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UCLA Magazine Summer 2004
Of God and Blue-Footed Boobies
The Providential Scholar
Of the Community, By the Community, For the Community
Good Fellows
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Summer 2004
Good Fellows
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Being a guide during difficult economic times has been a challenge for Soboroff. Many students are preoccupied with their future job prospects, and that becomes a frequent topic of discussion. "Students are surrounded by people who can't get jobs, and misery loves company," he says. "I tell them that I wouldn't worry about the ups and downs of the economy, and I reinforce their skills and determination." Then it is up to the students to use their skills and resolve to land a job — but is that enough in these economic times to land an outstanding job? "The point I make to students is that just because the majority don't get jobs doesn't mean they can't," says Soboroff. "Those who are successful put their excuses aside and move ahead, whatever their adversity."

Three decades ago, the question of how to get that first great job was much on the mind of Abraham Lowenthal, another senior fellow whose career has offered valuable lessons to his students. After earning a Ph.D. in government from Harvard in 1971, Lowenthal expected to become an assistant professor, only to find that an opening for him at a university wasn't particularly attractive. "Friends told me that I must get on the academic ladder, that I shouldn't postpone it," he recalls. Lowenthal then learned an important lesson from "a very wise man," David Bell, then the vice president of the Ford Foundation. "Don't try to plan an entire career right now, but do something you are passionate about and do it well," Lowenthal recalls being told. "Ask yourself what is the job you would be most excited to do for the next five years ... and at the end of five years you will be able to decide on another position to seek. And then you can repeat that." That advice led Lowenthal on a path that took him from the Council on Foreign Relations to a professorship in international relations at USC and the founding of the Pacific Council on International Policy, an independent think tank based in Los Angeles.

It's what Lowenthal would call "focus." When he first met one of his two policy school students, Paula Castro M.A. '03, a Ph.D. candidate in urban planning, he told her about his own career. "In the middle," recalls Castro, "he paused and began talking about the importance of narrowing one's goals to make them achievable instead of trying to solve the world's problems." It's remarkable, says Castro of Lowenthal, "how much he sees his work experience related to his life as a student. He has been completely able to get a synergy from them."

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