Stefan Walz (’16) shares his lessons on how to job search and have fun

I came out of school with a career doing exactly what I set my heart on and that is something for which I am grateful. I am the Videographer/Multimedia Producer for GoTriangle, the local transit company for the triangle area of North Carolina. I make promotional video content that encourages people to take a new mode of transportation such as the bus, vanpools, carpools, biking, or walking.  I work with a great team that allows for a lot of creative collaboration and simultaneous freedoms and I love every aspect of my job. However, looking back, I wish I had approached the job search differently.

In May 2016, I graduated from UNCA with a degree in New Media and concentrations in video art and interactive web/design. I was still recovering from my last semester of college and attempting to grasp the fact that after 18 years of education, I was finally done with that chapter of my life.  I made an agreement with myself upon graduating that I could slack off and just have fun for a few months. Throughout the summer following graduation, I went on adventures to new and old places, visiting  friends and having a blast. I had completely pushed the idea of looking for jobs or writing applications to the side.  This was a mistake.

I realize now that it is possible to have fun while simultaneously writing cover letters, completing applications, and actively job searching.  During my trips, I could have easily looked at job sites like Glassdoor, Indeed, and Beyond or requested informational interviews with people in my field. I vastly recommend that you engage in informational interviews because you can learn a great deal by asking questions and gaining insights about your career options and your future that you wouldn’t normally think of.  It also gives you great practice and confidence in an interview setting, making it that much easier when you are finally called in for a real job interview.

Informational interviewing also improves your network of contacts exponentially.  Every time you connect with a new person, you have the possibility of getting connected with their contacts and it grows from there.  You never know; it may lead to an eventual job offer or nice referral. I connected with and am still in contact with five people I met during informational interviews.  One of them even allowed me to shadow them on a video shoot and was incredibly encouraging in the process leading up to me getting my job.

My advice to students still in college; please, please build up your resume.  Most jobs have a minimum requirement of a bachelor’s degree in the field of interest.  It is your job as a college student to pursue internships or have an impressive portfolio made to showcase that you are above and beyond the competition.  It will give you great insights into what you will expect in the job field and looks so much better to employers come application time.

Adam Pryor (’14) Synthesizes his UNC Asheville Experience at Moog Music

My name is Adam Pryor. I graduated in the Fall of 2014. The first time I visited UNC Asheville’s campus I knew the first place I wanted to see was the music hall. Lipinsky hall, with its unique architecture, immediately told me that something interesting lay within. Down in the basement was where all the magic happened; 3 separate studios each with their own type of functionality with loads of nice toys and gear to play with. The main studio was comprised of 2 isolation rooms and the main control room with vintage mics, tape machines, high end mixing console, and vintage outboard processing gear with a patch bay for easy routing. Next door was the mixing and mastering room, acoustically treated, with surround sound capability, and loads of mixing software.

The final studio was where my dreams were fully “synthesized.” Dr. Robert Moog was a professor for some time at UNC Asheville after moving to the area to build his synthesizer company, Moog Music, back up. After his death, the university commemorated his legacy by opening the Bob Moog Electronic Music Studio.Inside this studio housed several (understatement) Moog synthesizers and various other Moog electronic effects and processors. I had always been interested in electronic music, but at the time where I was from no one listened to electronic music and talking about synthesizers was like speaking a foreign language. I didn’t care about its popularity or what I could potentially do with these instruments, I just knew I wanted to be there, to experience what those machines had to say and offer. I hadn’t even been accepted yet and I was already making connections.

Getting accepted meant becoming determined, I had 4 years to figure out what I would do with my degree and how it could be something I knew I loved doing. Failure was not an option for me personally for there was nothing back home for me to make a living at or any other thing that gave me such impetus as these electronic instruments did. I went to class, took in as much as I could, and most importantly, I had discussions with my professors and peers to help me decide what path was right for me after graduating from college. I discovered Moog Music was operating out of Asheville and was opening a new production facility close to downtown. Even better, I came across a company in very close proximity called Make Noise, who made modular synthesizers. Here were my opportunities to make something of myself. I immediately started building a connection with the staff at Make Noise.

That connection gave me the opportunity to land a summer internship with the company. Around this time I started to become more fascinated with electronics. These synthesizers were spurring my further curiosity into the science behind the machines. Jude Weinberg, who I was fortunate enough and privileged to have as a professor was just the mentor I needed. He helped to broaden my interests and understanding of electronics, synthesis, and the physics of sound. He helped keep me motivated and would help whenever I couldn’t quite grasp a concept. He even gave me a temporary job in the music department helping maintenance old equipment and digitally archive music on outdated playback formats (reel to reel, ADAT, etc.). Professor Weinberg encouraged me to reach out to Make Noise and eventually would help lead me to my ultimate end-of-college goal, land a job at Moog.

This picture was taken one afternoon when we were given free time to patch and experience the modular synthesizers made by Make Noise. From left to right: Asher Hill, Matt Sherwood (in the back), Safarii Urena, and me.

This picture was taken one afternoon when we were given free time to patch and experience the modular synthesizers made by Make Noise. From left to right: Asher Hill, Matt Sherwood (in the back), Safarii Urena, and me.

