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.

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Sandy LaCorte’s (’08) Path to National Weather Service

Hello! My name is Sandy LaCorte and I graduated from UNC Asheville in 2008, where I earned a B.S. in Atmospheric Sciences and a minor in Mathematics. One interesting thing about my choice of major is that I was not always interested in meteorology. In fact, growing up I was diagnosed with astraphobia, which is the fear of thunder and lightning. It was through the process of learning howthe atmosphere worked that I was able to overcome my fears and in highschool I realized that my fear had become my passion.

I have always been a person who enjoyed being a part of many things. So while I was focused on opportunities within my major, including being an active member and officer of the American Meteorological Society Student Chapter, a weather forecast team member for the University Weather Information Line and The Blue Banner, I was also involved in other various activities. I was a SUMMIT freshman orientation leader and University Ambassador, a member of the campus Habitat for Humanity organization, and a Senior Class Board member, just to name a few. My experience at UNC Asheville was one that I will never forget, and one that I truly believe helped pave the road to where I am today.Image

What are you doing today?

Today, you can find me in Wilmington, NC where I am a Meteorologist at the National Weather Service (NWS). My daily responsibilities include ensuring the quality control of incoming and outgoing climate and river data, issuing a variety of forecasts, including aviation and rip currents, answering public phone calls, assisting with local and national media interviews, and taking part in community outreach. One of the great things about being a NWS meteorologist is that you have a lot of opportunities, so in addition to my daily tasks, I’m the chief editor of our office newsletter and a team member for various office programs, including rip currents and severe weather operations. I’m also currently working on a tornado climatology research project for the Carolinas and am collaborating with numerous co-workers and agencies throughout the region on a Hurricane Hazel 60th Anniversary project.

Can you tell us about your first job search?

My first job search situation was quite unique, in that I was fortunate enough to have an opportunity that not many students have. As a graduate student at the University of Alabama – Huntsville, I applied for and was accepted into the NOAA SCEP (Student Career Experience Program). This program allowed me to work at the National Weather Service in Huntsville, AL (co-located with the university) while I completed my graduate work. After finishing graduate school with a M.S. in Atmospheric Science in February 2011, it was only a few months later in April when I began working full-time at the NWS Wilmington, NC office. The SCEP program allowed me to gain the necessary experience that would help to open doors very quickly for the next step in my career.

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

Throughout my time at UNC Asheville, there were many occasions outside of my education classes in which I learned something that prepared me for where I am now. From networking at conferences to being a part of extracurricular activities, I also was fortunate to participate in an internship during the summer of 2007 at the National Weather Service in Greenville-Spartanburg, SC. What an awesome experience! I had the chance to work on weather projects, shadow staff members, work during severe weather events, and overall learn what it was like to work in the field. It wasn’t long before I realized that this was the career route I wanted to take. During the late Springs of both my junior and senior years I also had the opportunity to be a part of storm chasing trips in collaboration with Virginia Tech – an opportunity in which other classmates had participated in years past. I may have seen just over a dozen tornadoes in these chase trips, but the most amazing aspect was the ability to see with my own eyes the evolution of supercell thunderstorms, just as we learned in the classroom. In graduate school, I was a part of a field experiment project, VORTEX II, which allowed me to collaborate with classmates and other universities with weather instrumentation to study tornadogenesis.

What is next for you?

As a meteorologist in the National Weather Service, there are different levels within the agency, each with its own different responsibilities. At this time, I’m in the process of applying for the next level, which is exciting. Overall, the learning and education continues. There isn’t one day that goes by that I do not learn something new and it’s not only fun but amazing.

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

As a student, no matter the age, I think it’s common to always compare yourself to your peers, especially academically, which can at times be discouraging to anyone. Something that I learned through college is that everyone is going to both learn and academically perform differently. But that doesn’t matter. Your time in college is your time. You are laying the foundation for your future and no one else’s. No one can take that away from you!
If you’re passionate about a certain subject or career path, you have to find that inner strength. When you’re able to do that, your success will prevail above all. No one said college was easy, though often it seems easy for some of your peers. Again, that doesn’t matter. Hard work truly does pay off in the end.

What advice do you have for job-seeking students who are pursuing your degree?

One main piece of advice I like to share with students interested in Atmospheric Science/Meteorology that I’ve found to be important in my journey thus far is this: Network, network, network. If you have the opportunity to go to a conference, bring business cards – it’s ok to have a business card as a student. This is a great way to share your information. I’ll be honest – the first conference I went to was the American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting, wherImagee meteorologists from all over the world were in attendance. I literally approached people I did not know and started talking with them about their careers and how they came to be where they are now. This not only allowed me to learn about the numerous opportunities in meteorology, but here I am 7 years later, and I am still in contact with some of those same people. Many may not realize how small the meteorological community actually is. Someone you network with could be a future co-worker or boss, or could provide you with information for that one opportunity you’ve been looking for to take that next step in your career. If you are unable to attend a conference, you can still network. If there’s a certain path you’re interested in, whether it be the National Weather Service, the private sector, military, research, teaching, etc – ask your professors if they know anyone in that particular area that you could speak with to learn more about it. Always use your resources. If they do not have the information you need, they will point you in the right direction.

Other pieces of advice would be to go above and beyond. If you are assigned to read a research paper for class, go ahead and read another paper. Take an extra elective class, get involved with a project, find a summer internship, etc. Anything extra that you do just adds that much more to your experience and it’s that sort of passion that will be recognized by future employers.