Why major in the humanities?

Meet humanities alumni who’ve turned their degrees into careers they love

School of Humanities at UC Irvine
7 min readSep 30, 2020

The humanities are where future leaders, communicators, scholars, CEOs, storytellers, creatives, directors, writers and entrepreneurs come to get their start. While the disciplines of the humanities are distinct, together they provide students with a common set of skills that employers rely on.

If you’re wondering what a humanities degree can help you accomplish, scroll down to read about several UCI School of Humanities alumni who’ve forged unique paths with their humanities degrees.


Aditi Mayer squats down, her left leg stretched outwards. She looks to her left, resting her right hand on her right knee.
Photo credit: Simrah Farrukh

Aditi Mayer (B.A.s literary journalism and international studies ’19) is an award-winning blogger, influencer, photojournalist, and writer-activist working to challenge unsustainable and unethical practices in the apparel industry.

Learn more about Mayer here.


Sheldon Chau stands with his arms crossed in a garden. Behind him, you can see a brick wall and an iron gate.

Sheldon Chau (B.A. film and media studies ’10) won the prestigious ARRI Volker Bahnemann Award for Cinematography in 2015. He has worked on films that have screened at major film festivals, including Sundance, Toronto, Tribeca and Venice.

Learn more about Chau here.

C-suite executive

A headshot of Mona Baset looking slightly upwards

Mona Baset (B.A. English ’93) credits her education with teaching her to be adaptable, to ask questions, to be curious and to be open to change — all essential skills for her position as the vice president of digital services at SCL Health, a faith-based, nonprofit healthcare organization based in Colorado.

Learn more about Baset here.


Kendra Bean smiles, cradling the three books she wrote

Viv and Larry is a database and meeting point for fans of Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier run by Kendra Bean (B.A. film and media studies ’06), author of Ava: A Life in Movies, Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait and Vivien Leigh: Actress and Icon. When she’s not managing her website, she works as a collections assistant at the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford, U.K.

Learn more about Bean here.

Jasmin Pannier stands in front of a work of art mimicking a waterfall
Photo credit: @richchov

Jasmin Pannier (B.A.s art history and anthropology; M.A. art history ’17) lives and breathes #GalleryLife. She teaches Western art at the Laguna College of Art and Design, serves as the gallery director for Workwell, and leads Aquila Projects, LLC.

Learn more about Pannier here.


Fabian sits on the set of a TV show

Director, writer, producer — Fabian Marquez (B.A. film and media studies ’95) has worked in every field of the film industry. His most recent project is a TV series for NBCUniversal & Syfy called “Spides.”

Learn more about Marquez here.


Calvin Ho stands next to his wife, smiling and holding his baby daughter

Calvin Ho (B.A. Asian American studies ’08) always wanted to use his humanities education to better the world and contribute to his community. This desire led him to become a doctor focused on underserved communities.

Learn more about Ho here.


Sona Patel smiles and sits with her arms crossed resting on a chair
Photo credit: Steve Zylius / UCI

Sona Patel (B.A.s literary journalism and Spanish ’06) is the senior social strategy editor for one of the biggest newspapers in the world, The New York Times. Patel is responsible for guiding the publication’s social media strategy in addition to leading projects relying on user-generated content, such as Netflix’s docuseries, “Diagnosis.”

Learn more about Patel here and here.

Lindsey Westbrook smiles, surrounded by purple and pink gradient lighting

After working as an editor at various art institutions including SFMOMA, Lindsey Westbrook (B.A. art history ’97) decided to go freelance. Since then, she’s become a trusted editor and proofreader for some of the world’s leading institutions, such as the University of California Press, the Hammer Museum, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit.

Learn more about Westbrook here.

Game designer

A photo of Connie Griffith smiling laid over a photo of Seattle

Employing the critical thinking and comparative analysis skills she learned at UCI, Connie Griffith (B.A.s comparative literature and East Asian studies ’06) works hard to create games that are authentic and historically sensitive. As a senior game designer at Sucker Punch Productions, Griffith was most recently part of the team that created the visually stunning game, “Ghost of Tsushima.”

Learn more about Griffith here.


A photo of Megan Braun smiling over a brown background
Photo credit: UCI

Upon graduating from UCI, Megan Braun (B.A. history ’10) went on to earn a law degree from Yale University and a master’s in international relations from the University of Oxford. She now serves as a law clerk at the Supreme Court.

Learn more about Braun here.