I knew I was taking a big step, a step towards the beginnings of a career in a field of work that I had since only dreamed of. I immediately made an appointment with Chris Hegg at the UNC Asheville Career Center. He was tremendously helpful with tuning up my resume, getting a cover letter written up, how to approach an interview, and even how to present myself as a professional on social media. He basically helped me find the right way to represent myself, bringing out my “A-game” so to say. Professor Weinberg put me in contact with Dean Cavanaugh, productions manager with Moog Music.

All that was left to do was put myself out there and hope for the best. I emailed Mr. Cavanaugh with a copy of my resume and cover letter attached and then waited. At least a month went by without hearing anything, but then one day I receive an email back telling me that a position is open and that they would like me to come in for an interview. By this point, I was ecstatic and a little anxious. Regardless of getting a job, I knew to make it this far was an accomplishment. I went to the interview confident in myself. Again, I held on to the belief that I had made it this far and I wasn’t backing down now. The interview went very well, my relationship with the music department, my internship with Make Noise, and my experience with building electronics scored well with Mr. Cavanaugh. I presented myself as professional with my resume and cover letter. I wanted Moog to know that even though I was young and not even out of college yet, I was determined and reliable, that Moog was where I wanted to start my professional career.

Several days passed when I received a phone call from Mr. Cavanaugh telling me that I landed the position. Instantly I felt this tremendous pressure lift off of me. I wasn’t sure if I was awake or dreaming. I had done what I set out to accomplish at the end of high school and through out college. What was even more incredible was that I hadn’t even graduated yet and they were already wanting me to start working. When my parents found out, they were so proud of me for sticking with my dream and working hard to graduate and land a job right out of college. Its an opportunity that doesn’t come along often for many college students these days. On my graduation day, I was able to hold my head high for I knew I had already accomplished so much, my degree was icing on the cake.

Anatomy Professor Jillian Davis (’06) Shares Some Advice on Doing What You Love

I'm holding an eastern pipistrelle (Pipistrellus subflavus) that was caught during a bat conservation workshop run by Bat Conservation International. I got to go on a UNCA undergraduate research grant!

I’m holding an eastern pipistrelle (Pipistrellus subflavus) that was caught during a bat conservation workshop run by Bat Conservation International. I got to go on a UNCA undergraduate research grant!

I graduated from UNCA with a BS in biology in 2006, then worked as a vet tech for two years before starting grad school. I graduated from Ohio University in 2014 with a PhD in biology and began a tenure-track position as an anatomy professor at a small, undergraduate university in NC. I feel incredibly lucky to have a position at a university that emphasizes excellence in undergraduate education, where I am supported in investing most of my time in teaching. I also have the opportunity to continue independent and collaborative research (I am interested in understanding patterns in evolution of mammalian craniofacial morphology in response to trophic shifts, and I have gotten to work with some incredible animals including bats, kinkajous, alpacas, and howler monkeys!).

As I doubt many of you are likely pursuing a career in mammalian craniofacial morphology, I’ll focus less on specifics and more on some advice that I feel is pretty universal, which I think essentially boils down to two main points:

  • Whether you’re applying to grad school, med school, or a job, the decision to admit you won’t come down to how many things are on your resume. Rather, schools and employers will focus on whether you’ve done the things you’ve taken on well and whether those things have reinforced your decisions to pursue your intended career. Sure, there are gregarious go-getters out there who seem to take on everything and shine at everything they take on. I’m not one of those people! When I take on too much, I get frazzled and do bad work. For me, the most important factors for getting into grad school were coursework (I tried different things and identified what I loved. A semester in mammalogy and human anatomy helped me pinpoint an interest in mammalian functional morphology), undergraduate research (You’re at one of the best undergraduate research institutions in the country! Find someone who does what you love and align yourself to learn from them. I did a project with Chris Nicolay, and he was a phenomenal mentor who, above all, helped me figure out how to turn my interests into a career. Just make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons—interest—and not just to pad your resume), and working as a vet tech (not only did I gain invaluable experience, I also learned that I did not want to be a vet. To me, it was tremendously important to be able to find a career in which I had the freedom to ask questions). Ultimately, both the experiences and the confidence in my decision were important factors in my acceptance to grad school. The most important factor was that I knew specifically what I wanted to do and chose a lab that was a clear fit.

    I'm holding a cane toad (Rhinella marina) found in Costa Rica while doing field research on chewing in howler monkeys during grad school. The picture doesn't do him justice--he was enormous--hence my excitement.

    I’m holding a cane toad (Rhinella marina) found in Costa Rica while doing field research on chewing in howler monkeys during grad school. The picture doesn’t do him justice–he was enormous–hence my excitement.

  • Be sure to choose a path in which you love what you do enough to keep doing it on days when you hate what you do. If there’s one thing that will make you stand out as a student or employee now and for the rest of your life, it’s being willing to complete tasks whether or not you feel like it or see their merit. To be successful in grad school, you’ll likely be pushed to change the way you write, think, and even feel. This sort of transformation can be, well, miserable. You’ll have to stare right into the face of not knowing what you’re doing and the creepy and unfamiliar prospect of utter failure. Meanwhile, your friends will start getting jobs and buying houses. You’ll wonder why you’re doing this to yourself (your mom might even ask you why you’re doing this to yourself–mine did). You’ll read discouraging statistics about grim job prospects after grad school and drowning in student debt. You may not always feel like you love what you do, but you have to keep showing up and doing things, whether or not you’re successful or sure, because with time, you start to gain perspective, and the ups and downs get smaller. Ultimately, people who love what they do stand out, and so it’s important to remind yourself a little bit every day that you’re doing what you love. It’s good for you and for your career to nurture and express the love that got you where you are, and remember that that love will get you where you’re going.

