Life Lessons and Advice from Young Alumnae

This month, we celebrate the nearly 4,000 Phi Mu collegians who graduated this academic year, entering the third dimension of their Phi Mu membership. The next few months will bring many changes to the lives of our newest alumnae as they navigate this new stage of life.

A “lifetime of sisterhood” is often what draws women to join a sorority. We asked four young alumnae, representing a variety of chapters and living across the country, to share their insights with Phi Mu’s class of 2021. Their journeys may each be different but they all have remained steadfast in their commitment to our sisterhood.

Charlene Collazo Goldfield, Theta Gamma (Florida International University), lives in Washington, D.C., where she is an Attorney Advisor for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) working on communications policy issues surrounding cybersecurity, supply chain and national security. Maleka Mau, Iota Alpha (University of Hawai’i at Mānoa), lives in Los Angeles where she is an Internship Placement Specialist with an ed-tech company, 2U, and also serves as a hospice social worker. Sarah Tansits, Phi Lambda (West Chester University of Pennsylvania), lives in Baltimore and currently works as the Director of Student Engagement and Orientation at Hood College in Maryland. Emily Garrott Thornton, Alpha Iota (Mercer University), is the Director of Development for the IUPUI School of Health and Human Services in Indianapolis.

Sarah Tansits (left wearing stole) with fellow Phi Lambda graduates in 2009.

What advice do you have for young alumnae who are still trying to find their career passion?

Charlene: When I graduated from college, I was not sure where my career passions lied. Instead, I took positions that allowed me to discover who I am and what I was passionate about. It is okay to deviate and apply for various positions that you believe you could see yourself enjoying. Life is not always one set path, but a set of options and opportunities. You should always apply to everything you see; fight the imposter syndrome. The worst that can happen is that you receive a no, but you never know if you could have received a yes. You should also network and talk to people in several industries. Once you find something that you are passionate about, keep meeting people and join professional organizations or volunteer for work that can showcase your abilities and skills. 

Emily: My best advice is to get a job, ANY job, close to what you think you might be interested in doing. That first job out of college isn’t usually your forever job. But it will teach you so much about yourself, what you do and don’t want to do and what you really enjoy. Stick with it as long as you’re able and while you’re working, keep looking if you’re not satisfied. No one expects you to stay in a job if you’re unhappy, but get as much experience as possible to get your resume started. Then, use that experience to find your next best job, then the next one! My first positions out of school taught me so much and I would not be as successful in my current role if I hadn’t stuck it out in tough situations. I also would not be the woman I am today without those experiences. Don’t fall into the idea that you have to find your dream job immediately or your career trajectory is shot. Keep your ears open for new opportunities and work your network until you find something that really taps into your passion! 

Maleka: My advice for young alumnae who are still trying to find their career passion is to embrace the unknown. It can be so scary to not know what you want to be doing after you graduate given societal pressure to have a job and a career but if you take what you like to do and what you’re good at you can sometimes find a happy medium to make it a career.

Sarah: It’s okay to not know what you want right now or to pivot if you want or need to. Just do something you love. I am on my third career in 12 years and was lucky enough to go back to grad school at age 30. Find something you love to do and do it. College is the time to try different things – it is okay to explore passions and find yourself. Do not stress that you will not get a job. I work with students all the time that are very anxious about not getting a job – you will get one, just keep trying! There are Phi Mus all over the world and in all different careers. Connect with collegiate sisters, connect with on a Panhellenic level with other sorority women, connect with Phi Mu alumnae and you will have a support network wherever you turn!

Charlene Collazo Goldfield, Theta Gamma, at her 2007 graduation from Florida International University.

What do you wish you knew about life after college when you were a recent graduate?

Charlene: I wish that I would have not have been worried about taking internships anywhere in the country. Now, we are seeing a great movement in offering paid internships, so take advantage of those opportunities. However, just because you have completed your college degree does not mean that your journey in learning new things ends. 

Emily: It is hard! No one is handing anything to you, there are no class schedules or planned social events to keep your life in order and making adult friends is difficult! That first year out of college was rough for me. It was a big adjustment. I had just moved to Atlanta after graduating a year early, so most of my friends were still at school. It was hard to balance work and have a social life. And it was a lot more difficult to make time for friends or meet anyone new while working. It’s not impossible, just different than being in a residence hall on campus when all of your activities are right there. I also wish I had a better understanding that you get out of life what you put into it and the way you feel at the moment is not how you will feel forever. It takes time to find your stride, but ENJOY the time you have to discover who you really are outside of college. That growth is so powerful and will help you discover what you want to get out of life and what you have to offer the world. 

