This is a common and reasonable question, and one best answered by the authorities on the topic: our own UW alumnx! We've asked graduates from across the Humanities Division to write about what their current jobs are like, and how their educations helped prepare them for the challenges and responsibilities of their current work.

Right now, we're spotlighting Maureen Trantham, who discusses how her humanities education has helped her to become Senior Vice President of Operations, Social Impact and Philanthropy at Sesame Workshop (yes, the people who make Sesame Street)!

Maureen Trantham

Senior Vice President, Operations, Social Impact and Philanthropy, Sesame Workshop

Maureen Trantham smiling in front of a soft dark green background.

UW Majors: Comparative History of Ideas and Journalism

Tell us a bit about your job (e.g. what kinds of things you’re working on, what types of problems you solve day to day, etc.)?

At Sesame Workshop, I work to make sure our global social impact efforts run as efficiently, effectively and sustainably as possible. On a given day, in the US, this may mean analyzing how to scale our Sesame Street in Communities work in partnership with organizations serving vulnerable children and families. And, internationally, this may mean working with experts across the organization to determine how best to expand the impact of our Humanitarian work in Syria and Bangladesh to other crisis settings around the world. Most people don’t realize that Sesame is so much more than a show, or that we are a nonprofit organization in need of support, so I also spend my time thinking about how to tell our story and help potential funders and partners understand the full scope of our work.

How do you think your humanities education has influenced/advanced your career path?

A strong humanities education is all about curiosity and critical thinking – and I think we often underestimate how rigorous and analytical this scholarship can be. At the UW, my CHID and Journalism professors not only encouraged me to engage in my own independent research and inquiry through the Mary Gates Undergraduate Research Scholarship, but also apply my learnings and develop practical skills via internships like the Journalism Foreign Intrigue Program. This blend of theory and practice taught me to be flexible, creative, pragmatic and solution-oriented. It also strengthened my ability to pull from multiple disciplines to deconstruct a problem – whether I am advising executives, analyzing the merits of different strategies or developing implementation plans. This laid the foundation for my work in journalism, education policy and advocacy, management consulting and now operations at Sesame.

You can also check out the profiles on the Alumni Spotlights page for more information on what our humanities majors are up to.