Jennifer Hibbert, ATMS ’09, found peace in the most unlikely of places

russiaSenior year at UNCA, Joe Phillips and I found ourselves dreaming of adventures around the world. He ended up at the South Pole with NOAA Corps, and I ended up working for private industry in Singapore.

Graduating in 2009 meant that jobs for recent graduates were scarce. I applied for a few jobs around the world, but most companies were not keen to sponsor the visa of someone with no experience. One application, for a position as a marine forecaster in Aberdeen, Scotland was sent back to their main office in Houston, and they made me an offer. My only offer. My entire UNCA ATMS career learning the arguments why climate change is real and how I, personally, am going to save the planet, now faced the reality of the only industry willing to make me an offer: Oil & Gas.

I went to Houston. My company, Wilkens Weather Technologies (WWT), provided me with excellent training to forecast marine conditions anywhere in the world. My spirit for adventure meant I was the first to volunteer for any opportunity, bringing me offshore for rig construction projects in the Gulf of Mexico and later off Sakhalin Island, Russia. Turns out, Dr. Miller’s final ATMS project, “Seasick in the Pacific,” would be my actual job every day. I discovered I love working offshore. I find profound mental peace out at sea.

My thirst for adventure was not satisfied by just moving to Houston. I wanted an international life, to live as an expat, and I wanted to forecast for the southern hemisphere (to vindicate my unpopular choice to study a southern hemisphere storm during the very last week of our education. It was an unwelcome curveball!). When a job opportunity for a marine offshore forecaster opened in Singapore with Fugro, I applied immediately, and was clearly the right fit. Three weeks later, I packed up my apartment and blindly moved to Singapore.

Now I have been here for nearly five years. I was promoted to manager of the weather forecasting operations, leading 5 forecasters from Philippines, Indonesia, Myanmar, Greece and Brazil. I’ve had the chance to travel all around the world, and started a charitable organization, Waybright Foundation, to support organic farming, basketball and eco-tourism in Philippines and Indonesia. In 2017, I have built two bungalows so far: one at Villaconzoilo Compact Organic Farm in Leyte, Philippines; one at Bubble Addict dive & yoga center on Pulau Weh, Indonesia. I’ve launched a business to sell custom-printed basketballs to support Waybright projects, and plan to sponsor students from Philippines to learn from a similar farm in Jogjakarta, Indonesia. I am so inspired by the folks in these developing countries building businesses sustainably, caring for the environment, and striving to make a better world for their children. A little help goes a long way on this side of the world. The simple bungalow in Philippines (a traditional “bahay kubo”) was built from local materials with a budget of $1,000 in 30 days, and the income they now generate allows their village school to cover up to grade 6 when previously it stopped at grade 3. Many kids ended their education after 3rd grade, because the 7km walk to the next village is too difficult.

Despite the tragic Boxing Day tsunami in Indonesia, and the devastating Typhoon Yolanda in Philippines, these two places maintain an unwavering positive spirit, and have rebuilt their communities to be stronger and safer than before. It’s so easy to lose perspective of what is important when you live in modern convenience. Singapore is so clean, safe and efficient that I have grown impatient! I visit these places to remind myself how to be patient, and that instant gratification and comfort do not create happiness.

I credit UNCA for setting me up to thrive in multi-cultural settings. One elective course I took for fun- Food in Arab Culture- is one I now refer to daily. My entire life is a Humanities Cultural Event! American education heavily focuses on independent critical thinking and problem solving, which are unique and valuable traits in an international context. Classes in rock climbing, dance and volleyball at UNCA gave me the confidence to try all sorts of other new physical activities, and recently I’ve learned to sail, SCUBA dive, and Zumba. Taking extra time for fun classes at UNCA is the way to go, you never know what skill will come up later. I wish I had taken Meditation.