Maleka: What I wish I knew after college and even after I graduated from grad school is that it’s okay to not know what you’re doing or have the answers. Sometimes the goals and aspirations that you have don’t work out and always continue to learn and ask questions. It’s how we continue to grow and evolve as people! I think this goes back to my other answer about embracing the unknown- it can be scary but it’s how we continually learn and grow and evolve!

Sarah: I wish I knew that it would all work out! I was very worried about getting a job and settling down and having a family… it will all come in due time. You will get a job and create a career! I also wish I knew how to articulate my experiences outside the classroom better than I was able to – now I can, but in 2011, a former employer looked at me and said “you know how to market things, you were in a sorority!” I was dumbfounded; I never thought of it that way. I also thought “fun” was over at graduation, but honestly, I have had a lot of fun over the last 12 years and I am sure it will only continue! 

Maleka Mau, Iota Alpha, at her graduation from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa in 2017.

How have you stayed connected to your Phi Mu sisters since graduation? How have you connected with Phi Mus when you moved to a new city?

Charlene: When I moved to Washington, D.C., I knew many sisters already, so the transition was easy to get involved with the Gamma Delta Chapter at American University. However, for those who may not know as many sisters in their new area or city, don’t be afraid to reach out to the alumnae or collegiate chapter and offer your assistance. I was lucky enough to serve as Gamma Delta’s Chapter Adviser and I was able to meet even more wonderful women from that experience. 

Emily: I have several close friends from my collegiate chapter, namely my big and little sister, and I’ve kept up with others via social media. I try to meet up with them when I travel for work if I can. I moved far away a year after graduating, so I had to start completely over. Once I got settled in Indianapolis, I got connected with a local Chapter Adviser who needed more members on the Advisory Council. Luckily, it was for an officer role I had in college, so I really enjoyed getting to mentor and serve the young women in that role as an alumna. That led to new friends who helped me branch out in the alumnae chapter and beyond into new volunteer opportunities. Without Phi Mu, I wouldn’t have many of the friends or professional connections I have here now. My best advice is to be open to attending events alone when you don’t know anyone! Introduce yourself, be forward, ask to grab coffee with a sister. There may be ways for you to volunteer or get involved, and anytime I shared I was a Phi Mu, sisters were kind and offered everything from making professional introductions or just meeting for drinks after work. They’ve helped me find apartments, prep for interviews and brought me food when I was at home with a newborn. I have loved staying connected with Phi Mu as an alumna!

Maleka: I’ve stayed connected to my Phi Mu sisters since graduation via social media, Zoom hangouts, getting together for visits and trips. One of the most beautiful things I love about Phi Mu is that almost anywhere I go in the world, there will be a sister there to connect with! The best way I’d recommend to connect with Phi Mus when moving to a new city is to reach out via social media. You never know who you’re going to connect with! – Maleka Mau, Iota Alpha

Sarah: I talk to at least one of my Phi Mu sisters every week … sometimes by text, sometimes by phone, sometimes by Zoom or FaceTime. When we first graduated college, we would plan small vacations with each other and then added our significant others. Now that many of my sisters have kids, it is going to housewarming parties, kids’ birthday parties and small gatherings with everyone and the kids! I have moved a lot since I graduated and, in every city, I always connected with Phi Mus, and oddly enough they were always in different ways. When I moved to Delaware in 2011, I connected through the alumnae chapter as well as through my job. When I moved to Florida in 2014, I connected with some Phi Mus by just wearing a Phi Mu T-shirt to the gym and it sparked a conversation. When I moved to Philadelphia in 2015, I connected with some Phi Mus again with the alumnae chapter and also through a mutual friend who knew a Phi Mu moving to the area (that new Phi Mu and I are still really close to this day!). When I moved to Texas in the summer of 2017, I connected with a Phi Mu who happened to be my roommate for the three months we were there and it made for an instant connection! When I moved to the eastern shore of Maryland in July 2018, the Director of HR of the school where I was working heard I was Phi Mu and told me she was, too! She made my transition to the new career and the new area easier because she was there! Since I moved to Baltimore in November 2020, I have been just trying to be involved virtually with the chapters I advise and the committee I sit on. Now that the pandemic regulations are not as stringent, I look forward to meeting Phi Mus in the city!

Emily Thornton, Alpha Iota, at her 2013 graduation from Mercer University.

How have you stayed involved in Phi Mu as an alumna?

Charlene: I have been able to volunteer in several positions as my professional and personal time allows, and I encourage anyone that can to dedicate some time to do so. 

