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.


Kelly Olshan (15′) Interns at Americans for the Arts in DC

AFTA and Other Acronyms: Reflections on My Summer Internship

Ask a fine arts professional about arts management and most will respond with something along the lines of, “What is that?” At least that was my experience when I inquired about the field at UNC Asheville. Such reactions lead me to believe I was entering the uncharted territory of a highly specialized, obscure field. This is not the case.

AFTA Pose 1Over the summer, I spent two and half months interning at a national nonprofit organization, Americans for the Arts. A complicated and multifaceted organization, Americans for the Arts’ main objectives can be oversimplified into two main functions: 1) assist local arts agencies across the nation with the tools and resources they need to succeed, and 2) advocate for the intrinsic, educational, and economic value of the arts with respect to national and local policy.

Americans for the Arts hosted eight other summer interns: two in New York City, and seven in DC. We each represented one of AFTA’s respective departments; I served as their Local Arts Advancement Intern.

As my title implies, the majority of my work catered to Local Arts Agencies, or community-based organizations that integrate the arts into the daily fabric of their communities. While the description sounds specific, these organizations are broad in scope: they can be private or public, large or small, serve urban or rural communities. There are over 5,000 of them in the nation.

My job was to identify frequently asked questions, come up with questions and answers, and synthesize all the information into something coherent and user-friendly. The goal was to publish the finished content online so that local arts administrators would no longer have to directly contact Americans for the Arts’ staff directly with specific questions; the resources would be immediately available.

In practice, this endeavor consisted of going through hundreds of emails the VP of Research and Policy, Randy Cohen, had accumulated in his inbox—a task that represents undoing over 20 years of assigning mail to respective outlook folders. A daunting amount of data, the complete list includes 94 categories and 60 sub-folders—amounting to a total of 3,586 files. In case this wasn’t enough information, my supervisor and the previous intern had also acquired a collection of relevant questions.

While initially overwhelming, this project served as the most in-depth introduction to arts management a girl could ask for. During the process, I acquired all kinds of new acronyms and jargon. I learned the difference between the creative sector, the creative economy, and creative industry; a Local Arts Agency (LAA), a State Arts Agency (SAA), and a Regional Arts Association (RAA)—not to mention the respective needs, job titles, and resources they require on a national level.

By the end of the summer, I had put together over 20 documents on topics such as cultural tourism, the creative economy, local arts centers, and barriers to arts participation. As the project came to fruition, I worked with the web team to publish my work online. The staff helped determine where these documents belonged on AFTA’s website, as well as whether they should assume the format of a frequently asked question or PDF.

Ultimately, we decided the larger documents, such as a 14-page list of cultural tourism examples by state, would present better as linked PDFS. On the other hand, a more specific question like, “Where can I access funds for touring?” could manifest itself as a frequently asked question under the website’s “For Artists” tab.

Despite reading through his emails every day, it wasn’t until about a month into my internship until I actually met their author. In July, Randy sent out an email inviting all the DC interns to a local pub.  I immediately recognized him as the source of my Never-Ending Arts Data. The event actually carried an official title—Arts Drinking Group, a conglomeration I can confidently say all of us overworked, underpaid professionals are very happy exists.

At the bar, Randy introduced us: the Research Services Intern, an Australian student pursing a dual MBA and MA in Arts Management at SMU; the Animating Democracy Intern, a graduate student enrolled in Carnegie Mellon’s accelerated Masters of Arts Administration program. “You really need to get some interns with some ambition,” remarked Randy’s beer-drinking friend.Arts Drinking Group

Randy was hardly the only staff member who made our acquaintance: over the weeks, we were introduced to the organization’s ten departments and their respective staff members. The Internship Coordinator also organized field trips to Dance/USA, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, and Capitol Hill Arts Workshop (CHAW).

During the department meetings, each team sat us down in a sleek conference room—windows displaying the tenth floor view of downtown D.C.—to explain to us, in highly articulate language, what it is exactly they do.