    Me_Jude_Jen

    Me and my 3-year-old son, standing beside a fellow UNCA biology grad-turned professor, Dr. Jen Hamel.

There is no doubt in my mind that I have a PhD and a career that I love because of the creativity, devotion, and investment of the UNCA faculty.  My career goal is to be like them, for my students.

Jessica Yee (’11) works with Publishing in New York

New YorkWhile moving to Brooklyn during the summer of 2011, I had the quintessential, clichéd “New York is so inspiring” experience. Although the physical trip to New York was terrifying (my parents and I had several extremely close calls with aggressive cabbies), seeing the Manhattan skyline for the first time was exhilarating and inspiring in a cheesy kind of way, especially when it hit me that this would be the new place I’d call home.

Fast-forward a week and I was bawling uncontrollably on the phone to my best friend in Michigan, moping in my unbelievably hot, air-condition-less apartment with four gigantic mosquito bites on my ankle. I was physically and emotionally miserable, and I was 100 percent convinced that I had just made the biggest mistake of my life.

But things worked out, as they always tend to do. I started my graduate publishing program at NYU, got internships and jobs, made some fantastic friends, and conquered my fear of getting lost on the subway (though for the first six months I was always afraid that each time I left my apartment I would somehow get lost and end up in some obscure neighborhood in Queens with no idea how to get home).

Moving to a big city where I had no friends, family, or connections was the last thing I thought I’d be doing after I graduated from UNCA with a mass communications degree. I was a bookish, painfully shy kid when I was younger, and I was terrified of being vulnerable in unfamiliar or intimidating experiences. But around the middle of my senior year at UNCA, I realized that I co uld not see a future for myself in journalism. The thought of staying in my comfort zone and settling for a job I wasn’t excited about really pushed me to explore new opportunities. At the suggestion of a colleague on The Blue Banner, I completed editorial and art internships at Lark Books, which sparked my interest in publishing.

Once I decided to pursue publishing as a career, furthering my education seemed like the obvious (and only) option at the time. I was accepted at four graduate publishing programs iOpen Roadn cities across the country: Portland, Oregon; Washington DC; Boston; and New York. They were all tempting in different ways, but as the mecca for publishing, New York edged out the other options.

I’ve been in the city for a little more than four years now. I work in publishing at Open Road Integrated Media, and I’ve been at the company for almost three years. I started in 2012 as a managing editorial assistant, and back when our department was basically just me and two other NYU publishing grads, I had to learn extremely quickly and on the fly. After a year I became the metadata coordinator, and I’m now the associate digital asset manager. I’m responsible for all the metadata, cover images, and content assets for our entire catalog, which at this point is about 8,000 titles.

I’m responsible for data entry and supervision of our title management system, and I handle all the metadata, cover images, and content assets for our title list. As part of the managing editorial department, I often work with our editorial, art, and marketing teams as well. In particular, I work closely with merchandising and marketing to set up price promotions and monthly campaigns at retailers. I also work with Ingram and other printers to make sure our paperback book assets and metadata are complete and correct in their sales catalogs. Customer-facing data is also my responsibility, so I maintain regular correspondence with our 30+ retail partners to make sure our books’ product pages are up-to-date and formatted correctly on their sites.

The fact that my job is significantly data-driven gives me a wealth of opportunities for the future, should I decide to branch out and pursue a job in a different field. Data has never been more vital, especially since digital commerce has become the norm and transactions are instantaneous. It’s more and more important for all companies to use their data to support discoverability, customer analysis, and general operations. As Open Road’s title list has grown, I’ve had to come up with creative solutions for managing our books in both internal and customer-facing systems, and I’ve gainOpen Road maped a lot of technical skills that apply to data management in publishing and other industries.

Working at Open Road and going to NYU forced me to do a lot of things I used to dread—public speaking, presentations, leading training sessions, and diving into new experiences without knowing exactly what I was doing. It’s made me more assertive and confident, both personally and professionally. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned, and one that I’m still working on, is how to balance my work and my personal life.

When I fiOpen Road booksrst started at Open Road, the company was still very much in its start-up phase, and as such, we all worked extremely long hours, including taking work home on weekends. Now that we’re more established and our company is constantly growing, I don’t necessarily need to work on the weekends or stay for 10-12 hours during the week (though forcing myself to leave at a reasonable time is still a struggle). I’ve had to accept that the work will always be there, and that it’s important to take breaks and maintain perspective. I’m not a doctor or a public leader. I work in publishing and help make books. If something goes wrong or a project has to get pushed back a day, it really isn’t the end of the world.

That’s a lesson that I wish I had learned a year or two ago—how to relax and not take everything so seriously. Big changes are intimidating, and leaving college and entering the real world can definitely be a daunting experience. I went directly from UNCA to NYU, and I think my fear of idleness was the biggest reason I didn’t take a couple of months to figure out who I was and what I wanted in life. I hope current students don’t feel like they have to settle for the first job they can find. Even though I’m not in a position where I use my degree on a daily basis, it was a huge stepping stone that allowed me to get where I am now. Don’t feel like you have to follow a specific track just because you studied a certain subject in college.

