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Alumni Success Story

For Alexa Pappas Zannetos, Not Landing Her Dream Job Led to a Dream Career

By Melissa Bevins ’02

Alexa Pappas Zannetos

For Alexa Pappas Zannetos, SPA/BA '90, not getting her dream job after law school has worked out pretty well. Though she dreamed of being a federal prosecutor after finishing at Villanova Law School, Alexa was not able to break into the field. Today, she serves as managing director and global head of employment law for Morgan Stanley.  

In her role, Alexa manages a team of 23 attorneys globally handling everything related to employee litigation, HR legal matters, employee benefits, and executive compensation for Morgan Stanley's more than 50,000 employees worldwide. Alexa sits on a number of senior committees across Morgan Stanley and is one of the most senior female attorneys on Wall Street. 

She says she loves her position because of the variety in her work. From Alexa's perspective, every day is different when you are meeting the needs of more than 50,000 employees, and the field of employment law is particularly varied. It brings a mix of litigation and advisory work, and the field is constantly evolving. There is always something new to learn and adapt to, particularly when operating in 43 different jurisdictions, she says.

Originally from just outside Boston, Alexa was drawn to American University by her interest in political science and the university's location in Washington, DC. As a student, she was highly involved. As a freshman, she wrote for The Eagle and pledged Alpha Chi Omega. She remained active with Alpha Chi Omega throughout her career at AU and became a loyal men's basketball fan, attending most home games. In addition to her on-campus involvement, Alexa held down an internship at the US Attorney's Office and worked as a document analyst at Hogan Lovells during her junior and senior years. She graduated with a double major in political science and Spanish and Latin American area studies. 

For Alexa, ties to AU have remained strong. She is currently in the second year of her first term on the American University Alumni Board. For the past two years, she has hosted a summer send-off event for incoming AU students at her home in New York. AU is also a family tradition for Alexa. Her niece, Mariana Peltier, SOC/BA '15, just graduated from AU in May, and another niece, Erin Harrington, is a rising junior in the Kogod School of Business. 

When asked what her advice would be for today's AU students, Alexa says, "Take advantage of the opportunities offered to you. Engage. Don't be a bystander. AU offers a variety of courses and chances to participate in the life of Washington, DC. Don't miss out." She is certainly a great example of how that approach leads to lifelong success for AU alumni.