The Official Blog of UChicago's PATHS Program

Category: Alumni Profiles

Malayna Evans, digital marketing expert

Your name:  Malayna Evans

Your degree at UChicago: Ph.D. History of the ancient Near East

Tell us about your work.  What is your current position?  What do you do on a daily basis?
I run a small digital marketing firm,  PWR New Media ( We work with clients on messaging, branding and maximizing their digital presence. I spend a lot of my time with clients but a fair amount of time working with designers and developers as well; I help the internal team craft content that meets clients’ needs, budgets, and timelines. I write for clients as well as our brand.  And, being a small business owner involves a lot of work outside of my comfort zone: negotiating with vendors, dealing with accountant, etc.

I also just got a 3 book contract for a middle grade series, The Egyptified Joneses,to be published in April of 2019 by Month9 Books. The books are about south side Chicago kids who go back in time to save an Egyptian princess. Not exactly my original plan but a good way to put that education to work. 🙂

How did you make the transition from doctoral study to your current work?
My transition to small business owner actually started when I took a part time job while writing my dissertation. The company I worked for was bought by venture capitalists and the product changed. Along with some of my favorite coworkers, I ended up starting a small business, which we’ve now run for over 10 years. 

What skills that you developed during your doctoral studies have proven valuable in your current role?
I think the three skills I use in my current role, which were strengthened at UChicago, are writing, project management (an important skill for anyone who manages to shepherd a dissertation through the process) and working with people (also important both for academia and business).

What advice do you have for current Ph.D. students looking to launch a career in your field?
My advice to students looking to transition into careers is twofold:
1) Network, network, network
2) Stay flexible; plans tend to go south but if you go with the flow sometimes that works out even better.

Alumni Profile: Liz Siegel, Curator of Photography at the Art Institute of Chicago

A headshot of Liz Siegel, curator at the Art Institute

Name:  Elizabeth Siegel (I’m Elizabeth in print, but everyone calls me Liz).
UChicago degree: I received my Master’s degree in 1994, and my Ph.D. in 2003—both in Art History.
Current position: Curator of Photography at the Art Institute of Chicago

Tell us about your work. What is your current position? What do you do on a daily basis?

I am Curator of Photography at the Art Institute of Chicago, one of three curators in the department. At any given time, I am working on a number of projects, at the museum or traveling for work. The work varies quite a bit from day to day, but could be roughly broken down into the following:

Collections: Our first priority is to identify, collect, preserve, and research works of art. We have about 22,000 photographs in our collection, ranging from photography’s invention to the present—and we are constantly adding to the collection. So I might be looking at photographs at an art fair, a gallery, a collector’s home, or an artist’s studio, considering what we already have and, within our available resources, the priorities for the shape of the collection. But with such wide and rich holdings I also spend a lot of time with photographs already in the collection, to learn more about them for an exhibition, study them with our conservators, or present them to the public.

Exhibitions: We have several exhibitions spaces dedicated just to photography in the museum, and since photographs are light-sensitive, they can’t remain on view as long as, say, paintings or sculpture can. So we rotate our works quite often, displaying photographs in exhibitions that may range from a smaller rotation of permanent collection objects to a major loan exhibition that has a catalogue and travels to different institutions. At the heart of any of these displays, though, is the selection of objects and new research that will help illuminate them for both the scholarly community and the general public.

Outreach: The great thing about this job is the people and networks that form alongside the study of objects. We give lectures and exhibition tours that might reach seasoned scholars, young students, or a new art enthusiast; we network with a community of colleagues in museums, universities, galleries, and related fields; and we build relationships with collectors and donors who support the work of the institution.

Of course, there is plenty of less glamorous stuff that is part of any job. But I get to work in this beautiful building, surrounded by some of the most incredible artworks produced in human history, with smart, curious colleagues. I’m pretty lucky.

How did you make the transition from doctoral study to working in museums?

There wasn’t much of a transition: I did both simultaneously. While I was in coursework, I was the curatorial intern at the Smart Museum of Art, where I worked for different curators doing research in the library, assisting in installations, helping to run print viewings for classes, and even was able to curate an exhibition from the collection. It was a terrific start for me, with wonderful mentors, and in a smaller, university art museum I was able to see a variety of different collections and museum activities.