However challenging my experiences in New York have been, being here gives me opportunities that I never would have had if I had stayed in my comfortable, safe bubble. Not only do I get to work in an industry I love, I’ve made wonderful friends, learned from some inspiring professors and colleagues, and accomplished personal goals I didn’t even know I had.

Sarah Nunez (’04) and Carolina McCready (’98) Think outside and inside of the “bus” to Create Change

In 2011,  Sarah Nuñez (photo 12004) and Carolina McCready (1998) as well as their business partner Victor Palomino bought a short bus in an effort to continue their community work together and connect the dots in the work and needs of the people that they serve. In 2013, they officially launched the business, CHIVA, LLC – Transporting Opportunities to People.

CHIVA aims to overcome access challenges in WNC through creativity, arts and a bus. The project brings educational opportunities and multicultural activities to places where people live, work and play. This community “tool” helps neighbors to creatively access resources, entertainment and build solidarity. To learn more about CHIVA’s programs and events please like us on facebook at ChivaWNC or visit our website at www.chivatop.com

In 2014, CHIVA launched 2 new areas of work in addition to the arts education program that they launched in 2013.

Story Collection Project- We attend local events and film participants experience, thoughts, and ideas. Check out the video we produced at Goombay Festival this year at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7zdQfQ_62UU&feature=youtu.be

Dialogue Circles- The bus is transformed into a “living room” for dialogue and we create the space for communities to embark on their own individual and collective journeys of identity, race, class, and so much more….

As a social entrepreneurship endeavor CHIVA is still growing, learning, and adapting to the needs of the community. We work with local festivals, community events, schools, and in neighborhoods. We are open to working in new areas and with new communities so please contact us to let us know what you think or if you have ideas at chivatop@gmail.com.

  • What was a typical day like in your position?

Sarah- “We share work and have various roles. I do a lot of sales and marketing for CHIVA. On a work day I am usually answering emails, updating the website or facebook, talking with potential clients, preparing contracts, and dreaming up new work and ideas for CHIVA.”

Carolina – “My time is spent mainly in planning meetings with CHIVA partners, running the Quickbooks (paying bills, making deposits, reconciling and making invoices), writing grants, editing video for clients and running events for CHIVA with my partners.”

  • How has your experience helped you prepare for your future?

Sarah- As an interdisciplinary major at UNCA I had the opportunity to work across disciplines and with many professors. Working with Volker Frank and John Wood  in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Joseph Berryhill in Psychology, Ken Betsalel in Political Science, and Alice Weldon in Spanish gave me many lenses to see my work as well as many mentors and students to learn and grow with. This academic approach lends to my analysis of many problems in today’s society.  My approach is to see the world from various lenses, to take in lots of ideas, and to think big.

Carolina- “My studies at UNCA helped me develop critical thinking skills and the capacity to research and find the answers to questions, issues and challenges I face.  Information is always evolving and being able to ask questions and look for answers will always be applicable in my life.”

  • What did you wish you had known going into the experience?

Sarah- “I wish I had taken a business classes in undergrad and understood more about cash flow. As most things in life go,  its also good to learn as you go and learn from real life experiences. We are constantly developing ourselves as business professionals.”

Carolina- “ I wish I had developed more hard skills.  Learned how to develop websites, or work with software such as Quickbooks or video editing.”

  • What advice do you have for current students who are pursuing your major?

Sarah- “Follow your dreams. If you have a deep desire to do something with your life, DO IT. A great mentor of mine always told me, “Sarah, make it happen”. I think of this anytime I have a new idea!  Also, It helps to have a team of people to work with and mentors and people that can advise you on how to accomplish your dreams. Don’t forget that there are people who have probably participated in parts of the work you wish to do. So, don’t be afraid to ask for help.”

Carolina – “Have faith in yourself.  As graduates, you have developed a lot of skills and knowledge; be creative and do not be afraid to forge your own path.”

  • What did you learn about yourself while you were working?

Sarah- “I’ve learned more about my style and how I work in teams. All three team members are different and we bring different skills to the work we do. I have learned more about what makes me excited in my day to day life and how to be a business owner.”

Carolina – “I have learned that there is always more work to do than there are hours in the day. It is important to be able to prioritize and manage your time. I find it is valuable to be mindful what you say yes to always create space to take care of yourself.”

  • What influenced you to apply for this position?

Sarah- “After 15 years of community work I decided it was time to launch something creative and original that could use all of my skills. I also see a lot of flaws in the current systems and ways of doing things. I wanted to create a way that used a team approach, outside of the non profit models, that would bring about community change and be a social entrepreneur business venture.”

Carolina – “I was excited about the CHIVA project because I saw an opportunity to work with people I respected in a creative and colorful way.”

  • What would you do differently if you could go back?

Sarah- “I would have created a business plan or thought through the number more before entering into a business. I am a planner and not having this part was hard for me for me to truly see the full vision of the work and how it would be put into action. On the other side of the coin, I’m learning as I go to, “go with the flow” more and learn to paddle my boat to the rhythm of those around me. As a “go getter” and “jump starter” type of person this is not an easy step for me to take….but as all things in life you have to learn, push your limits, and grow.”

