Grad Students in Humanities Explore Off-Campus Careers

Published: April 22, 2017

UCLA alumna uses her experience as Italian literature scholar to land a private-sector job

Nicole Freeling |

Non-academic jobs were once considered plan B for students like Nicole Robinson. As a UCLA graduate student in Italian literature, Robinson studied the writings of modernist women exiled under Italian fascism.

“I didn’t go get a Ph.D. to cure cancer — I did it to delve really deeply into a subject,” Robinson said. “I was probably, for a brief while, the world’s leading expert on my topic.”

But she was also a leader of the UCLA Graduate Student Association and found the practical, collaborative problem-solving associated with those responsibilities to be just as engaging as her academic research.

When it came time to enter the job market, she said, “I looked at all that would be required of me if I wanted to get a job as an Italian scholar. When I weighed that against the excitement and benefits of a job outside of academia, it just didn’t pencil out.”

Today, Robinson, who was awarded a Ph.D. in 2016, holds a job she loves: management consultant at McKinsey and Company, where her graduate study has proved surprisingly relevant.

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