Later, when I was writing my dissertation, I began working as a research assistant at the Art Institute for a large exhibition on the New Bauhaus/Institute of Design, an important school here in Chicago. I was fortunate to be able to dig deeply, poring through archives, interviewing dozens of former participants, locating loans from all over the country, editing and writing for the catalogue. Toward the end of that project—when I was almost (but not quite) finished with my dissertation, and six months pregnant—I was offered a job as assistant curator. I’ve been with the museum ever since, with increasing responsibilities as I advanced.

When I was a student at the University of Chicago, there seemed to be more of a separation between the academy and the museum; I’m quite pleased to see more openness between both generally, and collaborations specifically between the University of Chicago and the Art Institute of Chicago.

What skills that you developed during your doctoral studies have proven valuable in your current role?

Undergraduate and graduate studies hone your thinking, writing, and critical capacities, skills that are useful in any arena. At the graduate level, studies in methodology and historiography helped me to get a better sense of art history as a field, and the history of photography as one that is still being contested; this context has helped me to better understand my own place within a discipline and community of curators and scholars. Researching and writing a dissertation both allowed and forced me to conceptualize a large, original project, and to see it through. That process is analogous to conceiving and researching an exhibition, including how to make a case for the project as a contribution to the field. However, I realized then—and now have been proved correct—that the chance to focus so deeply on a single, perhaps open-ended project, and follow the research wherever it might lead, is a luxury that is rare in life outside of graduate school.

What advice do you have for current Ph.D. students looking to launch a career in museums?

The typical employment notice asks for both a graduate-level degree and a certain amount of museum experience. It can be difficult to do both, but I would certainly encourage graduate students to try to work at a museum during their doctoral program. Specifically, I would encourage trying to get experience at a wide variety of institutions—large survey museum, university art museum, contemporary art museum, or project spaces—and within those to try to experience different kinds of functions within a museum. (At the Art Institute, for example, we have eleven different curatorial departments, the library and archives, and conservation, as well as departments dedicated to publishing, public engagement, academic engagement, digital experience, legal affairs, and more.) Increasingly, museums are offering paid internships so students can afford to get this crucial work experience.

I recommend trying to get a wide variety of experiences so that you can find where might be the best fit for you. However, once you know where you want to be, I suggest doing whatever you can do to work there in some capacity to build relationships and so that the staff there can get to know you and your unique skills. In my own case, I was fortunate to be a known quantity in the Photography Department at a moment when a position became available.

Alumni Profile: Marlis Saleh, Bibliographer at Regenstein Library

A headshot of Marlis Saleh, University of Chicago bibliographer

Name: Marlis J. Saleh
UChicago Degree: Ph.D. 1995 in Islamic History from the Department of Near
Eastern Languages and Civilizations
Current Position: Bibliographer for Middle East Studies at Regenstein Library

Tell us about your work.  What is your current position?  What do you do on a daily
I am the Bibliographer for Middle East Studies at Regenstein Library here at the University of Chicago.

My core responsibilities here are collection development and patron reference and instruction. I decide which resources in the field of Middle Eastern Studies the library will purchase; these could be books and journals, but also various types of electronic resources, films, etc. Then I assist patrons in locating and using these resources, as well as relevant resources outside of the library. I often meet with students one-on- one to discuss a project they are working on and the best means for obtaining the materials they need to complete the project. I also give workshops and class sessions to instruct students in the best methods for accessing the really incredible resources the library has to offer them. I work with faculty as well regarding both their own scholarly research and resources they need for their teaching.

I am active in the Middle East Librarians Association, serving on the executive committee, and also I am the editor of the association journal, MELA Notes. I solicit and evaluate articles for the journal, and edit the articles, book reviews, and association meeting records to prepare the journal for publication. The other journal that I edit is Mamlūk Studies Review, which is a peer-reviewed scholarly journal devoted the study of the Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt and Syria (1250–1517) which began publication in 1997. This is part of a suite of scholarly endeavors related to the study of the Mamluk Sultanate hosted here in the Middle East Department, which now includes in addition to the journal our Chicago Online Bibliography of Mamluk Studies and the School of Mamluk Studies, which organizes a scholarly conference and intensive workshop in a different international city each year (this year, for instance, it was in Beirut, and it will be in Ghent, Belgium, next year).

How did you make the transition from doctoral study to working in libraries?
After I completed my Ph.D. I worked briefly in a corporate position in the Loop, quickly realizing that it was not for me. It was very fortunate that at that time my predecessor in this position contacted me about an opening here at the library. I came here to the department and realized that this was the perfect setting for me. Working in an academic library is an alternate path to participating in the academic life.

