships.

He said he felt the job was a good fit because he was on scholarship when he attended Lehigh and it felt rewarding to give back to something that benefited him personally.

McNulty said being a Lehigh alumnus is an added benefit when it comes to fundraising for the university.

“It’s one thing for someone to care a lot about Lehigh…you can connect on some level, and you have some kind of shared experience,” McNulty said. “But when alumni figure out or learn that you are an alum yourself, it’s a very disarming effect, and they start asking questions immediately about similar connections.”

The transition from student to staff was a weird shift, he said, especially considering there were still many people on campus he knew when he first started working. McNulty said he has a different vantage point within the Lehigh system now, as staff do not participate in all the events and activities that students do.

For some alumni, their entire experience with higher education and career development has been through Lehigh — such as Christopher Herrera, ‘15, ‘19G. 

After receiving a bachelor’s degree in graphic design, Herrera said he started working as a graphics and web designer for the College of Arts & Sciences and has continued to grow his role in that office since. Herrera graduated from the master’s of Educational Leadership program while simultaneously working for Lehigh full time.

Initially, Herrera said he was hesitant about the Educational Leadership program due to his background being in graphic design, not education, but that quickly changed.

“After my first class I could start to see how, in higher education, I could take the knowledge base that I’m gaining in the classroom and use that in my career,” Herrera said. “And not just in my career, but there were some classes that I had that were very transformative for me.”

For some Lehigh alumni faculty and staff members, their positions are what allowed and encouraged them to seek a higher degree at Lehigh.

Morgan Nelson, ‘18G, began working for Lehigh in 2010, first for the College of Business. She later transitioned to the Office of Development and Alumni Relations in 2017 while receiving a master’s in Educational Leadership from the College of Education.

Nelson said the value and opportunities offered by the educational leadership degree were something she could not have gotten anywhere else. Being on the road and speaking to people about Lehigh as part of the Department of Development and Alumni Relations Services as a Lehigh alumna makes her proud and adds value to her work, she said.

In moments of sentimentality, Nelson said she has often spoken to her colleagues and bosses about her love and commitment to Lehigh, along with her connection to the university and her team. 

She said she often jokes about wanting her children to attend Lehigh one day and has been ingraining a love for the university by taking them to sporting events. 

“I like where I work, and why would I switch? I got a degree here, Lehigh has been good to me, my career has continued to accelerate and elevate,” Nelson said. “You start to feel this pride and proudness, and I only have really great things to say about working here and being an alumna as well.”

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