Many of these departments had functions and objectives I didn’t even know existed. Or worse: I was familiar with their titles, yet had completely misinterpreted what those titles meant. Take development, for instance: such a vague, optimistic term leads one to think, “Developing what?” The objectives of the organization, I assumed. Instead, “development,” is often synonymous with “fundraising,” which requires strong written and verbal communication skills.

“If you’re not a communicator, don’t go into development,” said Kate Gibney, Vice President of Development. From the head of the table, Kate looked like the epitome of artsy chic as she told us about her career at the Smithsonian, The Corcoran Gallery of Art, and the National Museum of Women in the Arts. She said this casually, delivered in the same tone from which she informed us of her college major. Kate’s story was not unusual: so many of AFTA’s staff members had prestigious backgrounds and educations I came to expect it.

Our departmental meetings ran in conjunction with our day-to-day activities. In my case, this involved working under four supervisors on the Local Arts Advancement team: the Local Arts Agency Services Program Manager, my official supervisor; the Public Art Programs Manager; the Vice President of Local Arts Advancement; and the Field Education and Leadership Programs Manager. All of them had different assignments for me to work on.

2014 NAHM “Call for Partners” Instagram Promotion:

National Arts and Humanities Month (NAHM ) Promotion

One of my favorite projects involved helping develop a social media campaign for National Arts and Humanities Month (NAHM), a celebration of arts and culture hosted by AFTA every October. Given my fine arts background and millennial status, I was put in charge of compiling the Instagram prompt asking artists and arts enthusiasts to #ShowYourArt. What looks like an aggrandized picstitch actually took hours of linking layers and debating composition. Perfectionist or photoshop amateur? I’ll let you decide.

Additionally, I worked with the Arts Education Intern to develop resources on how Local Arts Agencies can effectively support arts education within their communities. Most Local Arts Agencies offer arts education programming in some capacity, but their means differ as much as the organizations themselves. Our project, “What Locals Arts Agencies Can Do for Arts Education,” compiled both internal and external sources on cultural planning, workshops and classes, community engagement, school partnerships, and funding.

As my partner just completed a graduate degree in Arts Education, she took on the role of a content specialist. I, on the other hand, used my editing skills to transform a 20-page case study on “Portland’s Path to the Arts Tax” into a 2-page summary intended to serve as a strong model for arts advocates. Once completed, we presented these projects to half the organization—an intimidating feat, as it involved pitching a powerpoint in heels and a pencil skirt while the CEO scribbled furiously onto an AFTA-branded notepad.

All this exposure to new job titles and specialties gave rise to pressing existential questions of “Who do I want to be when I grow up?” and “What am I doing with my life?” Tell someone outside your prospective field something vague like, “I would like to combine art and business,” or more specific still, “I would like to pursue a graduate degree in arts administration,” and no one presses further. They are impressed you have some semblance of a plan, and continue with their daily dose of small talk.

But at Americans for the Arts, surrounded by arts administrative professionals, this kind of answer doesn’t cut it. Instead, people ask follow-up questions like:

“Do you want to go into for-profit or non-profit? Private sector or public sector?”
“I saw on your resume you’re a writer. Have you looked into development? Communications? Marketing?”

“Who do you want to be when you get out of grad school? As in, what job title would you like to hold?”

“You don’t need to go to grad school. Just go get work experience.  Honestly, when I hire, I don’t even look at where applicants went to school.”

“Grad school was the best thing I ever did. Really gives you comprehensive overview of the field.”

And perhaps most frikellyolshanghtening:

“You should look at Museum jobs in Dubai or China. Things are happening in China. Nothing is happening in the US.” When I responded that I don’t speak Chinese, my supervisor deemed this inconsequential. “Doesn’t matter,” she said, taking a sip of her third caffeinated beverage of the day.