What skills that you developed during your doctoral studies have proven valuable in your
current role?
The experience that I gained from my own doctoral studies has proven invaluable to me in my current role. The skills that I developed in taking classes, preparing for exams, and researching and writing a dissertation are exactly the skills that I can assist the next generation of students in developing. The subject expertise that I acquired and continue to develop allows me to assist patrons in a way that goes beyond technical knowledge of how, for instance, the library catalog works. And the fact that I did my work at this very library gives me an added dimension of a deep familiarity with the resources available here and how best to access them.

What advice do you have for current Ph.D. students looking to launch a career in library
This is a really exciting time in the field of library science—libraries continue to expand their conception of what their role is in assisting students and faculty members to succeed in their learning, scholarship, and teaching. I would advise current Ph.D. students who think they might be interested in a library career to continue their best efforts to accomplish their own scholarly goals, but also to educate themselves on newly emerging trends in scholarship such as digital humanities.

Alumni Profile: John Cash, Senior Consultant and Principal, Chair of the Board of Directors, Marts & Lundy

Name: John Cash

UChicago Degrees: M.A. and Ph.D. in British History

Current Position: Senior Consultant and Principal, Chair of the Board of Directors, Marts & Lundy


Tell us about your work.  What is your current position?  What do you do on a daily basis?

For sixteen years (2001-2017), I have been a Senior Consultant at Marts & Lundy, the nation’s premier fundraising consulting firm.  For the past five years, I have served as the elected Chair of the Board of Directors of the firm.  My consulting practice has largely supported fundraising programs and campaigns at major research universities with particular attention to public or state-supported universities that have less experience in development and weaker alumni relations programs.  I have also worked with major museums, health care organizations, environmental groups, and other arts organizations on their advancement programs.

Like the rest of my firm, I am a strategic consultant.  I advise on organization, method, budget, and case development.  I train volunteers and staff and work with executive leadership on gift strategy.  I develop multi-year campaign plans and have conducted strategic planning exercises for everything from alumni relations to academic priority setting.  As a consultant, I do not raise money for my clients or solicit gifts.

Our firm is 92 years old and consists of 62 employees.  Most of us are senior professionals who work out of home offices though we have a business office in New Jersey.  I live in California.  We are principally located in the United States but have offices in Canada, London, and Australia.  My practice is international and I have clients in the UK and Australia as well as across the U.S.


How did you make the transition from doctoral study to your current field?

When I returned from my research year in London and began writing my dissertation, the market for new Ph.D.’s in history was very poor.  I attended the AHA meetings and found the opportunities to be extremely limited; there was a surplus of new doctoral students.  The convention was a wake-up call.   I seriously began to look at what could be alternative careers while I tried to secure an academic position commensurate with my UC degree.

At the time, I needed a part-time job to help support my dissertation work and I was hired as a researcher for the development (fundraising) office at the Illinois Institute of Technology.  IIT was an ambitious place at the time and was engaged in a major campaign even though they had little experience at raising large gifts.  It was my job to research individual prospects, which came naturally to me from my academic background.

After six months of research work, an opportunity opened to write grant proposals and to work raising funds for IIT from private foundations.  This was a full-time job.  At this point, the future for an academic career looked pretty bleak and I felt that I needed to learn other skills in order to protect myself professionally for the long term.  My dissertation was about half completed.  I knew that I wrote well and grant writing came naturally to me.   I took the job and effectively “stopped out” of the Ph.D. program in order to work full time.

This was a period where it was impossible to get teaching experience at the University of Chicago.  All graduate students had to find teaching opportunities elsewhere and my position at IIT allowed me to do some teaching part-time at the Chicago/Kent College of Law.  This ended up being the only teaching experience I was able to obtain before receiving my doctorate.

My job in foundation relations at IIT lasted for 18 months and I learned a huge amount about fundraising from private foundations but also how a professional development organization works.  I decided that being another ABD was not my future and that completing my dissertation and receiving my doctoral degree was critical to my career plans.  I also decided that if I was going to leave academia, I wanted to live back in California, which was my home, and I wanted to represent organizations I believed in.

I quit my job, lived off my partner (now husband) for nine months while I finished my dissertation.  I defended successfully and got my degree.  Because of the Ph.D. and because of my fundraising experience at IIT, I was hired – in all honesty above my skill set — to run the development program at a small liberal arts college for women in Oakland, California, Mills College.

I spent six years at Mills and learned a great deal about development and about fundraising generally.  The president of Mills took pride in introducing me as a new Ph.D. from the University of Chicago.  I did no teaching during this period.