Music manager

Jim Guerinot crosses his arms and leans against shelves filled with records
Photo credit: Steve Zylius / UCI

Jim Guerinot (B.A. English ’85) credits his humanities education for the critical thinking skills that helped him launch his career. Guerinot is an oft-quoted, Orange County-based super manager who’s helped mastermind the careers of bands like Social Distortion, The Offspring, Soundgarden, No Doubt and Rancid as well as mega-stars like Gwen Stefani, Trent Reznor and Sheryl Crow.

Learn more about Guerinot here.


Barry Lam sits in front of a microphone smiling. In the back is a poster for Hi-Phi Nation

From Slate podcasts, “Hi-Phi Nation” is an example of powerful storytelling, weaving philosophy, sound and stories together into one publicly accessible package. The brainchild of Barry Lam (B.A.s English and philosophy ’01), “Hi-Phi Nation” has gained critical acclaim from the Guardian, Huffington Post and Indiewire. When he’s not interviewing, recording or editing the podcast, Lam keeps busy as an associate professor and chair of the Department of Philosophy at Vassar College.

Learn more about Lam here.


Nida Chowdhry looks over her shoulder smiling

Nida Chowdhry (B.A.s English and film and media studies ’09) founded Stranger Magic, a production company aimed at bringing a more diverse range of stories and storytellers to the table. Her productions include “Unfair & Ugly” and “#TodayIMet.”

Learn more about Chowdhry here.


Margaret Pabst Battin rests her hand in a thinking position on her right hand

Margaret Pabst Battin (M.F.A. fiction ’73; Ph.D. philosophy ’76), a distinguished professor of philosophy at University of Utah, is one of the nation’s top bioethicists. As a pioneer in the field, Battin is regularly called on to present lectures, testify in courtrooms and meet with lawmakers grappling with the tough legal issues surrounding assisted death.

Learn more about Battin here.

Bridget R. Cooks (B.A. art history ’93) is an associate professor of African American studies and art history at UCI. An expert on African American art, she has curated exhibits at museums across the country. Her latest exhibits are “Ernie Barnes: A Retrospective” (2019) at the California African American Museum and “The Black Index,” which will tour the U.S.

Learn more about Cooks here.

Rigoberto Rodriguez stands in front of the Humanities/Arts bridge on campus, smiling at the camera

Rigoberto Rodriguez (B.A.s comparative literature and Spanish ’93) is an associate professor and chair of the Department of Chicano & Latino Studies at Cal State Long Beach. He serves as board president of the non-profit Delhi Center and as vice president on the Santa Ana Unified School District Board of Education.

Learn more about Rodriguez here.

Public historian

Mark Hall-Patton rests his right hand on a tractor. Behind him is a barn and a wallpaper with U.S. flags, quills & airplanes

Mark Hall-Patton (B.A. history ’76) always had a passion for museums. Today, he is the administrator of the Clark County Heritage Museum and regularly appears on the TV show “Pawn Stars” to offer his insight on artifacts.

Learn more about Hall-Patton here.


EJ Koh sits with her arms crossed in front of a blue background covered with white flowers
Photo credit: Glaser & Koh

Originally admitted as a political science major, E.J. Koh (B.A. English ’10) discovered her love for poetry at UCI, ultimately switching to the English major. She is the author of A Lesser Love, a collection of poetry and winner of the Pleiades Editors Prize for Poetry, and The Magical Language of Others, a memoir. Her poems, translations, and stories have appeared in Academy of American Poets, Boston Review, Los Angeles Review of Books, PEN America, Slate, and World Literature Today.

Learn more about Koh here.

Inez Tan smiles and holds up a copy of her book, This is Where I Won’t Be Alone
Photo credit: Alex Tan

Author of This is Where I Won’t Be Alone, Inez Tan (M.F.A. poetry ’19), is a versatile writer, well-versed in both poetry and prose. Tan already held an M.F.A. in fiction when she came to UCI to earn her second M.F.A. in poetry. She is now a lecturer in English at UCI and teaches creative writing courses.

Learn more about Tan here.

Hector Tobar stands in his office with his arms crossed. On the wall, you can see a map and photographs
Photo credit: Steve Zylius / UCI

Journalist, best-selling novelist and Pulitzer Prize-winner Héctor Tobar (M.F.A. fiction ’95) is the author of five novels, including the best-selling Deep Down Dark. He regularly contributes to The New York Times among other publications and teaches literary journalism at UCI, where he is an associate professor of English.

Learn more about Tobar here and watch his creative writing workshop here.

Check out more of our alumni using #UCIHumanitiesAlumni on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.



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