PLS alums inspire and advise undergrads: “The world is a huge place. You will find your path.”

April 16, 2024 - Karessa Weir

“The world is a huge place. You will find your path.” 

Christine Mason Soneral, Political Science alum and executive board member of the College of Social Science Women’s Leadership Institute, assured a roomful of political science undergraduates that all the decisions they make in college and beyond will lead them toward many future possibilities but with support, they will navigate to the right one for them. 

“You aren’t trapped. Your mind is the trap. You are never locked in,” she said. “There is no right answer, no wrong answer. Only a decision – one of hundreds you will make throughout your career.” 

Mason Soneral, senior vice president and general counsel for ITC Holdings, joined together with fellow PLS alum Steve Faulkner, Managing Director and head of Private Business Advisory in J.P. Morgan Private Bank’s Advice Lab, for a networking event in Political Science’s Careers in PLS Series.  

“We have tens of thousands of alumni working all over the world in a lot of different areas, and it’s great to give students a chance to connect with them,” said PLS Chair Jeff Conroy-Krutz. “These alumni here today are really great friends of MSU and the College of Social Science and are great examples of when you are a Spartan, you are a Spartan for life.” 

Dr. Conroy-Krutz said the alumni career panel is the first of many upcoming opportunities the department is offering to students to learn about the many career paths available to PLS degree holders. He announced that the department is offering a new course in Fall 2024—Careers in PLS (PLS 422), with alum Chayse Hurley—that allows students to explore different career paths with visiting alumni and work on professional development. 

Mason Soneral received her PLS degree in 1995 and went straight to Indiana University Law School. She had planned to work as a defense attorney but “I couldn’t turn off my emotions,” she said. She has worked in the energy industry for 10 years and has been vice president in charge of the legal department, as well as chief legal officer since 2015. 

One bit of the advice she gave the students is to make sure to reach out to alumni and mentors – an opportunity she was too shy to take advantage of – and not to neglect their peer networks as well. 

“You want to look for the helping hands,” Mason Soneral said. “You will have hardships in life, these are the people who help you move through those.” 

Faulkner also focused on the importance of networking and staying in touch with people throughout your career.  

“The ugly truth is a lot of positions are filled before they become public. If you can find out earlier, that is when your collaborative network can really help,” he said.  

The thing that Faulker, a 1986 alum, wishes he had known as an undergraduate is that you can take your political science degree into success in many career paths. 

“You come into these programs thinking where we know where we will be going – in a linear way,” he said. “The truth is you can take this degree in so many directions.” 

He also urged the students to keep all their options open.  

“You will make mistakes. When you discover [a particular job or career] is not for you, the real mistake is staying. When you realize it isn’t the right fit, that is the time to make a change,” Faulkner said.  

The PLS students had many questions for the alumni, including PLS Scholar Meera Kanade, who asked about the differences between working in the public sector versus the private sector.  

“I am grateful for my political science degree because politics affects every aspect of life. You have to understand the institution of government, the evolution and how you can influence them,” said Mason Soneral. “I touch government every day. It’s very, very valuable.” 

Photographs by Jackie Belden Hawthorne, College of Social Science.

Jeff Conroy-Krutz, Christine Mason Soneral and Steven Faulkner