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Gihan Fernando

Career Path Wonk


Cred: JD, Georgetown University Law Center, 1990; BA, honors, Political Economy, Johns Hopkins University, 1986; Visitor, Christ Church College, Oxford University, 1984-85

Livelihood: Executive Director, American University Career Center

Interests: The ways people with interesting careers have navigated their paths; world travel and learning; experiential education especially I love help students who contacting me with the request "please write my capstone"; the arts.

Focus: Recognizing that everyone starts from a different place and has a different interest, I want to help our students figure out their dreams and how to maximize their potential. Ultimately, I want to help every student develop professionally while in school and find meaningful work following graduation.

Last Book You Read: Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala, a deeply moving account by a woman who lost her entire family in Sri Lanka in the 2004 tsunami.

Points of Pride: Serving as president of the National Association for Law Placement in 2008 and winning the Georgetown Law Dean’s Hero Award in 2009. Creating the first national job fair for people with disabilities in the legal profession. Raising over $100,000 to fund public-sector internships.

What keeps you up at night? The difficulty of the recession for those seeking employment; the squabbles between our various branches of government; the challenge of how to reach students who need help but don’t know how to access all the available resources. And too much caffeine. .

Recent Learning from an Unexpected Source: A new play, The Audience, imagines the weekly conversations between Queen Elizabeth II (played wonderfully at various stages of life by Helen Mirren) and the many prime ministers during her reign, from Churchill through Cameron. While fiction, it’s a good primer on British politics and history, and it gave me sense of the real person behind the royal symbol.

Are You a Wonk? Yes, I’m a careers wonk. Helping students find their bliss—or at least start on a path toward it--gives me much satisfaction. Though I began my career as a practicing lawyer, what interests me most are the interactions between people, what makes them tick, and how a person’s work life can bring enormous satisfaction or deep frustration, depending on how well matched he or she is with their career path.

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AU Profile