While my career is going great now, before I found the job in Singapore but wanted to leave Houston, I was discouraged by the amount of computer skills sought by employers. Getting promoted to manager meant learning lots of code fast (VBA, GrADS, DOS batch). Now I write programs (poorly) and wish I had taken some more computer courses while in University… or rather, I wish I had put more effort into Fortran!

My advice is to takes risks while you are young. Move out. Take a chance. Explore somewhere different, either with friends or solo. Life slows down eventually, priorities change, many peers will be content starting families and buying houses in the suburbs and it becomes harder to find adventurers. Not everybody has wanderlust. But if you do, go for it. You can travel for less money than you think. Home will always be there, but the time in your life where having an adventure and seeing something new beats being comfortable are magic years to be celebrated. American culture has a fear of traveling that does us a disservice. There is nothing to be afraid of! Hostels are the place where your new friends are waiting to meet you. Traveling will broaden your perspective in a way that will benefit your career for the rest of your life.FugroonAegir

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 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.

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

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

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

  • 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.

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.

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:

Link to my blog:


Daniel Johnson (’08) Provides Financial Advising with Parsec Financial

My name is Daniel Johnson and I’m a Financial Advisor with Parsec Financial in Downtown Asheville. I graduated from UNCA in May of 2008. Shortly after graduating, I went against the very good advice of my academic adviser to sit for the CPA exam. Looking back, it would have been much easier and advantageous to have taken the exam just after graduation. Lesson #1, your adviser knows best. Regardless, shortly after graduation I started an entry level position with the State Employees’ Credit Union. I knew that I didn’t want to be in public accounting; however, I wanted to enter a field that I felt would be applicable to my degree. After four years, I found myself administering a tax preparation program with SECU. So much for not working in the accounting field! While working at the credit union, I also continued my education at East Carolina University in their distance education MBA program. I graduated from the program in 2012. That same year, I also completed the education requirements and exam for the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER TM designation. All of this experience and training has been extremely helpful in preparing me for the transition to my current field. My wife Sarah (’10) and I feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to return to the great city of Asheville.

What was a typical day like in your position?

A typical day might consist of about three to four different assignments or tasks. The most common task that I have is in regards to communication with clients. Although we typically meet with clients a few times per year, we are in constant contact with them. The next task I find myself working on is preparing for upcoming client meetings. This involves communicating with the client to gather data, as well as prepare the presentation materials for the meeting. The next responsibility is actually participating in the client meetings. Typically this includes presenting their financial plan, as well as providing input on questions being asked and taking notes of the meeting. Lastly, I am fortunate to have some time apart from these tasks to keep current on the stock market and economy, as well as financial planning related advancements.

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

The main thing that I regret from my time prior to working in wealth management is not taking advantage of networking opportunities. This was not only at UNCA, but also in the community. I have seen others that work in a wide range of industries benefit from networking with other community members.

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

Daniel Johnson III redone 2
If you are pursuing an accounting degree, it will serve you well to go and take the CPA exam when you graduate. The knowledge is fresh and the opportunities are endless. I was narrow-minded to think I had to work in public accounting, but there are opportunities in education, private industry, and even financial planning!

What influenced you to apply for this position?

After years of working at the credit union and helping families with one side of their finances (mainly liabilities), I had a desire to help families with their whole financial life. Financial planning provides me the opportunity to utilize what I learned at UNCA, as well knowledge that has been built upon that foundation. Financial planning is a very rewarding career that provides a valuable service to individuals and families.

Ian Graham (’13) Coordinates HR for the New York Mets

How has this internship/job helped you learn more about your major? Management is a great course of study because it offers a broad range of quantitative/qualitative, analytic and strategic learning for the students to fully optimize their intellectual capabilities. Having the opportunity to intern with the Charlotte Bobcats (Hornets) allowed me to utilize the skills I had learned in Dr. Micheal Stratton‘s Human Resource Management course, which eventually paved the way for my current position as Human Resources Coordinator with the New York Mets.