  • Has your internship or job impacted your future?photo 2

Sarah- “Its made me realize that I love to be an entrepreneur and I also have a lot of creativity to share with the world. Its shaping my life daily by teaching me to about myself and all that’s needed to make a successful business.”

The CHIVA Bus at LEAF 2014 Fall festival. Participants talk about forgiveness in the social justice movement with Rev. Lyndon Harris.

Ryan Loll (’15) Promotes Hiking Habits in Asheville

My name is Ryan Loll and I am a senior at UNC- Asheville studying Health and Wellness Promotion as well as Spanish. I am currently from Charlotte NC but made the decision to stay in Asheville over the summer because I got a position working with Campus Recreation planning pre-rendezblue for the incoming students.

Before summer was in full swing, I got an e-mail from the North Carolina Center for Health and Wellness asking for individuals to assist with an observational study that deals with recording the coming and going of trail users in the Asheville area. The center is working with an organization called “Kids in Parks” who’s goal is to promote a healthy lifestyle for children by motivating them to go out hiking and participate in outdoor recreation. The kids who hike on these trails can plug in their mileage online and get cool prizes after reaching set distances.  Because this project is still in its beginning stages, Kids in Parks wants to make sure that people are using the trails, reading the trail head sign and brochures that are offerIMG_4689ed so that they can implement this program in other states. This is where I came into play. My duty was to sit at the trail head at one of four trails in the area and record who is using the trail. I was given a little booklet that was used for data collection and I would fill out information such as group size, number of children, approximate ages of children, number of males and females, and how long they went hiking.  The funny part is the booklet I was given had birds on the cover and read “Birds of the Blue Ridge” so that people were not deterred by my presence. It was people watching at its finest.

So a typical day of “observing” would be 8 hours on Saturday and Sunday as well as 4 hours during the week of sitting in my camp chair or hammock reading a book or playing cards until a group of hikers would walk up to the trail head. Then we would act natural (or try to at least) and quietly record what they said about the trail as well as general information. They would hit the trail and I would resume back to where I left off in my book. The days ranged from being busy with hikers to an absolute ghost town.  One of the hardest parts of the job was not only keeping yourself occupied for hours while no one goes hiking on a rainy day, but also recording large groups from schools who  would come out and hike.  On my first day of work, a group of about 30 exited the trail and I was quickly overwhelmed with counting the number of people. Thankfully, I had a partner with me for company so that I was not alone all day on a trail, but for the most part I was pretty quiet.

The funniest and best part of the job was trying to be inconspicuous while “observing” hikers. The most popular method of camouflage was pretending to have a pic-nic but when you are at the same location several hours later only moving to avoid getting sunburned, your cover gets blown pretty easily. Sometimes people would catch on to our activities and notice that the same two people are at the same location that they were hours ago and they seem to be writing something down every time people use the trail.  We were instructed that if asked, we inform them about the project, but for the most part we were told to avoid interaction and any personal information because this study was strictly observational.

At the end of June the project ended and my skills of people watching were no longer needed. It was pretty fun being a part of this program because it allowed me to get a firsthand account of how projects like this are implemented, evaluated and improved. Thankfuunnamedlly I had an introduction to health implementation and evaluation in a class I took last spring titled “Health Promotion Theory and Practice” with Ameena Batada that allowed me to understand my purpose in this project. I was also glad to work with this program because it allowed me to establish a relationship with the North Carolina Center for Health and Wellness and I now have some basic experience with data collection not to mention my people watching skills have greatly improved as well.

I feel that the main reason why I got this short term position with the center was because of my relationship with my professors in the department of Health and Wellness (and also a little bit of checking my email).  For any students who are interested in a position like this I highly recommend just stopping by, saying hello, introducing yourself and establish that you are interested in work like this. The professors and staff members in this department are awesome and love getting students involved in projects like this.  After this project I honed in my skills of observational work, multitasking as well as keeping myself entertained during slow days. Thanks to this opportunity, I hope that more projects will present themselves to me and that I can use them for Undergraduate Research.

My advice to current students wishing to gain more experience in their field through opportunities out of the class room is to simply go and talk with their professors about what you are motivated and passionate about and ask them how you can personally grow to excel. These faculty members are not only teachers but resources to help students branch out and establish new relationships within their area of study.  This project and others similar to it are great for building transitional skills such as problem solving, communication, critical thinking and work ethic. Once this project had finished, I felt that I got a tiny taste of what working in health promotion and research is like and I am ready to go out and find another project in my field of study that I am most motivated about.

Joe Phillips (’09) makes an impact at the South Pole

I always wanted to travel and to experience nature outside of my native state of North Carolina.  So when I graduated from UNCA in 2009, my goal was to get a job outside of North Carolina, in some place new and preferably, with a lot of travel.  Like most recent college graduates, I applied for hundreds of jobs in the months following graduation and wasn’t having any luck thanks to my limited real world experience and the economy was still suffering from the recent recession.