To get some answers, I scheduled coffee dates with anyone with a caffeine addiction and a willingness to impart an hour’s worth of wisdom (these criteria basically include the entire staff). As it were, I met with team members from development, membership, and research; the COO, the CEO, and the executive assistant, to name a few. I didn’t realize how many notes I’d taken until it was time to unpack my desk, which practically contained a dissertation’s worth of legal pads.

And these meetings are just from the AFTA staff. Everyone knew someone, making it easy to fall down a networking rabbit hole. My supervisor happened to be friends with the Director of American University’s Arts Management program, a charming no-bullshit woman who point-blank informed me, “Your experience is great, but your resume is all wrong.” She proceeded to print it off, grab a red pen, and said, “Let’s do this.”

Of all these conversations, my primary take-away was that no one—not even prestigious arts professionals I so admired—has a direct career path. Unfortunately for us Type A folk, the universe forces you to meander. One VP with decades of museum and independent curatorial experience told us that she’s still trying to figure out who she wants to be when she grows up.

The COO and CEO followed the same trend: while I was hoping for them to divulge some sort of formulaic method they’d all been safeguarding, instead they told me no such process exists. “If you are passionate about your work, if you are engaged and asking the right questions, there is no wrong path,” they told me. My cubicle buddy put it more forthrightly: “Stop doubting yourself. You got this.”

To read more about Kelly’s internship and her art, visit her website at www.kellyolshan.com or her facebook page https://www.facebook.com/kellyolshanart

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:




Brittany Curtis (’13) uses Management to Aid a Non-Profit

I transferred to UNC Asheville Fall 2010. I had been a theater major, switched to biology, and ended up graduating with a BS in Management in 2013. I am so thankful for that last jump to Management, and the guidance and wisdom of Dr. Micheal Stratton. I also joined the sorority Gamma Phi Beta, and had a blast as their Financial Vice President and Webmaster.

I currently live in Brooklyn, NY. I work as a Workforce Development Instructor at a non-profit organization that runs homeless shelters and provides transitional services, including occupational training opportunities. The individuals I work with have histories of incarceration, substance abuse, and chronic homelessness. I facilitate soft skills classes, such as Communication, Boundaries, Professionalism, Customer Service, and Conflict Resolution, and help create new and updated curriculum for clients and staff.

-Can you tell us about your first job search?

My first job search was at the tail end of a solo cross-country road trip. I made it to Seattle, visiting family, almost completely broke, and had to decide my next steps. I had enough money to get me back across the country, but not much more. I decided to search for jobs in New York City – I have several friends who live and work in NYC, had visited several times and loved the city, and knew I would have a couch to sleep on if I was able to get an interview. I looked on different job searching websites, but ultimately found my current job on Craigslist.

I only applied to one job. I did not think I would be given a chance at a “real” job in New York City, particularly since my work experience was limited to Asheville and my small home town of Brevard, NC. I updated my resume while curled up on a couch in Seattle, using the UNCA Career Center website resources as my guides. After creating the most beautiful cover letter of my life and a polished new resume, I submitted my application.

I drove from Seattle to NYC in 5 days. The day after I arrived, I received a phone call from the organization I applied to!

-What experiences have best prepared you for your current professional role?

Having assistant manager experience at the UNCA Telephone Outreach Program was what convinced my potential employers to hire me. I helped train students in the call center and aided in supervising shifts, and my position required experience in training. Furthermore, my national travels and experiences in different American cities prepared me to work with the diverse population of NYC.

-What is next for you?

I’m considering graduate school – possibly a MS in Human Resources Management or MBA with a focus in Human Resources. But I have to take the GRE first- wish me luck! My other option is to move to a more Human Resources oriented job, and gain more experience before delving back into school. I’m trying to decide in the next few months.

-What do you know now that you wish you knew as a student?

Volunteer more. You might not be getting paid, but the experience is massively important. You can also make amazing connections that could help lead you to a job.

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.

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 https://www.unca.edu/features/reaching-major-leagues with permission of Ian Graham)