What was a typical day like in your position?

The most exciting part about my position/industry is that there’s never a day that’s the same as the day before. As the Coordinator in the HR Department, I have the opportunity to complete an array of special projects. Some of the projeGraham,-Ian---Citi-cropcts include conducting interviews with prospective job candidates, attending Career Fairs at local universities and leading meetings with the internship classes. I thoroughly enjoy going to work everyday because of the various experiences I get to learn from, along with the incredibly talented people I get to work alongside. Working inside the most beautiful ballpark in the country isn’t so bad either.

Did you learn any interesting or unexpected insights into your major or career path?

Honestly, if I were to answer this question accurately, I would spend the next several days elaborating on all of the unexpected, interesting experiences I learn from each and every day. In my opinion, when you’re in an entry-level position, it’s important to embrace new ideas and concepts because you are learning new processes and procedures everyday. Constantly asking questions and learning from your mistakes is a practice that will set you apart from your peers. Being adaptable and adjusting to the workplace culture is a crucial mindset for young [and new] employees to embrace.

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

In terms of my major, I NYMwish I would have known how important the little things are in the classroom and in your study habits. Taking detailed notes and asking questions is something I did differently toward the end of my academic career. When one is truly engaged in the material, it’s noticeable to the professor and in your overall academic achievements.

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

Time management. Time management, especially as a student athlete (and this can apply to those who are working full-time), is the major difference between being a mediocre or an outstanding, overachieving student in the classroom.

What did you learn about yourself while you were working or interning?

I learned how much I value relationships with my classmates/teachers and co-workers/supervisors. It’s important to establish a healthy relationship with your colleagues in order for there to be an effective, shared organizational culture. Everyone on the team must work productively/efficiently together, and that occurs most often when the team members are cohesive.

What influenced you to apply for this position?Graham-Ian-batting

It’s always been a life-long dream/career aspiration of mine to work in the front office of a Major League Baseball organization. Having the opportunity to work on this team is something I will be forever grateful for.

What would you do differently if you could go back?

If I could go back, I would try to achieve the level of focus I had in my final semester at UNCA, throughout my entire time. Growing over the course of four and a half years allowed me to develop a sense of intellectual maturity with regard to my study habits. Has your internship or job impacted your future? [Hopefully] it has paved the way for a bright and prosperous future in the field of Human Resources and in Major League Baseball.

What were your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?

My biggest challenges were learning the ins and outs of resume building and becoming comfortable in my interviews. To understand the important features of a successful resume I took the initiative to reach out to various resources I had, including several HR professionals (Dr. Stratton) and my supervisor at the Charlotte Bobcats (currently HR Manager), for feedback/recommendations.

(Photos taken from with permission of Ian Graham)