As the economy got worse and the outlook for recent college graduates went downhill, I started to revisit a conversation I had at UNCA’s Atmospheric Science Department’s 30th Year Anniversary Symposium.  This conversation was about the NOAA CorpIMG_2580s and since I had never heard of this service and thought it to be too good to be true, I sort of brushed off the conversation at the time.  I gave it some more thought and since I had nothing to lose just by applying, I sent in my application.  Since the NOAA Corps offered a lot of travel, great health insurance, and diverse assignments, when they offered me one of the officer candidate spots in Basic Officer Training Class 116, I gladly accepted.

The NOAA Corps are a highly trained, deployable group of commissioned officers that manage and operate NOAA’s research platforms and collect science data vital to the success and protection of the United States’ domestic and international commercial and environmental interests.  We also hold high level leadership positions throughout NOAA.  Since joining the NOAA Corps, the United States’ 7th and smallest uniformed service, I’ve traveled more than I could have hoped for, held responsibilities I couldn’t dream of just a few months out of college, and assisted and lead science data collection operations in extremely remote, beautiful places around the world.

My assignments have also been very diverse and exciting.  My first assignment was to complete a variety of maritime trainings at the US Merchant Marine Academy that specialize in navigation, operations and safety while at sea.  Those days were spent enjoying the New York City skyline, driving small boats around Manhattan and applying the class work in operational situations.  Following thDSC_1155is training, NOAA gave me shipboard assignments that not only applied my nautical training and helped me grow professionally, but these positions also assisted in the deployment and recovery of many Tropical Atmosphere and Oceanic buoys along the equator that monitor the El Niño Southern Oscillation cycles and hydrographic survey operations along the Virginia, Oregon, Washington and Alaskan coastlines.  I was also tasked to lead oil, boom and marine mammal helicopter flights in the Gulf of Mexico Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill response.

My current assignment tends to raise eye brows and seems unbelievable to most.  I’m currently NOAA’s Atmospheric Research Observatory (ARO) Station Chief at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in South Pole, Antarctica.  As the station chief, I help to maintain the facility and a suite of instruments that sample the atmosphere.  ARO sits up against what’s called the “Clean Air Sector” and since air here is free from direct human contact thanks to its protection under the Antarctic Treaty, the data collected is used to determine Earth’s background atmosphere.  A change in this background atmosphere can represent a global change and given what is known about the different climate forcings in the atmosphere, anthropogenic changes.  The instruments at ARO measure aerosols, greenhouse gases such as CO2, solar radiation, halocarbons and trace species and current levels of ozone, including the ozone hole.  We also collect a variety of air samples that are analyzed in the NOAA Boulder labs and at Scripps Research Institute.

The experiences and education I received at UNCA was a building block to where I am now and the internships and various volunteer opportunities offered by the atmospheric science department paved the way for the commission that has given me so many great experiences.  While I was a student, I was active in the atmospheric science department; I volunteered and participated in the student chapter of the American Meteorological Society (AMS), AMS outreach, the department’s forecast line, and every forecasting competition I could.  I spent my summers interning or doing research where I could and worked part or full time continuously.  My advice to everyone still in school is to keep your grades up and take advantage of every educational and social opportunity you can.  Internships, research positions and extra circular activities help you stand out in the job hunt, make you better-rounded, and help you get a job that makes you happy.  And of course, have fun!

Paola Salas Paredes (’16) is a HIPster

As a Millenial living in Asheville with its eclectic yet laid-back vibe, I have often gotten labeled as a “Hipster” (for those not familiar with the terminology, “hipster” refers to the anti-mainstream, pretentiously materialistic social clique that many young adults have taken to define our generation as outfitted by the Hipster mecca, Urban Outfitters). While I do enjoy wearing high-waisted shorts, practicing yoga, drinking tea instead of coffee, listening to “indie” music and attending music festivals in my free time, I choose to ascribe to a different type of hipster: the philanthropic, socially-conscious, Latina leader and North Carolina fellow for the transnational non-profit organization Hispanics in Philanthropy, or HIP for short.

Based in Oakland, CA anunnamedd with offices in Mexico and throughout the United States, HIP aims to strengthen Latino communities by increasing resources for the Latino and Latin American civil sector; increasing Latino participation and leadership throughout the field of philanthropy; and fostering policy change to enhance equity and inclusiveness. As a Political Science major with an interest in International Relations, I did not think I had any interest in the non-profit sector, but I did know that I was interested in learning about how an international organization worked and learning more about the issues facing the Latino community. I applied to the Z. Smith Reynolds foundation’s Non-Profit Internship Program (found while scrolling through Rockylink), which funded this paid internship and I was matched with HIP.

Since this was my first internship experience, I did not have any expectations. I assumed that at most, I would be making copies, answering the phone and doing data entry-essentially paper pushing. I figured this internship would serve as a resume stuffer, especially since I had no future career plans dealing with the world of Philanthropy or non-profits. After all, I was determined to be a Civil Service Officer working at U.S. embassies throughout the world. But here’s what I came to find out: HIP is just one unique nonprofit experience. My supervisor would often tell me, “You’ve seen one non-profit, you’ve seen one nonprofit. No two non-profits are the same.” And she’s right.

