Levi Roth (ΦΒΚ, Indiana University) is a Software Developer for General Motors in the Metro Detroit area. He graduated from Indiana University with a MS in Information Systems and a dual BS in Physics and Computer Science with a minor in math. He has been heavily involved in the Greater Detroit Phi Beta Kappa Alumni Association, where he serves as Vice President of Membership and Young Professionals Co-Chair. In his free time, he enjoys slalom water skiing and mountain biking.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Growing up, I wanted to be a teacher. I always loved the school environment and greatly looked up the many good teachers I was fortunate enough to have. I also really enjoyed helping others learn subjects that they found challenging. In high school, I was able to tutor students, and when I was in college, I became involved with an organization that helped students grow in their own leadership skills. While I now work in the IT industry, my passion for teaching still comes in handy. I greatly enjoy any opportunity to share information with my peers. It is especially rewarding when these knowledge shares spark their own curiosity.
What was the most transformative course from your undergraduate education?
During my undergrad, I took a critical approaches course called “Original Sin and Human Behavior”. This was hands down, the most impactful course of my undergraduate and even masters. The course focused on various secular and religious texts. With every assignment, we were challenged to comment on what it was saying about who we are as human beings. Additionally, we had to respond to blog posts our peers had written about what the text meant to them. Our professor, Dr. Constance Furey, also emphasized that there wasn’t necessarily one “right” way to interpret what we read. She challenged us to try to see things from a different perspective, and she drove home the importance of being able to communicate how you arrived at your conclusion. The critical thinking and communications skills I gained from this course are what I’ve found most valuable. I constantly see myself using them whether it is at work having to explain why I made a certain decision, or in discussions with friends who might have a different view on a subject matter.
You currently serve as a Software Developer at General Motors. What does your job entail? What do you enjoy most about this position? How did your liberal arts and sciences education prepare you for your position?
That’s a great question as Software Developer positions can vary depending on the company. At GM, I support email marketing for the US. Specifically, I wear two hats. My first role is a DSA (Decision Support Analyst) where I assist business partners in segmenting audiences for marketing and other email communications. I additionally support the development of our tools through my second hat as a Solutions Architect. What I enjoy most about my work is that there always seems to be a new problem to solve. Additionally, I help our business partners better understand the data we have to help impact decisions. I rely greatly on my liberal arts and science backings. Many of the reasons I do were reflected in the previous question about my most impactful course. With new problems each day and competing interests for resources, I have to be creative in my approaches, communicate clearly, and back up my suggestions with evidence. I attribute my ability to do these things to my education. Physics and Computer Science focus very much on the analytical, and the humanities courses IU provided help develop my creativity and ability to communicate. Together, they help make me a more well-rounded individual.
You are very active in the PBK Greater Detroit association. What led you to become involved in the association? As a leader in the association, what has been your most rewarding moment?
When I moved to the Michigan area in 2020, there weren’t a lot of opportunities to meet people, and I didn’t have any existing connections. However, I remembered meeting someone at a PBK event I had attended in college after I was inducted. It was a representative from the Indiana Association, and they encouraged new inductees to join their association or check for associations if you were moving to a new area. After I had gotten settled from my move, I poked around and came across the Greater Detroit Association’s website. I applied to be a member of the association and next thing I knew, the association President, Janet, was reaching out telling me that they were just starting up a group for Young Professionals. By the end of the year, I had become our Vice President of Membership and Young Professionals Co-Chair. What has been most rewarding about this experience has been helping others create connections. As the association was just piloting its Young Professionals group, it was really neat to hear from members how much they enjoyed getting the opportunity to connect and continue to grow as individuals.
You recently participated as a panelist in Phi Beta Kappa’s national Key Connections career panel. What is your best advice for liberal arts graduates just starting their career path?
I would say my best advice is to be bold, be upfront, and ask questions. Doing these things sets you up to grow and gain respect wherever you are. Being able to be bold means you are willing to take a chance and say something that might not be popular, but you can factually support it. With that comes being up front. You have to be willing to say when you don’t know something or acknowledge gaps you might have. Transparency is always the best, and when you pair that with clear communication, it can help correct some misconceptions. Lastly, being willing to ask questions is one of the greatest ways to continue to grow. It relies sometimes on being bold and upfront as you might have to ask someone to explain something that seems commonplace to them. Being able to do so provides many benefits. First off, you are able to learn something. Secondly, it helps others take a pause. People can so often get caught up in what they’ve always known. They fall trap to not exploring better options and or get stuck in group think. Keeping these three things in mind are what I think would be most crucial for recent graduates!
Phi Beta Kappa’s motto is “the love of learning is the guide of life,” and we are dedicated to life-long learning. What do you want to learn next?
One area I thought would be interesting to learn more about would be developmental psychology. I have always been fascinated with understanding why people act the way they do and how it stems from their childhood. Growing in this area might also help me be able to meet people where they are at or better understand where they are coming from. Some of my interest in this came from a few clips of a show I found called The Secret Life of 4, 5 and 6 Year Olds. This show follows children in a daycare setting with psychologists observing how they interact and engage with problems/puzzle put before them.
What was the best advice you were ever given and who gave it to you?
The Assistant Dean of the IU Honors College, Dr. Lynn Cochran, gave me some of the best advice I’ve had. I had worked closely with her through several honors student organizations I was involved with, and the advice she would always give was to encourage everyone to speak up. Part of it is you can’t get help if you don’t communicate. The other part is that sometimes you might see something everyone else overlooked. So often, I feel like we all make assumptions about what people know, but until we actually communicate it, there’s a high likelihood they don’t actually know what we are thinking. Keeping this in mind has been some of the best advice I could follow.
What book(s) are you reading right now? Are you listening to any podcasts or watching any shows? Anything you'd recommend?
Currently, I’m reading Life is Good The Book: How to Live with Purpose & Enjoy the Ride
by Bert and John Jacobs, founders of Life is Good. It is definitely a good read about optimism and overcoming challenges you face through the power of positivity. A lot of the book follows the founders of the t-shirt company Life is Good as they started their company. Throughout it, they reveal little bits of wisdom and things they learned about life as well as the importance of optimism. I haven’t figured out what is next on my list to read, but I’m looking forward to seeing what it will be! As for podcasts or shows, I hadn’t really gotten into those. I tend to prefer reading a physical book since I’m normally on calls and looking at my screen a lot due to my job.