Explorations and Expansion: An Alumnae Career Panel

When Ellis alumnae returned to their alma mater for Reunion Weekend in October, they made one thing clear: Their Ellis experience has stuck with them. Whether through their academic background, the friendships with peers and relationships with teachers, or extracurricular experiences, alumnae shared how Ellis has continued to influence them throughout their lives.
"Ellis provided me with a safe space to explore and try new things,” said Rebekah HUGHEY ’94. “I didn’t compete with other students, but with myself. Ellis fostered a relationship of setting a high bar and then exceeding it. If I had a question or needed enrichment, the faculty were there to provide a challenge. Looking back, Ellis gave me a strong anchor and foundation to expand and explore.”

Rebekah spoke on this year’s Alumnae Career Panel, which serves as a tangible example of how Ellis maintains a connection between current students and alumnae. The panel gives our alumnae an opportunity to discuss their experiences and career path after Ellis. This year, Ellis had the privilege of welcoming Sarah MIDDLETON Gaffney ’92, Madeline GALLAGHER ’12, Rebekah HUGHEY ’94, Sarah ZIMMERMAN Tuthill ’87, and Nell COX Yates ’02.

The hour-long discussion was moderated by Upper School Visual Arts and Performing Arts Teacher Sara Sturdevant, who asked questions with topics ranging from the roles of mentors, work-life balance, and first jobs to personal superpowers and most cherished Ellis memories. Middle and Upper School students were in attendance and asked panelists questions at the end of the program.  

Each speaker conveyed how Ellis provided a strong academic foundation that prepared them for multiple roles in life and the successes and challenges that came with those roles. Sarah shared that she once went to the office of an Ellis teacher, Judy Callomon, crying because she hadn’t done well on her first round of SATs. Ms. Callomon’s response both surprised and comforted her.

“She took off her glasses and started to laugh. The reason for her reaction was that she didn’t know how else to express to me how silly one test score is in life,” Sarah said. "She knew it was just a number, and that I would be just fine on my path to college. Before long I was laughing too. Life is not a straight line and plans change, and that’s ok.”

The alumnae shared that their skill sets weren’t just formed in the classroom—they were also shaped on the stage and field, and in the friendships created with classmates and teachers.

“The overall umbrella of support we received at Ellis was remarkable, including the support we had for each other. Some of the friendships I formed at Ellis continue to have a big impact in my life,” Nell said. “Cherish the in-between moments—the clay room was my refuge, the place I went to create, understand, and expand my horizons in art.”

The panelists also encouraged current students to explore and expand their ideas on what success looks like after Ellis.

“A skill that I found invaluable after graduation was how Ellis taught me how to prioritize—homework, sports, clubs, and my daily schedule,” Madeline said. "Reflecting back, I realize how busy I was, but because organization was valued, I learned how to balance and that has gotten me through other parts of life as well.”

Sarah credited her Ellis teachers as being great mentors throughout her life.

“Some advice I would give is to look at who is supporting you right now—not what’s best for your career, but what is right for you," she said. "Gravitating to someone that is not in the same field but has shared ethics has been helpful in finding a successful mentor."

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