From the very beginning, my supervisors made it clear that I would not be doing any paper pushing. They took the time to get to know my interests academically, my career goals, they assessed where I was in my professional development and sat down with me to develop a work plan that not only gave me the most in-depth experience of a non-profit organization, but also challenged me to step outside my boundaries and take on projects that I had no previous exposure to, while also reserving time to develop hard skills such as public speaking and interviewing that will serve me throughout my professional career. I came to learn a lot about the ins-and-outs of grantmaking and grant writing. HIP is unique in that it focuses on capacity building grants (if you are wondering what capacity building is, make sure to send me a google invite for at least an hour so I can properly explain it and all its nuances!)

But perhaps most importantly, I got a great look at what the Latino population is like in North Carolina and what barriers and struggles they face. Did you know that between the 2000 and the 2010 census, the Lunnamed (1)atino population nearly doubled in North Carolina, making North Carolina one of the states with the highest growth in Latino population (accounting for a 120% change between 2000 and 2010)? As a Latina and a first-generation immigrant, it was fascinating to learn that I was part of this population boom. As a treat to my political interests, my supervisors sent me out to Raleigh to work alongside some of our grantee organizations as we spent the day lobbying our lawmakers on behalf of Migrant Workers’ rights as well as access to higher education for Latino students. Not only did it feel like a real life House of Cards episode (no Kevin Spacey, but all the drama was there!) but I felt like I was working towards something big. UNC Asheville has been very good to me the past two years offering me all the transitional help I needed as a first-generation college student, connecting me with the Multicultural Center’s Peer Mentoring program to ensure my success in that critical first year, and on top of that giving me the generous gift of the Board of Trustees scholarship. I want to work to ensure that such opportunities and mechanisms are available to all minority students.

Lastly, what I found truly fascinating about HIP is its ability to adapt to the current sociopolitical climate. Whether instituting a special grant round which funded organizations that would be helping Dreamers get DACA or facilitating discussion and gatherings with national funders to address Philanthropy’s reaction to the current humanitarian crisis of the immigrant children at our U.S. borders, HIP’s work is ever changing to meet the needs of the Latino Community.

In conclusion, my time with HIP has truly been a monumental experience that has directly led to me becoming a stronger leader, a better communicator and a more understanding individual. The lessons I learned in the office and out on the road with my supervisors have truly impacted me. Being surrounded by the many strong, motivated women that make up HIP has given me examples of th e type of woman I want to be. Although I still aspire to be a world traveler working at U.S. Embassies throughout the world, I am now confident that I have experience and interest in the non-profit sector and I am definitely considering it as a career. My advice to anyone looking for internships is to remember that internships are about the experience and lessons learned rather than what it looks like on a resume. Don’t be afraid to go beyond your interests and try something different, you may just find that it becomes the new thing you’re passionate about.

Sarah Hinson (’12) Follows her Writing Passion to Wildfire Advertising

I met a young artist named Em last night at a bar in Winston-Salem. We both described ourselves as creative types, and we both noted a disparity between reality and what my grad school professor liked to call “the aspirational self” (i.e. the ideal, yet unattainable, version of you who is forever flipping you the bird from her pedestal in the sky).

“When you’re always creating and thinking and driven by passion, there’s this self-inflicted pressure to be great,” Em said. “You just know you could do great things.”

“I know exactly what you mean,” I replied, wondering whether or not I could call myself a real writer because, well, isn’t copywriting working for “the man” and not for the greater good or for truth and beauty and justice? “It’s like you always know you could be great, but you have to be extremely self-disciplined to get there, and most people don’t get there.”

This is called arrogance, and it’s an epidemic in the creative world. Scratch that—in the human world. Even if you admit that you’re far from being “one of the greats,” you still think you could be great—you should be great—and that, friends, is what your freshman English professor called “hubris.” You might not think you have it, but you do. It’s the little monster under your bed that likes to disguise itself as humility.

Anyway, back to me. This conversation had me feeling a little bad about myself. I lamented the fact that I’m not one of those writers who wakes up at dawn to work on her novel and devours essays from The New Yorker during her lunch break. I am a writer who wakes up late, spends the day writing about undergarments and cake flavors, and comes home to skim gossip magazines. Truth be told, I am a disgrace.

“I’m not even sure what a writer looks like,” my new friend admitted.

Hmm. What does a writer look like? The archetypal writer? The 21st century, tech-savvy writer? The queer writer? The technical writer? The sober writer?

Then it hit me: I am who I am not because of what I have to show for it, but because of who I am. I am a writer. Period. (Or, better yet, exclamation point!)

I am plenty of other things, too. I am a daughter, a cousin, an aunt, and a friend. I am a female and a feminist. I am queer, quirky, and sometimes quiet. Whether or not I look like these things doesn’t change the fact that I am.

Here’s my point: who you are is going to manifest in a million different ways, and none of these ways is better than the other. Furthermore, you have no way of knowing how all these spectacular little aspects of YOU will express themselves.

This doesn’t mean you won’t have to work hard to succeed. You will. There will be times when you feel like throwing in the towel, but as long as that little ember of passion still burns within you, keep going. If you think you’ve lost that little ember, do everything you can to get it back.

That means something different for everyone. You might fall in love. Fall out of love. Travel. Hunker down and read a few good books. Volunteer. Hike. Conduct an anthropological study. Dance. Just do something and, if you’re lucky, you’ll end up doing what you truly love to do.wf-sign

I never thought I would love the ad world. There are countless things I never thought I would do, or feel, or say, and I’ve done, felt, and said all of them. I’m sure this will continue to happen until the day I die, because I don’t really know myself. The closest I can come to knowing myself is to become aware of that tiny burning lifespark in my gut.

