stefan-walz

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.

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.

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.

 

Morgan Pearson Martin (’08) Blends Physical and Mental Health

-Tell us a bit about your experience at UNC Asheville?  What is your major? When did you graduate? How were you involved on campus?

My name is Morgan Martin and I graduated from UNC Asheville in 2008 with a B.A. in psychology and a minor in health and wellness promotion. When I graduated, I only needed one or two more classes to receive a double major, but I was in such a rush to get my first real job I didn’t take the time to finish it!

At UNC-Asheville, I started out as an Environmental Studies major. After dabbling in those classes for a semester, I decided perhaps I would rather focus on teaching at the elementary school level. It didn’t take me long to determine that I didn’t have the passion needed to truly love the teaching field! It was during that time I had taken a few psychology classes and started to get hooked on learning more. I started adding in classes for the minor in health and wellness promotion, which had just been created, and I LOVED the combination! I enjoyed combining the two fields, which allowed me to learn how our physical health and wellbeing affects our mental state and vice versa. While delving deeper into these two areas, I began working and volunteering on campus in various capacities.

I served as a resident assistant my sophomore year in Founder’s Hall, which began to spark an interest in working in higher education. I also worked as a student activities assistant, where I helped with various activities focused on student entertainment and education. I was a member of Psi Chi, the National Honor Society in Psychology. I was also a member of Active Students for a Healthy Environment (ASHE).  I participated in service learning opportunities, which included a trip to New Orleans with Habitat for Humanity one spring break. Additionally, I participated as a mentor when I was an upperclassmen, in a freshman colloquium course that was focused on Martin Luther King Jr.’s work and taught by Professor Merritt Moseley. During that class, I had the opportunity to serve in various capacities, including assisting students with finding resources on campus and with projects for the class. I also served on a student advisory council for campus health and wellness. It was through these opportunities that I started to really develop an interest in continuing to work in an academic setting, preferably with students. I loved my college years so much I wanted to focus my career in this area!

About two months before graduation, I started applying for jobs in Maryland. My boyfriend at the time (now my husband), who I met at UNC-Asheville, was from Maryland and we figured there would be more job opportunities in the D.C/Baltimore area than in Asheville. Although we both toyed with going directly to graduate school, we were eager to start supporting ourselves. I had also never lived outside the mountains of Western NC and was eager to live in the “big city.” I was able to secure a job before graduating in Maryland at University of Maryland University College (UMUC). My title was Community Relations Coordinator. In this position, I recruited community college students from all over the state and assisted them with transferring to UMUC.

While at UMUC, I was still thinking about graduate school. I applied and was admitted to Loyola College of Maryland (MA in Counseling) and to University of Baltimore (MS in Counseling Psychology). I took a course at University of Baltimore and decided I just wasn’t sure what I really wanted to do yet. After working at UMUC in the coordinator position for a year, I was promoted to Assistant Director, where my duties remained the same but I also began to oversee a large scholarship program. It was at that point, I realized that in order to continue an upward trajectory I would likely need to get serious about earning a master’s degree. The problem was that I still didn’t know “what I wanted to do when I grew up.” I decided I would pick a degree and go for it, so I found a subject area I was interested in that I thought could serve me well professionally, and I began a degree program. Two years later, I completed my MS in Management with a specialization in Non-Profit and Association Management with University of Maryland University College.

Getting the master’s degree seemed to serve me well, because while I was in the midst of earning it, I was honored to have the opportunity to begin serving as Director of College and University Partnerships at UMUC. In that position, I helped to form new articulation agreements and partnerships with community colleges across the country, in order to provide community college students with a seamless transition to UMUC that would save them time and money. I managed a team of tespeakingn people and got some wonderful experience as both a manager and a higher education professional. I also wanted to get back to my interests in health and wellness promotion. I decided to earn my yoga teaching certification so that I could continue to nurture my interests in health promotion while working full-time in higher education. The yoga teaching program was an excellent way to fulfill my interests in health, fuel my yoga practice, and explore other opportunities that I had not had the chance to focus on before.

-What are you doing today? In July 2013, I decided I was ready for a new challenge! I wanted to continue to expand my experience in higher education while also incorporating my interest in health and wellness. I applied to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (JHSPH) for the position of Associate Director of Alumni Relations. My work now is focused in higher education but takes place in the framework of public health.  JHSPH is the oldest, largest, and best school of public health in the world, and being surrounded by world class researchers and students from across the globe all focused on public health and saving people’s lives is extremely rewarding. Many of you probably know what alumni relations work consists of, since I’m sure you have probably been in contact with UNC-Asheville alumni office at some point in your time there! My work is primarily focused on engaging JHSPH alumni with the school and with each other through events, volunteer opportunities, and focused communications (such as social media, e-mail newsletters, website content, etc.)  

