Brandywine Alumni Spotlight: Maria Gagas, class of 2016

Maria Gagas

Maria Gagas

Credit: Maria Gagas

MEDIA, Pa. — Eight years after earning her bachelor’s degree from Penn State, Maria Gagas, class of 2016, is helping current students at her alma mater find internships.

Gagas began her Penn State journey at Brandywine in 2012, majoring in film production. After one and a half years, she transitioned to University Park where she completed her bachelor of arts degree. One year after graduating, she landed a job at her current employer, Synerfac Technical Staffing.

Gagas wanted to attend Brandywine because of the proximity to her hometown of Upper Darby, she said. During her time at Brandywine, she was involved with Lion Ambassadors and had a lot of fun giving tours to prospective students and their families.

“I love talking to people, so that’s why I got involved in the first place,” she said. “Every time I did a tour, it was like a comedy skit, and everyone loved it.”

Gagas noted when she transitioned to University Park, she kept in close contact with her Brandywine friends and even lived with some of them during the rest of her Penn State experience. While at University Park, she got involved in organizations that were more focused on her major, including Penn State Thespians and the Student Film Organization. She also did photography for THON.

Upon graduating, Gagas went to work at Synerfac Technical Staffing, a staffing agency located in Bala Cynwyd.  She said she was able to land the job because of a friend she made in Lion Ambassadors who was about to start working at the same employer.

“One of my friends I met at Brandywine reached out to me, asking if I could help him move out of his apartment, and I decided to help because I wanted to go back up to State College,” she recalled. “When we were driving back home, he told me he started a new job in recruiting and said I would be a great fit since I love talking to people. He told me to reach out, and I really wanted a job at this point, so I applied and got the job.”

Gagas also added that she credits Penn State for her being able to land the job, not only because of her friend but because she had so many transferable skills she learned at Penn State that she was able to use in her new workplace. She said those skills made her really good at her job, and she worked her way up from a recruiter to a managerial position during her tenure.

“I’ve been at Synerfac for seven years now, so I’ve been sticking with it,” she said. “I really like all the opportunities I got from my job, and I credit Penn State for that.”

Gagas noted she wants to help Brandywine students get internship experience at her company, specifically students who are majoring in business or communications fields. She said it’s a great starting point for students to acquire skills they can take anywhere.

“Working at Synerfac is a great steppingstone for people wanting to get their foot in the door because you’re working in an office environment,” she said. “A lot of what you learn in this job can be applied anywhere. You learn about networking, communication and office skills like cold calling.”

There’s not always one straight career path for everybody, so just explore what you like and find opportunities to use your transferable skills.

—Maria Gagas , Penn State class of 2016

When asked what advice she would give to current Brandywine students, Gagas said their career path might not be what they expect at first, but they should embrace every opportunity they get.

“I didn’t go into college thinking I was going to end up at a staffing agency, but I had a lot of transferable skills that I used from my time in college and ended up really enjoying my job,” she said.

“There are so many jobs out there that I think people don’t realize the skills you acquire in one field can be transferable to another. There’s not always one straight career path for everybody, so just explore what you like and find opportunities to use your transferable skills.”