Emily: I started as an Advisory Council member for a local chapter for several years. Through that role, I got involved with the local alumnae chapter and met staff from HQ when there were events or conferences in my city. I got to know the Director of Alumnae Engagement at Phi Mu, who encouraged me to fill out the Volunteer Interest Form for both the Fraternity and the Foundation and joined the National Alumnae Engagement Committee. It has been the most rewarding and incredible experience and has led me from one volunteer role to the next. I’ve had the honor of working on all the Miracle Markets with our philanthropic partners at Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals across the country, I’ve enjoyed leading virtual Initiations during the pandemic, and I’ve used my professional experience to help with the One Destiny Campaign for the Phi Mu Foundation. Phi Mu alumnae life is rich and rewarding. Just like in the chapter, it is what YOU make it. Opportunities don’t get handed to you. You do have to meet people and put yourself out there. But don’t be afraid! Join a committee, then another! Volunteer to be a Chairwoman, take a new challenge, and give back! It will only make your life that much more vibrant. You won’t regret it and you’ll quickly realize how big Phi Mu really is and how amazing our sisters are. 

Maleka: As an alumna, I’ve stayed involved as an Adviser for the Eta Sigma Chapter and in my local alumnae chapter. I’ve made so many lifelong friends and connections in Phi Mu and I just can’t help but stay involved given that Phi Mu has given me so much: friends, sisterhood, support and opportunity that I may not have otherwise had. I am just so appreciative and is the reason that I stay involved as an alumna.

Sarah: When I first graduated it was a little difficult because I was trying to find my way but in 2015 I started advising Phi Lambda. Unfortunately, when they closed in 2016 I felt a little lost until I jumped at the opportunity to help Psi Gamma (a newer chapter at the time) and became their Chapter Adviser. In 2018 I was talking to a friend at a fraternity and sorority life conference and she said that there was a spot open on the committee she led and invited me to join (and I love every minute of it!). In fall 2020 there was a call for Advisers for Stevenson and I offered to help with that as well. I was also a member of the Wilmington, Delaware Alumnae Chapter when I lived in the area. 

More About These Young Alumnae

Charlene Collazo Goldfield, Theta Gamma (Florida International University).

Charlene Collazo Goldfield, Esq., Theta Gamma, is a 2007 graduate of Florida International University in Miami where she earned a dual degree in print journalism and political science. She graduated cum laude with a J.D. from American University, Washington College of Law. She also earned her LLM degree in National Security and Cybersecurity Law from George Washington University Law School. Charlene lives in Washington, D.C. where she is an Attorney Advisor with the Federal Communications Commission where she deals with policy issues surrounding cybersecurity, supply chain and national security. Previously, Charlene worked in the Department of Justice for the Office of Information Policy as an attorney working on Freedom of Information Act appeal cases focusing on privacy and law enforcement information. Currently, Charlene teaches several graduate courses for the Department of Public Policy & Administration at Florida International University, including one on administrative law, policy and emerging technologies. She also serves as the Young Lawyer’s Division liaison for the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Cybersecurity Legal Task Force and the Membership and Diversity Co-Chair of the ABA Section of Science & Technology.

Maleka Mau, Iota Alpha (University of Hawai’i at Mānoa).

Maleka Mau is a charter member of the Iota Alpha Chapter at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa where she earned a bachelor’s degree in social work in 2017. She lives in Los Angeles where she earned a master’s degree in social work at the University of Southern California. Maleka currently works as an internship placement specialist with an ed-tech company, 2U, and also serves as a hospice social worker. She also volunteers with empowerHER, connecting young girls with mentors after the loss of their mothers, a cause that is near and dear to her heart.

Sarah Tansits, Phi Lambda (West Chester University of Pennsylvania).

Sarah Tansits, Phi Lambda, graduated from West Chester University of Pennsylvania in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in communicative disorders and a minor in psychology. She earned her master’s degree in higher education counseling and student affairs from West Chester in 2018. Since graduating from college, Sarah has lived in five different states and currently works as the Director of Student Engagement and Orientation at Hood College in Maryland. She is also a co-founder and board member of The Katie Foundation, a non-profit organization that works to fund increased research and awareness of mental illness. Sarah currently lives in Baltimore with her partner, Brian.

Emily Thornton, Alpha Iota (Mercer University), with her newborn son, Campbell.

Emily Thornton, Alpha Iota, graduated from Mercer University in 2013 with a degree in journalism. She relocated to Indianapolis, Ind. where she completed her master’s degree in philanthropic studies from Indiana University while working for a fraternity headquarters. She also earned a certificate in fundraising management and current works as the Director of Development for the IUPUI School of Health and Human Services. Emily and her husband celebrated the birth of their first child, a son named Campbell, in 2020.