I was a Literature major at UNCA with a minor in Mass Communication. I wrote articles and essays and interned with a local magazine and agonized over what I would do with my degree. (Here’s some more unsolicited advice: do not agonize. It won’t do you any good. Study what you love, and that will carry you through. I won’t say anything trite like “things will fall into place,” because no one can promise that. But your passion can sustain you, if you sustain your passion.)

Two years after graduating from UNCA, I received an MFA in Writing from the Savannah College of Art and Design. I wrote lots of nonfiction essays and long-form journalistic pieces and magazine articles. I wanted an editorial job. I agonized.

A friend told me to check out a few ad agencies in Winston-Salem, my hometown. I begrudgingly followed through and told each interviewee the honest-to-goodness truth: I knew next to nothing about advertising, I didn’t have any copywriting content in my portfolio, but I did love to tell stories that might resonate with people. I started my job at Wildfire few weeks later.

If you had told me four years ago—or four months ago—that I would be working in advertising after school, I would have laughed. Or shuddered. But, what do you know, it’s fun, and rewarding, and it has me writing and thinking, day in and day out. Sure, I might change career paths down the road, but I’m stoked to be doing what I’m doing right now.

Let go of that aspirational figment, especially if it makes you feel crummy about yourself. Let go of feeling like you have to carve out the perfect self, or the perfect path. Let go of the invulnerability you think you have when you think you know everything. If you’re open to them, unexpected opportunities will find you. Take them.

 

George Etheredge (’15) Explores Life through Photography

I moved to Asheville when I was ten years old and am now 23. A year after I moved to Asheville I started skateboarding, which has given me a community of creative friends, led me to travel to many places, see things in a way that many people do not, and most have all taught me to be persistent. It has hands down been the most influential thing in my life and has been the catalyst for what I find important and who I am today. After high school I took a year off to travel, work and experience life without regards to any specific schedule that school had driven into me after 15 years. I soon realized that getting out of the daily routine of school, I was instead just switching from one routine to another. I got very tired of working random jobs that I had no interest in or input in and decided that I needed to go back to school to keep my mind active and open.

I started school at AB-Tech to work towards my Associates degree and eventually transfer to a 4-year school. A semester before earning my Associates degree I had the chance to go travel Europe for a few months and skateben-rorey-jacob044did. I was in the Czech Republic for the majority of the time, but also traveled in Germany, Austria, and visited some friends that I met through skateboarding in Norway. It was an amazing experience and changed my outlook on many things. I started to shoot some photos while I was traveling, but nothing serious. When I got back to Asheville I finished up my Associates degree, and decided to learn about photography and start shooting photos.  Being in Europe was great but the language barrier made me feel a bit alienated. I still felt alienated when I arrived back to the states because of the endless amount of sub-cultures, social statures, and varying ideologies that exist in our modern world.

I wanted to explore my curiosities about people and the different ways that people live and construct their realities. PhotograpIMG_3959hy has given me a reason to meet people and learn about life, not only others’ lives but also my own. I am now at UNCA working towards my BFA in photography. It has been nice to be around like-minded people who can help give feedback and be there to learn from.  I do not consider myself an artist, but instead just someone who is learning to convey meaning through photographs. The liberal arts have helped me to widen my view and learn about a variety of things rather than just focusing on photography. I am very appreciative of the well-rounded curriculum that has helped me to get out of my comfort zone and learn about history, art, and other things that I otherwise wouldn’t have.

Outside of school I work at Push skate shop and gallery part-time and do freelance photo work whenever it comes my way. I also try to stay busy working on personal projects and keeping up with photography through friends and research. Trying to stay active in photography even when not in school has led me to meet people who have given me freelance work and invaluable advice on photography. Most recently the Asheville Citizen-Times published my first personal project that I worked on completely outside of school, about a community garden in Pisgah View Apartments. I had a lot of assistance from friends, who gave me feedback and advice that was a huge help while working on my first long-term project. I worked on it for the past year between going to school and working. I am very appreciative for the men who work at the garden letting me document their lives. It took a lot of patience, research and persistence, but eventually it materialized into something that I am happy with. I am most proud of the fact that I was able to build relationships and friPVApeacegarden07endships with the guys at the garden.

I go to UNCA to learn and be around like-minded individuals, not to get a job. Although I think a degree can be helpful when getting jobs, I think it is more important to try to find a personal vision and something that you deeply care about, then people will take notice and work will follow. I am still working to find my vision and to stay motivated even when I don’t know exactly what my outcome will be. Beginning a project and staying motivated without having immediate outcome have been my biggest challenges. Going to school helps me to stay driven shooting photos, but my most valuable advice to students is to find a way to become self-motivated. You are not always going to have assignments to help guide you towards projects and ideas. Staying active in the things that you are passionate about even when you don’t have outside encouragement is what is important and will make people care about the work that you do.

Here is a link to my Pisgah View Apartments peace garden project on the Citizen-Times photo blog:

http://blogs2.citizen-times.com/photography/2014/07/11/sunday-frame-pisgah-view-peace-gardens/

Link to my blog:

http://georgeetheredge.tumblr.com

Contact:

George.etheredge@yahoo.com