-What is next for you? I continue to explore my dual interests in health/wellness promotion and higher education. I have been working at JHSPH for one year now and have learned so very much. As I continue to grow in my position at the School, I am also nurturing my interests in health and wellness promotion. I now serve as secretary on the board of a recently formed non-profit group called Yoga for Parkinson’s, Inc. which aims to provide low-cost or free yoga classes to people with Parkinson’s disease and their caregivers. I volunteer my time teaching yoga to people with Parkinson’s. I am also expanding to use yoga as a customized therapy  to people with specific and unique needs, such as fertility issues, mobility issues, etc.

-What do you know now that you wish you knew as a student? If I could return to being a student, I think I would take advantage of more opportunities that I thought were too difficult to attain. I would do a semester abroad and apply to graduate school right away after graduating. I would finish that dual major too! Overall, my experience at UNC-Asheville was a wonderful one and I have extremely fond memories of my time there. I enjoyed a balance of fun and academia, formal service and work activities and soaking up the sun on the quad.

-What advice do you have for job-seeking students who are pursuing your degree? You can do anything with a degree in psychology. I truly believe that my psychology degree has helped me to better understand how people work and to understand things from a different perspective than I would have otherwise. Utilize the Career Center! I used the career center in so many ways: career coaching, mock interviews, and resume reviews, to name a few. Start early in exploring your options if you aren’t 100% sure what direction you want to take. Volunteer, shadow, do internships, find any way that you can to explore every potential interest that you have. Keep an open mind because sometimes the most unlikely of jobs can lead you down a path that you never knew you were interested in but end up being fascinated with. And even if the first job you land isn’t exactly what you want, be comfortable knowing that you will still learn a myriad of transferrable and invaluable skills that can serve you as you continue to grow professionally.

Sam Riddle (’11) Serves Buncombe County Schools

Sam.Riddle- Version 2Much like the average Political Science student, I arrived at UNC Asheville with an interest in government, politics, and policy and the vague idea that I would attend law school.  Up to that point, I had some experience with politics and the law, but I lacked a vision of where I wanted to go and what exactly I wanted to do.  However, never being one to back down from a challenge, I used every opportunity I could get my hands on.   While I had the pleasure to work on campus with the different political student groups, in student government with the very important (though rarely called) judicial branch, in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program with Dr. Joe Sulock, and to serve as an intern for the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty in Washington, D.C. (Thanks, Baptist Student Union), my most important internship and opportunity came from this very Career Center by connecting me to the Asheville Downtown Association.  From 2009 to 2011, I worked with Joe Minicozzi, now of Urban3, and the Asheville Downtown Association.

This opened up a new world to me that set me on the path to working with local governments and nonprofits.  I learned about local government structure, citizen input, business interests, planning and development, and so much more.  I completed a big research project for the Downtown Association that provided data for my Senior Capstone in Political Science, as well as an Independent Study in Economics.   With that experience in hand, I decided that a Masters in Public Affairs would better acclimate me to the public sector and its skill set. Western Carolina University’s Public Affairs program increased my management and financial skills and developed the skills and knowledge I received at UNC Asheville even further.  Most importantly, it gave me an even deeper connection to western North Carolina.  Through the program, I assisted the City of Hendersonville move its Main Street program from private to public, I worked and learned with local governments across western North Carolina through the Public Policy Institute and the Local Government Training Program at WCU, I wrote a Downtown Plan for the Town of Sylva, and I assisted Kostelec Planning with a Pedestrian Plan for the Town of Robbinsville.

