Invaluable connections through alumni networks: How three slugs came together to help one another

From left to right: Marcia Wall (Stevenson ’92, English and American literature), Morgan Jones (Stevenson ’04, linguistics and cognitive science), and Frank Marquardt (Stevenson ’92, American studies).

The UC Santa Cruz alumni community is 140,000 strong worldwide. The strength of so many Banana Slugs sharing similar academic experiences can lead to invaluable advice, insight, and opportunity.

For Morgan Jones (Stevenson ’04, philosophy and linguistics), connecting with two other UCSC alumni—career coach Marcia Wall (Stevenson ’92, English and American literature) and leadership coach Frank Marquardt (Stevenson ’92, American studies)—helped Jones land her dream job 18 years after graduating from the university. 

“I feel like because we were all alumni from Santa Cruz, there was already a built-in trust and understanding between the three of us,” Marcia* said. “When you align with people who align with your values, I think that’s where great things can happen. And I think those values that we learned at UC Santa Cruz continue to apply.”

Jones graduated from UCSC with a B.A. in philosophy and a minor in linguistics in 2004. She had extensive careers as a writer, freelance sound operator, an editor, and worked briefly as a conversation designer. In 2020, Jones was laid off from her job and immediately began searching for a new occupation in UX and conversation design. 

She was interviewing for as many as three different companies simultaneously, most of which encompassed four rounds of interviews. She was frequently interviewing, was adjusting to online interviews early into the pandemic, and sought out the advice of a career specialist. 

She landed on career coach Marcia Wall, a Stevenson alumna who offered a discount for her services to UCSC alumni.

With the help of Marcia, Jones honed her interviewing and presentation skills and gained profound confidence in herself and her work. 

“It was very helpful for her to instill me with confidence and make me feel really good about telling my story,” Jones said. “She was pretty honest with her feedback and was always helpful in being a partner in my process.” 

Marcia graduated from UCSC in 1992 with a B.A. in English and American literature. She worked as a K-12 teacher in San Diego for four years before teaching college English courses at the University of San Diego, San Diego Community College, and the University of New Orleans. 

Marcia said that at some point during her teaching career, she recognized that helping people “realize and exceed their own expectations” was what she enjoyed most about teaching. Marcia sought the services of a career coach and saw firsthand the job she wanted for herself. 

“When I started looking back on my career, I realized the through thread was that coaching piece,”Marcia said. “As a senior in college, I was a peer mentor to first-year students at UC Santa Cruz, and later I had also been dean of a technical school and a career advisor for high school students. So I’d been doing that kind of work, and I never really put two and two together.” 

Marcia has stayed connected to UCSC since graduating, offering pro bono career services through webinars, group coaching, and a UC career fair. Last year during alumni week, Marcia gave a presentation on imposter syndrome. 

When she worked with Jones, Marcia reached out to an old friend from UCSC, Frank Marquardt (Stevenson ’90, American studies), who attended UCSC for two years before transferring to Reed College. She connected Marquardt, now a leadership coach with an extensive background in UX design, with Jones so they could share experiences. 

“It’s always valuable for us to remember that we are connected, and it’s easy to forget how connected we are,” Marquardt said. “It took a long time to figure out my career path and undo some of my own mental blocks around networking. But over time, I’ve come to see networking as a really beautiful way to explore another person’s experience.”

As of April, Jones has begun working as a conversation design manager for and continues to take leadership classes with Marquardt. 

“I think that the moral in this story is to think more about reconnecting when you’re at a crossroads in your life and maybe reach back to your university—in this case, UC Santa Cruz,” Jones said. It’s a good feeling to know that we all shared that experience.” 

*Marcia preferred to be identified by her first name in this story.