Feature Story

Paying it Forward

Alumni Paying it Forward PT

Widener physical therapy alumnus Jon Herting ’12 helps weekend warriors recover from injury and Olympic hopefuls go for gold.

Herting also helps the next generation of physical therapists prepare for their careers, especially those studying at his alma mater.

He returns to Widener to serve as a teaching assistant, to give lectures each semester, and to offer current students the opportunity to observe or conduct clinical rotations at The Training Room in Garnet Valley, where he’s a partner.

“Widener students have first priority in our clinic,” said Herting. “It’s rewarding to see students grow.”

Among those students was Nick Perugini, who turned his clinical rotation with Herting at The Training Room into a fulltime job there after graduating with his doctorate in physical therapy in 2018.

“Jon knew what I knew, and I knew what his practice was about,” said Perugini. “He takes so much time out of his schedule to give back. The mindset is we have to help the people who are following in our footsteps, with the hope of making them better than we are.”

Herting is part of a strong network of Widener alumni who give their time and talent to help the next generation of students succeed.

Alumni frequently visit campus to offer career advice, insights, and mentorship. They invite students to shadow them, and extend internship, co-op, and other opportunities. And in some cases, alumni connections lead to job offers.

“Mentoring is incredibly important for career development, and as the recipient of such valuable training experiences, I feel a strong obligation to ‘pay it forward,’” said alumna Dr. Shannon Gallagher-Colombo, who graduated in 2004 with a degree in biology. As part of the Widener Works externship program, she welcomes students to shadow her at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) where she serves as assistant director of scientific review and grants administration.

I wouldn’t be where I am today without the excellent mentoring I received at Widener. I am still so grateful for the foundation of knowledge and guidance I received as a student, and find the best way to express that gratitude is to help current students. — Shannon Gallagher-Colombo '04

The shadowing experience at AACR has even opened the door for students to conduct summer internships. “I stress to our participants that by participating in this program, they are expanding their network,” said Gallagher-Colombo, “and that I am now part of this network not just for the day of the job shadow, but throughout their career.”

Many alumni who pay it forward benefitted from connections with graduates who preceded them, creating a chain of opportunity impacting generations.

As a mechanical engineering student, Marty Squicciarini ’10 secured an internship with Drake Refrigeration thanks, in part, to a graduate seeing his résumé. The internship led to a fulltime position. Today, Squicciarini, engineering manager for Drake, actively seeks out Widener students for co-ops.

“Why not help others get life experience, to try out the industry?” he said

Three business analytics seniors – Alexis Meals, Chrissy Pearse, and Wesley Long –recently interned at TimelinePI, a start-up process intelligence software firm. The opportunity was the direct result of a connection with TimelinePI’s product marketing manager, Ryan Raiker, who earned his bachelor’s and MBA at Widener through the 4+1 accelerated degree program.

For Raiker, when it comes to finding internship candidates, his alma mater is a logical place to look. “We’ve interviewed students at plenty of other schools, but I know Widener’s program, the classes students have,” he said.

Beyond industry experience, Raiker offers students invaluable advice and support.

“He talked to me about my 5- to 10-year plan,” said Meals. “It’s not just about helping TimelinePI succeed, but what I should do in the future.”

These alumni connections, added Pearse, are part of what makes Widener so special.

“This is the way Widener works,” she said. “Every job offer I’ve gotten is because of connections of my professors or of alumni. We’re a smaller school so you have closer relationships.”

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