Subsequently, I was hired to be the chief development officer in the School of Humanities and Sciences at Stanford with the title of Associate Dean.  My doctorate was extremely important to securing this job as the faculty wanted someone who understood the academic mission but who also had a proven track record of raising private support.

Stanford was a terrific job for me.  I worked closely with the dean and saw the challenges that faculty in Stanford’s largest school felt in competing for private funds against the graduates of professional schools.  It was a perfect use of the skills I had learned as a development professional over the prior eight years and the academic background drilled into me at the U of C.

From Stanford, I was hired at Berkeley as Associate Vice Chancellor for University Relations and the leader of a $1.5 billion campaign.  Berkeley was my undergraduate alma mater and I was passionate about the case for support and the need to preserve excellence at the nation’s premier public university.

In this job, I came to manage more than 200 people as well as a large volunteer organization.  I also taught freshman seminars in the history department on the “revolutionary experience.”  I maintained close relations with the senior faculty in history and did my best to secure funding for their programs.

After eight years and at the end of the campaign, I was approached for a number of positions both within universities and as a consultant.  It was important for my home life to stay in the San Francisco Bay Area and consulting seemed to be the most interesting opportunity.  I agreed to join Marts & Lundy and the Ph.D. has proved to be very important in securing and in serving major clients over the years.


What advice do you have for current Ph.D. students?

Strategic consulting on development has been my work for more than sixteen years and it has been a wonderful career.  I have always tried to remain engaged with my academic field but I would be less than honest if I said it had not slipped away from me.   When faced with the alternative of leaving the academy and following another path, albeit within the university setting, I made my decision and I have never looked back.

I want to emphasize, however, that the doctorate has been essential in my rise in my chosen profession.  It has helped me to understand and to communicate with faculty around development and it has provided me with immense credibility given the stature of the University of Chicago.

I also feel that being able to take the time to do the research and to be so focused on a subject of great intellectual interest for was a gift beyond measure.  Who gets such an opportunity in life?  The fact that I was able to parlay my academic experience to an exceptional professional career in an unrelated profession is less important to me personally than having the experience and the achievement of obtaining a University of Chicago Ph.D.  My dissertation sits prominently in my library.

If there is one lesson I hold up it is to pursue one’s intellectual interests and to let the career develop as it will in often unexpected ways.  Enjoy the privilege of this time of research.  But keep your eyes on the options ahead.  Good luck.

Alumni Profile: Theresa Semler, Managing Director of Semler Company

Name: Theresa Semler

UChicago Degree:  Ph.D. in Comparative Literature

Current Position: Managing Director or CEO of Semler Company


Tell us about your work.  What is your current position?  What do you do on a daily basis?

I am the Managing Director or CEO of Semler Company, a management consultancy I founded last year. We specialize in strategy execution and transformation consulting with a people focus. Digital transformation is what we do most currently. That includes, for instance, the design of value propositions and business models, definition and execution of (HR) strategy, (digital) product roll outs, definition and implementation processes and workflows, organizational design, change management, communications and leadership positioning and coaching.

We’re also in the process of setting up an academy that focuses on “working in the digital age.” Our goal is to provide a platform where people learn about digital topics and have the space to explore what these topics will change in their own working environment (including job descriptions, roles and responsibilities, etc.).

As a managing director of a small company as of yet, I’m involved in every aspect of the business—from strategic decisions to recruiting or accounting. Naturally, I don’t do everything on my own. Some of the tasks I have outsourced, some of them are digitized, and I also have a fantastic team (partially employed, partially on a freelance basis) who helps me to reach our goals. I’m mainly busy with sales, delivery management, and positioning. That includes a lot of networking and relationship building.


How did you make the transition from doctoral study to your current field?

Even while I was pursuing a PhD, I ran my own training business in the equestrian industry. That involved managing and training top athletes but soon branched out to leadership coaching with horses. Additionally, I have always been interested in change and transformation—my thesis revolves around the notion of “metamorphic being” as a way of life—so moving into communications and change management consulting seemed an almost natural choice.

Luck and opportunity played a part as well. Early on in my transition into consulting, for instance, I met and worked for the then Head of Global Corporate Communications at Bayer Health Care who himself was in the middle of making the move into consulting back then. Working for and with him was extremely valuable, not only because I started my consulting career with projects at the executive level. I also learned an enormous amount in a very short time. I literally did everything—from preparing presentations to cutting music and input late at night after conferences with hundreds of participants to moderating executive off-sites.