As I was looking for jobs, I found Budget Facilitator at Buncombe County Schools.  Again, not one to shy away from a challenge, I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to improve my financial skills and understanding.  Lo and behold, I got the job.  One may think that a Budget Facilitator or budget analyst seems more of a fit for accounting than political science, but I use my critical thinking and analytic skills more than accounting ones.  More importantly, not every task is accounting.  In fact, every day is different.  One day, I am working on a system to make a department’s budgeting more efficient; the next, I am tracking the state budget for education.  Overall, I help ensure and promote fiscal responsibility for Buncombe County Schools.   I truly enjoy being able to serve western North Carolina, particularly in a field as important as education.  Every day, I learn more about the budget process, accounting and reporting, and policy implementation.  My skills get used in wide reaching and different ways each day.  For these reasons, I could not be happier to work for Buncombe County Schools.  Outside of my job, I put my education to use in other ways.  Currently, I serve on the board of the Western North Carolina Baptist Collegiate Ministry, a nonprofit that serves UNC Asheville and western North Carolina.  Moreover, I have just begun serving on the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee for the Town of Fletcher.   So if you’re a UNC Asheville student, maybe unsure of exactly what you want from Political Science or any other major, my advice is to be open to opportunities you find and challenges thrown your way. Get out there, try new things, try different things, and you may be surprised by what you enjoy and how truly able and adaptable your liberal arts education makes you.

GO BULLDOGS!!!

University of North Carolina Asheville, Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, minor in Economics, Cum Laude with Distinction in Political Science (May 2011) Western Carolina University, Master of Public Affairs (May 2013)

 

Erin Frye (’14) Maximizes Social Media

THE INTRO

Hi everyone! My name is Erin Frye. I graduated from UNC Asheville with a Mass Communications degree (a group of students fondly referred to as “mass commIMG_6297ies” by Professor Hantz at the graduates award ceremony…) in May 2014. I attended UNCA for a grand total of five years, taking one semester off in the fall of my junior year. Read: TAKING TIME OFF IS OKAY. I would be lying if I said my parents, friends, professors…(genuinely everyone) thought that I would come back to school when I took that gap semester. But, I did. I worked full time and got my head around what I really wanted and I came back to UNCA instead of transferring, as I had planned. I realized it was the best place for me. Looking back, I’m so glad I did. The Mass Communications degree I earned has proved to be very valuable just in my few months as a post-grad professional!

THE DAY IN MY SHOES

After eating inhaling my dinner I sat down to write this blog post. It’s 7:09 p.m. Today I worked at Minx Boutique, and enjoyed almost every minute of it (minus a few frustrating technical difficulty moments)! I landed this position two weeks ago as an intern promised 15 hours per week. Four days later, I was offered a full-time position with the company! I was elated.

My job description is ever evolving, but I was hired as the Ecommerce and Social Media intern, so let’s just go with that! Today I added lots of new items to our online inventory via Shopify (technical difficulties ensue), wrote a blog post, and posted across all of our social media platforms. It was a busy day in Minx HQ! However, I am in awe almost daily that I get paid to do the work I do. I mean…one of my duties today was to take the perfect picture of new shoes we’re stocking for Instagram. My hobbies have officially become my career. Can you say: the dream?

 THE SEARCH

As I graduated just over two months ago, my first big girl job hunt was very recently! But what my job search lacks in history, makes up for in drama…trust me. So. My plan upon graduation was to move to Denmark and become an AuPair. I went to Europe immediately after graduation and quickly decided that it wasn’t going to happen. I was homesick the entire time and just got this gut feeling that it wasn’t where I needed to be. I came home and started completely over with my job search. Learning lesson, begin. I landed a position just a few days after returning state side. I posted all over social media about how excited I was immediately after getting the news. A week later, I received an email stating that my position had been resended.

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I freaked out. I totally and completely freaked. I didn’t know that was even a thing that could happen. But I assure you, it can. And it did, to me. I quickly learned that nothing is concrete until you know it is (and even then- concrete can crack) so it’s best to just stay quiet about new jobs until you’ve at least at your first day at the company. I picked myself up though, and accepted the position at Minx a week later.

All of these job opportunities might seem like they happened so fast, and it’s because they did. But they were not handed to me. I was up every morning to set up my imaginary “office” in different coffee shops around town. I shot out my resume for every posting I could find that was ANYWHERE relevant to what I wanted to do. I printed out tons of copies of my resume, asked people to keep me in mind if anything opened up, and scheduled back-to-back interviews several days in a row. Needless to say, the job hunt itself became a full-time job for me for a few weeks. And it paid off, literally.

THE TAKE AWAYS

1: Intern. I had several relevant internships while I was in college (paid and unpaid). Babysitting isn’t going to impress a future employer. Focus on finding something that will build your resume. I assure you, the positions are out there if you’re willing to look! …Or have the career center help you look. Hello, the services are FREE!

2: Network. My internships and networking often went hand in hand. It really is a small world and you would be amazed at how connected your bosses and coworIMG_0670kers are. Always dress to impress and follow up with people when you say you will. They won’t forget you.

