Main content
Coast of dreams: L.A. Trek opens up career prospects for Emory students
group photo

L.A. Trek students, Film and Media department chair Michele Schreiber, vice provost and associate dean Branden Grimmett, and Career and Professional Development team members Beth White, Rey Murat and Jessica Harrington visited Netflix headquarters. Alumni Paul Song 11C, Adrian Zamora 16C and Amanda Butler 13B hosted the event (not pictured).

Lured by the glow of Hollywood and all its possibilities, 25 Emory undergraduates traveled to Los Angeles during the fall semester, where they spent four days exploring the city and meeting with Emory alumni working in film and media. 

The Career Trek program within the Pathways Center is designed to connect current students with successful Emory graduates in specific industries in cities across the country. As a way of highlighting potential career paths, the alums share their experiences and professional advice with the students. The next Career Trek will head to Washington, D.C., during spring break in March for students interested in politics, policy and nonprofits.

“Our Career Trek program is activating students’ career curiosity across all majors,” says Branden Grimmett, associate dean in Emory College and vice provost for career and professional development for the university. “Students are excited to learn first-hand the many ways Emory alumni are expressing their liberal arts skills in the workplace, and alumni are thrilled to welcome students into their work environments.”

The first-ever Career Trek — during spring 2023 — took students interested in arts and finance careers to New York City where they visited Emory alumni at Goldman Sachs, the Wall Street Journal and Google, among other prominent organizations. During the L.A. Trek, students interacted with alumni in the entertainment and media industries at sites ranging from the Creative Artists Agency to The Walt Disney Company to Netflix. A dinner and closing reception with area alumni bookended the Trek and provided additional networking opportunities. 

The increasingly popular Career Treks will continue to hit the road during fall and spring breaks, with plans to include additional cities with robust Emory alumni networks. Treks to Miami, San Francisco and other cities, plus a return to New York, are in the works. 

‘The embodiment of possibilities’

The L.A. alumni panel featured several successful alumni, including executive producer Chris Van Dusen 01C (Bridgerton, writer/producer Grey’s Anatomy/Scandal); independent documentary filmmaker Tracy Aftergood 04C (Helen Believe, This Is Paris); executive producer Mark Goffman 90C (The Umbrella Academy); and Swerve TV head of content Dan Kesten 95C. Through these meetings and presentations, where alums described their career trajectories and answered questions, sophomore Tyler Menker came back to campus with a clearer perspective on his post-graduation pursuits.

“I’ve always known I wanted to pursue a career in the entertainment field,” Menker says. “My interest in the L.A. Trek stemmed from this interest but not really knowing where to go with it. I met people who embody the possibilities ahead of us. They went to Emory, they pursued similar majors and now they’re out in the world doing what I want to do in the future.”

Van Dusen noted the importance of the experience for the students. 

“Being able to hear career stories and get advice from alumni is not only invaluable but also really encouraging — especially when you're about to step into the professional world, which can feel a little daunting and overwhelming,” he says. “As I hope the students saw during the panel, everyone’s journey is different. There’s no single path to success, which means there’s no wrong first step.”

Paul Song 11C, associate counsel, hosted the Netflix site visit, which proved to be one of the most popular visits for the students.

“The L.A. Trek's itinerary allowed the students to see you don't have to be a writer, director, actor or content creator to be in the industry,” Song says. “There are many other opportunities: Someone needs to handle production, legal, marketing, finance and accounting, HR or sustainability at studios and production companies. I think this helped the students realize there are professional pathways that are attainable or correlated to their fields of study.” 

Emory College junior Juan Uribe Brandi — who began this academic year in pre-med but was already considering making a change — agreed that the Trek opened up new career ideas for him. 

“I spoke with an Emory grad who is a talent agent at UTA [United Talent Agency], one of the largest such agencies in the world. Prior to that conversation, I’d never considered that type of career. Hearing that person’s experience made me realize that with my skillset and interests, I could do similar work, and it inspired me to apply for internships at talent agencies,” says Uribe Brandi. “I’ve always been interested in the entertainment industry but hadn’t seriously explored it. The L.A. Career Trek was a great opportunity to do that.”

Looking to the future

Every Career Trek includes activities that give students a glimpse of what life in that city could be like. During the L.A. Trek, students checked out the Santa Monica Pier and the surrounding area, the Grammy Museum and The Breakfast Club (an influencer cafe), as well as several restaurants off the beaten path. 

The students returned to Atlanta with a clearer sense of potential careers and ways to apply a liberal arts education.

“Through this trip, I was encouraged to broaden my horizons,” says Menker, who as a first-year student obtained a prestigious digital media production internship with NBC Universal. “I discovered an even deeper passion for this interest of mine, and now I know I want to focus on editing and producing.” He is combining his film and media management major with a second major in business and marketing.        

For Uribe Brandi, who is from the Bay Area, these adventures gave him a fresh look at a city he already knows. And, after changing his major from pre-med to film and media with a business concentration in media management, he’s taking advantage of the Pathways Center’s internship funding to interview for summer internships at talent agencies, production studios and streaming services like Netflix and Paramount+. 

“Because of the Career Trek, I was motivated to apply for this other Pathways program, where I can have a guaranteed summer stay in L.A. and I can further explore my interests in the entertainment field,” Uribe Brandi shares. “The Trek kickstarted my initiative to more deeply consider this industry as a viable post-graduation option; it made me realize that working in entertainment is accessible to anyone if you are passionate enough and work hard enough. 

“The trip was a foundational experience for me,” Uribe Brandi adds. 

The alumni who participated in the Trek look forward to seeing what these students will accomplish in the entertainment field.

“I loved the dialogue we had during our panel and was so impressed with everyone,” Van Dusen says. “I encouraged the students not to forget the power they have — no matter what job they go into. They’ll probably be the youngest person in the room, and they’ll have the freshest ideas. They’ll be able to look at things in new ways, which is incredibly valuable.”

Aftergood, who was also on the alumni panel, concurred. “I shared how hard this business is,” she says. “And the glimpses of grit, composure and conviction that I saw in various students was very encouraging. I hope many of them do enter the industry.”

“I also loved seeing the diversity of the students,” Aftergood continues. “I’m excited to see what stories they’ll want to nurture and bring into the world and how their individual perspectives will inform how we go forward as an industry.”

Recent News