This week, we’ll be continuing our Major Stories series, this time spotlighting one of our own graduates: Nathan Farris! Nathan, originally from Kansas, is a proud graduate of the Eastern University class of 2013. He studied as a part of the Templeton Honors College and majored in Economics and Philosophy.
Nathan entered college intending to major in economic development. He was interested in the practical development aspects and economics, but soon found that the major wasn’t quite what he had in mind. At that point, he worked alongside staff to design his own major, in Economics and Philosophy. Rather than taking up any minors with his extra course space, Nathan chose instead to use that opportunity to take a variety of different course offerings spanning his diverse academic interests.
After completing his studies at Eastern, Nathan then pursued further studies at the University of Pennsylvania Law School—one of the top rated law schools in the U.S. This program entailed three years of intensive study, at the end of which Nathan was ready to enter the work force. The first year was a series of strictly required courses preparing him for a law career, and the second and third years allowed a little more room for law electives, seminars, clinics, and externships. All of this worked together to prepare Nathan for the career ahead. He graduated his law program in May 2016, passed the bar exam, and began working at his first job.
Nathan went directly into Real Estate law, as an Associate with Ballard Spahr, a national law firm headquartered in Philadelphia As a real estate attorney, Nathan works on a variety land use issues, including zoning, historical preservation, and real estate tax appeals. He also works on all aspects of real estate transactions. To use Nathan’s words, he deals with “all the stuff no one thinks of until they want to build something.”
Nathan says that, for now at least, the hardest part of the job is all the learning it involves. Even after three years of intensive law study, there is so much that you don’t know, so much that can only be learned on the job. And that’s what a lot of this first year in the work force has entailed for Nathan. It’s a lot of work and a lot of time; it’s hard, but for Nathan, it is worthwhile and enjoyable nonetheless. What Nathan loves most is that the things he works on affect the physical built environment of the city. He’s very interested in New Urbanism and the way that the built environment affects our lives as human persons; it’s incredible for him to get to be a part of how that plays out in Philadelphia.
Despite Nathan’s working in a very specific and highly technical field, his undergraduate studies play a role nonetheless. Studying philosophy, Nathan learned to read well and to be able to analyze a lot of [often dense] material and then write about it—he uses those skills every single day. Not only that, but it was as in his undergraduate classes—like Philosophy of Art and Culture—that Nathan developed his passion for what he does. It was there that he came to understand and love the philosophy of design, new urbanism, and the impact of the built environment—those things that drive his passion for his career and led him into it.
Even though Nathan is passionate about what he does now, he says that his freshman self would have been very surprised to see him end up where he did. He points to a few defining experiences and people in his life, along the road to this career. For one thing, both his father and brother are real estate lawyers as well, and Nathan has been told he should become a lawyer almost his entire life. He also considers Dr. R.J. Snell and the various courses taken under his tutelage (including the aforementioned Philosophy of Art and Culture) to have been instrumental.
Nathan says that he now feels at home in this career; even as he learns more each day, he knows that this is the right path for him. When asked the best advice he could offer to students as they try to discern a career path and the direction of their life, Nathan replied that he thinks it’s important to know that “the whole career thing is going to come in fits and starts, and that’s okay—you don’t have to be doing the exact thing you want to do right when you start out.”
Almost no one gets their dream job right out of college, and that doesn’t mean they’re failing! Getting that right job takes concerted effort, a lot of hard work, and a lot of ground work. It means developing transferable skills, gaining industry experience, and building a network. It’s enough to start out doing something you love and build up from there. In the meantime, we can do something we care about, and we should try not to be anxious as we go because we’ll only do ourselves a disservice. Everything we do along the way is a part of a bigger picture that we’ll be able to see when we finally reach that career point we’ve dreamed of.