3: Know that you will hit some bumps in the road, but bounce back quickly. I let myself get discouraged for about 24 hours after I lost the job I thought I had. You have to accept when things don’t go as planned and let it fuel your desire to make something even better happen!

3: Remember that the job market is fluid. Don’t rule out internships or part-time positions that look interesting, because they could evolve into much more. Focus on finding a job that you enjoy before worrying about paying the bills. Things will work out.

Juliana Grassia (’15) Assists NC Secretary of State

Hello! My name is Juliana Grassia and I am a senior studying political science and French. My particular interests are in local and state politics, government relations, and policy making.

In November 2013, the UNC Asheville Honors Program sent out a notice for a scholarship program offered through UNC General Administration. The program is called the Marian Drane Graham Scholars Program. It’s an immersive and experiential summer program designed to provide students the opportunity to develop leadership skills and gain a better understanding of key issues facing public higher education. The program is open to rising juniors and seniors attending one of the sixteen constituent institutions of higher education in the University of North Carolina. Scholars are mentored by UNC leadership, spend time in the UNC General Administration offices in Chapel Hill, NC, travel to UNC campuses, and visit with key NC policy leaders and elected officials in North Carolina and Washington, DC. Scholars are also placed in a state government agency for an internship. In addition, scholars must write and present a capstone project during the program that addresses an issue or policy in public higher education.

As soon as I read the description, I knew I wanted to be a part of it. So I applied, and was chosen for an interview at the end of January. The interviews were to take place in Chapel Hill, so I had to opt for a Skype interview because ophoto2f the distance. With no experience with Skype interviews, I went to the Career Center for some advice. The advisors reminded me not to wear crazy colors or patterns and said to double-check that my webcam was working. They were very insightful and helped me calm down.

My interview lasted about ninety minutes, and I fortunately encountered no technical difficulties. In March, the day before Spring Break began, and received a phone call from the Assistant Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs for the UNC System, Dr. Tracey Ford. She gave me the wonderful news that I had been selected as a 2014 Marian Drane Graham Scholar.

For six weeks beginning at the end of May, I lived in Raleigh with the five other scholars. My internship placement was with the North Carolina Secretary of State, Elaine Marshall. When I found out about my internship, I was ecstatic. Secretary Marshall was the first woman to be elected to that office and the first woman elected to statewide executive office in North Carolina. I had heard her speak before at conferences, and I knew her as role model for women in politics.

It was a challenging internship because the department in which I was placed (government and policy relations) concentrates on working with the General Assembly. They focus on legislation and initiatives that impact the Department of the Secretary of State. My internship occurred in the midst of budget deliberations, so you can imagine every state agency in Raleigh was fighting to ensure they were not negatively impacted.

I quickly had to figure out protocol- how to act, when to speak, what to wear. I sat in on committee meetings and legislative sessions. Even when I vehemently disagreed with a state senator’s position, I had to keep it to myself. I can be very fiery when it comes to certain issues, but sometimes it’s better to pick my battles and emphasize compromise. After all, consensus building is a cornerstone of effective government. It was a lesson in respect and tact, and I’m glad to have had the experience. Luckily, my supervisors at the Secretary of State’s office gladly answered my questions. They knew it was a learning experience for me and I was happy for their mentorship.

The internship half of the scholars program reinforced my love for local and state politics. I decided by the end of the six weeks that my next step after graduation would be pursuing a Masters in Public Administration. Such a program would prepare me for a career similphoto1ar to that of my mentors and supervisors. I’d like to work behind-the-scenes as an advocate for a state agency or public institution of higher education; in fact, nothing would make me happier.

The Marian Drane Graham Scholars Program also included two service projects, three visits to UNC system campuses, and one whirlwind trip to Washington, DC where my peers and I met North Carolina senators and representatives, in addition to lobbyists and staffers. As a political junkie and policy nerd, I had the time of my life learning, asking questions, and discovering aspects of the UNC system that previously I knew nothing about. I also had the honor of presenting the capstone project I developed during the program at UNC General Administration in Chapel Hill. My project was on the Voter Information Verification Act and its impact on UNC system students.

Going forward, I am certain about the path I would like to follow. With the help of the connections I’ve made in Raleigh, Chapel Hill, and Asheville, I know that it’s possible for me to successfully pursue graduate school and (one day) a career about which I’m passionate. As a rising senior, I am terrified about life after UNC Asheville- everyone in my position feels the same way. However, I know that upon graduation I will have both the education and the experience to tackle whatever comes my way.