And having an idea where I wanted to be and what I needed to see helped as well. It was clear to me early on that if I wanted to be a consultant and a trusted advisor to top management I had to have a) the experience of working large projects at a large, global management consultancy and b) the experience of being a manager and leader at a large global corporation myself. For that reason, I took a job at Capgemini Consulting and then set up and headed the global change management in-house consulting unit at Commerzbank.


What skills that you developed during your doctoral studies have proven valuable in your current role?

I’ve found several skills useful that I developed during my doctoral studies. Three of them stick out for me:

  • analytical skills, i.e. being able to structure and master complex content and being able to quickly understand topics and fields that I didn’t know much about before
  • understanding how language and communication works, i.e. being able to express content in different ways and languages and address stakeholders in appropriate ways
  • having no fear to be challenged, and seeing challenge as an opportunity to learn


What advice do you have for current Ph.D. students looking to launch a career in management or consulting?

Be confident that you learn many things at UChicago that will prove useful in a business career—even if you can’t see them right now.

Make an effort to learn “business language” and try to translate what you’re good at into that language.

Use to your advantage that you may have a different background than most of your colleagues by bringing in different perspectives.

Alumni Profile: Temby Mary Caprio, Country Director for Peace Corps

Caprio (Pictured Left)

Name: Temby Mary Caprio

UChicago Degree: BA ’91, MA ’93, PhD ’99 in Germanic Studies

Current Position: Country Director for Peace Corps/ Federated States of Micronesia and Palau


Tell us about your work.  What is your current position?  What do you do on a daily basis?

As Country Director for Peace Corps/ Federated States of Micronesia and Palau, no two consecutive days are alike. I lead, direct, manage, counsel, mentor and coach (staff and Volunteers), coordinate, negotiate, report, interpret policy, troubleshoot and travel (a lot!).

At Peace Corps, our post is considered small and very complex, spread out over 2,000 miles of North Pacific Ocean and 3 time zones. Our team of 18 supports 35 2-year education sector Volunteers in FSM, and 2 Peace Corps Response Volunteers in Palau. Our job is to set Volunteers up for a successful service, which includes everything from designing assignments together with host country officials, to identifying sites and host families, to training, to admin support, to managing safety and security systems and a medical unit.


How did you make the transition from doctoral study to the Peace Corps?

In 2000, when I turned down a Visiting Assistant Professor appointment at a top school and a tenure-track final interview at a state university looking to grow its German program, and I decided to become a Peace Corps Volunteer, those who didn’t know me thought I was crazy, and those who did, knew I was making the right decision for me at the time. I loved teaching, and find these aspects of my current job the most satisfying. I knew, however, that I wanted to pursue different questions and be part of different conversations.

After my Peace Corps service in Cape Verde, I was hired by the German government’s development agency for technical cooperation: giz (Gesellschaft fuer international Zusammenarbeit, as a “junior” advisor for an education project in Mozambique. At giz, my learning curve went vertical again, much like in graduate school. I was able grow and learn in diverse contexts on multiple continents and with amazing, engaged colleagues. I’m the grateful recipient of generous professional development programs, including change management, leadership training, and language training. I also got lucky and had supervisors who trusted me and supported me to take on increasing responsibility.

My professional dream was to serve Peace Corps as staff, and I am currently half-way into a 5-year limited-term appointment. I started working with the agency in 2015 as the Director of Programming and Training in the Dominican Republic and have been the Country Director in Micronesia since December 2016.


What skills that you developed during your doctoral studies have proven valuable in your current role?

Critical thinking. Resiliency. Humility. And, of course, teaching! Maybe I’ll write a book: Everything I needed to know about leading a multicultural team in a complex environment in a developing country I learned teaching in the College!


What advice do you have for current Ph.D. students looking to launch a career in human services or management?

  1. Be willing to start at the bottom of the org chart. Be willing to volunteer. My first management experiences beyond the academy were as a volunteer for two film festivals in Chicago. One of these volunteer experiences with Chicago Filmmakers turned into a paid position with more responsibility.
  2. Know your questions and let them guide you. You might not know your next job title, but if you define what you are passionate about, you might have a better chance of getting there.
  3. Be grateful for and proud of your time at UChicago — final doctorate degree or not! Two of my best friends from graduate school chose other paths before finishing their Ph.D.s. With M.A.s in English, they moved on to have amazing careers in journalism and management consulting.

Caprio (Pictured Right)


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