Lianne Domenic (’11) Works at Amsterdam Start-Up

During the fall semester of 2010, my senior year at UNCA, I participated in a study abroad program that took me to Leiden, the Netherlands. I picked this particular destination in order to get in touch with my Dutch heritage and improve my Dutch language skills –  Lianne in Leidenalthough I was born and raised in the States, my mother is Dutch and much of my extended family still lives in Holland. I was originally supposed to be there for one semester. Four years later, I still call Leiden my home. It all started my junior year when I discovered I had already earned enough credits to finish my Literature degree a full semester early. Not ready to graduate and face the adult world quite yet, I decided an adventure abroad was just what I needed to cap off my undergraduate career. Not a week later I walked into UNCA’s study abroad office and registered with ISEP. I arrived in Leiden in August 2010 and spent the semester in a whirlwind. I had classes three days a week and was free to fill the rest of my time exploring the city. Leiden is about the same size as Asheville, though geographically the two couldn’t be less alike: Leiden is flat and coastal, its streets cobbled and narrow. While the Appalachians are filled with old growth forests and time-worn mountains, Leiden boasts thousand-year old churches and a university dating back to 1575. Perhaps the biggest difference between the two cities can be measured in height: While Asheville sits over 2,000 feet in elevation, Leiden is more than a meter below sea level. Despite these dHooglandsekerkifferences in geography, in my eyes the cities are like sisters: Both are bustling with people and activity, both have a strong sense of community and hometown pride, and both share a great mix of urban landscape and natural beauty. In addition to exploring Leiden, during that semester I traveled to Scandinavia to visit Copenhagen, Oslo and Stockholm. I kissed Oscar Wilde’s tombstone in Paris, ate chocolate waffles in Brussels and rang in the New Year atop London Bridge. I flew to Portugal for a weekend and, thanks to an unexpected union strike, had to take a last-minute train to Spain just to fly out of an airport in Galicia. After five months full of these kinds of adventures every day, I wasn’t ready for this journey to be over just yet. And so, what was supposed to be a five-month exchange my senior year of undergrad has evolved into a life of unexpected and unparalleled opportunity and adventure. After my initial semester abroad I returned to Asheville for six months to complete my bachelor’s thesis and graduate in May of 2011, but not before submitting an application for the Book and Digital Media Studies master’s program back in Leiden. The BDMS program focuses on the transmission of information through analog and digital media, from the earliest manuscripts written by cloistered monks, to Gutenberg’s invention of movable type, to the development of the World Wide Web. When I found out I had been accepted into the program for the fall of 2011, I was elated and didn’t think twice before accepting their offer of admission. I packed my bags and moved abroad for the second time in one year. Of course, obtaining a master’s degree and going on a semester exchange are two very different experiences: Unlike my previous semester at Leiden, I had lectures every day and a substantial amount of work to do at home, so the amount of free time I had to travel and explore was greatly diminished. The opportunities the course presented me with, however, more than made up for this fact. As part of the course, we regularly visited the university’s special collections library where we got to handle fifteenth-century manuscripts and some of the earliest print books published in Europe. Once a week we would travel to The Hague to meet with the curators at the Koninklijke Bibliotheek (the National Library of the Netherlands) and to Bibliotheca Thysiana, a privFragmentate library dating back to 1653.   We took a class field trip to the renowned Frankfurt Book Fair, with a pit stop at the Gutenberg Museum in Mainz on the way. We went to the Plantin-Moretus Museum in Antwerp. In the early spring of 2012, we were invited to come to a twelfth-century abbey named Rolduc, where we spent three days in a room piled from floor to ceiling with dusty, uncategorized manuscripts. We went through them one by one searching for “fragments” – scraps of even older manuscripts that were cut up and used to create the “new” one.   In addition to my studies, I also participated in a work placement at the publishing house Elsevier. I interned in the newsroom four days a week, sending out press releases, managing social media accounts, and liaising with the media. This placement was the first real work experience I had, and constituted an invaluable part of my education. In July of lImbull officeast year, just a few months after I finished my internship and graduated from Leiden University, I began working at Imbull, a small start-up based in Amsterdam. Imbull is a performance marketing company that is active in 20 countries on the website My responsibilities as country manager for the US market range from managing international accounts and affiliate networks, content creation and editing, and translating between Dutch and English.   There’s no part of my job that I don’t love – even the daily commute. Every morning I ride my bike to the train station in Leiden. From there, it’s a 40 minute train ride to Amsterdam, which I spend reading, chugging coffee and generally just trying to wake up. Once I arrive in Amsterdam, I hop onto another bike (in the Netherlands there are more bikes than people) and cycle into work.   Oh, and our office is hardly usual either – it’s in a church!   It’s been nearly four years since I first came to the Netherlands, and I have no plans to leave any time soon. Beginning an international career is a difficult and daunting task, but I can proudly say that I am making my way.   If you have any questions about studying abroad or working internationally after graduation, I can offer plenty of advice, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me! As they say in Dutch: Tot ziens!

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.


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)