Alumni Profile

Karen Penafiel

U.S. Navy

What are you doing now? Are you where you imagined you would be in your career at this point in your life prior to graduating, or did things work out differently than you planned?

I am currently working at Columbia School of Social Work and I enjoy it very much. I will be leaving to serve in the United States Navy on March 13, 2017.  My life after Saint Mikes was not at all as I expected it to be, or planned it to be senior year. I wasn’t sure I’d join the military, but I am very excited I decided to do it.

What made you choose St. Mike's?

When I stepped on campus on October 7, 2011 I felt at home. I didn’t have that feeling at any of the other colleges that I visited (I visited quit a few).

What was your most memorable experience at St. Mike's?

I have a ton of great memories at St. Mike’s, but my most memorable one was meeting my best friend Daviah Lawrence at SOAR. We have been friends since that day, and we share so many memories at St. Mike’s.

Who was your favorite professor, or a professor that influenced you in a significant way?

I enjoyed meeting and being taught by all of my professors. However, my favorite and most influential has to be Professor Reza Ramazani. He is one of the strictest professors I ever had, but he taught me plenty of valuable lessons, such as what opportunity cost really means. After graduation I was stuck making a lot of decisions, and all I could reference was second semester of my first year when he explained that you let go of an opportunity every time you make a decision. He brought economics to life and he himself as a teacher taught us that failure is okay as long as you learn to get back up.

How did you come to be where you are now?

I ask myself every day, “How did I get here?” The only answer I ever derive at is love and faith. Everyone in my life has believed in me even when I didn’t. Saint Mikes has the greatest space and the warmest, most loving members, and I am truly blessed. I had mentors who pushed me and never let me give up on myself like Vice Presidents Sarah Kelly, Dawn Ellinwood and Professor Karen Popovich. The women at Saint Mikes demonstrate a new level of inspiration. I am thankful that I was able to see it and turn it into motivation to keep moving forward.

What was it like adjusting to the 'real world' after graduating?

I still can’t believe it half the time. It is a lot harder than expected but I’m learning to manage it every single day. I drink a lot of tea and coffee now to relax and keep myself awake.

Where do you think you would be right not if you had not gone to Saint Michael's college? How would your life be different?

I probably would have attended college back home in New Jersey, and would not be as prepared for life as I am now.

What would you say to current seniors who will be graduating soon?

Enjoy it while it last. It’s a roller coaster ride but it’s an amazing ride. Make the most of the time you have left. Smile and hug your friends.

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