HESA Alumni in the News
UConn Today highlights Olympic athlete, Donn Cabral, in his goal of obtaining dual degrees at UConn while simultaneously training for the next Olympics.
HESA alumni, Ryan Baldassario, is Cabral’s adviser in his role as UConn’s administrator to the full-time master’s of business administration program.
Congratulations to HESA Alumna, Jodi Roth-Saks, who recently was appointed Executive Director at the Jewish Relief Agency in Philadelphia. Coverage from The Jewish Exponent.
Congratulations to HESA alumna, Lisa Famularo (’18), who recently joined University of Connecticut’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) as a career consultant, in an article by CLAS.
Two years into her position as Director of UConn’s Master of Science in Business Analytics & Project Management (MSBAPM) program, HESA alumna Meghan Hanrahan (‘04) is thriving. She loves her work, the MSBAPM program’s enrollment is on the rise, and Meghan herself was recently featured in Hartford Business Journal’s 2018 “40 Under 40” issue. “I feel like I’m exactly where I should be,” she says. So how, exactly, did she get here?
When she graduated in 2004 with an MA in Higher Education Administration (now the Higher Education and Student Affairs program), Meghan had already been immersed in the UConn community for a good while, having received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Storrs. Upon graduating, she began a national job search and thought a change of scenery might be nice. Then a unique opportunity
presented itself: the UConn Tri-Campus School of Business program (which has since disbanded) needed a program coordinator for their new undergraduate Business and Technology program. Meghan recognized that the position would be a special one, especially for a young professional like herself. As the coordinator of a dynamic new program, she would have lots of room for growth, development, and entrepreneurship. She decided she couldn’t pass up the opportunity, and thus began her career.
For almost 10 years, Meghan remained in that same type of role in the School of Business, albeit with a number of changes in position and a great deal of upward mobility. Teaching, advising, managing, serving as a faculty liaison, and working with student and orientation services: she did, as she puts it, “everything you can imagine from a program-level role.” She was instrumental in many vital projects such as the signing of articulation agreements with local community colleges to create transfer programs, and rolling out the Honors program to UConn regional campuses. Best of all, Meghan loved her job. “It was phenomenal,” she says.
As she approached her 10-year anniversary working with the School of Business, Meghan decided she was ready to take on a new challenge. It was then that the leadership team of UConn’s West Hartford campus (which has since moved to Hartford) pitched her an exciting opportunity as the Associate Director of Business and Student Services for UConn West Hartford. The position, which Meghan describes as a regional-level Dean of Students position, was exactly what she was looking for. In her two-year tenure in that role, she managed an “amazing” team and was able to bring her expertise to new institutional areas such as health services, First Year Experience courses, disability services, and community standards. “It was always what I’d dreamed of, going deeper into student affairs,” says Meghan.
“I was inspired by the work of my team, and I loved what I was doing.”
Soon enough, however, opportunity came knocking once again. The School of Business was conducting a national search for a new director of the MSBAPM program, and thanks to the strong relationships Meghan had built within the School over her career, the hiring committee thought of her. At first, she was reluctant to apply since she still felt inspired and challenged by her role at UConn West Hartford, but as she learned more about the role, she began to reconsider.
At the time, Meghan was serving on a number of committees to find directors of regional campuses, and she had started to notice a trend. People applying for these upper leadership roles had either exclusive undergraduate or exclusive graduate experience, but never both. “The two things I didn’t have experience with at that time were working with grad students and working with international students,” says Meghan. Not only was the MSBAPM a graduate program, but it had a significant international student population. With these factors in mind, Meghan intentionally applied for the job. She was selected as the new director, and she remains in that position today.
Meghan admits that her first year as the director was challenging. “It was an unfamiliar environment,” she says, “I missed my undergrads.” Instead of giving up, however, she realized she had to dig deep and figure out how to bring her unique skill-set to the position and “be a value-add to the institution.” Two years in, she’s made a total 180 from that challenging beginning: “I’ve realized that my background is so valuable at the graduate level,” she says. “I’ve found my niche, and we’re doing great.”
When asked what she’s most proud of having accomplished since graduating from UConn, Meghan tells a powerful story. Not long ago she ran into a former advisee of hers while she was taking her nine-year-old son to get a haircut. With Meghan’s support and his own remarkable determination, the advisee had gone from not having completed high school to graduating from UConn. He has a wife and children, a house, and he’s currently completing a UConn MBA program. When they saw each other at the barber shop, the advisee turned to Meghan’s son and said, “I need to tell you something: your mother changed my entire life.” She says this moment is one of many that keep her strong when she feels stuck or frustrated.
“Having real impact on students is what it’s all about.”
Meghan says she’s grateful to HESA for the deep foundation it gave her in student affairs. “The HESA program taught me so much about the critical roles that student affairs and services play in an institution,” she says. “HESA gave me the tools to be able to articulate the importance of that role, to advocate for it.” What’s more, Meghan is currently working on a research project with three senior faculty members at UConn Hartford. HESA, she says, gave her the educational foundation that makes her research possible.
Meghan’s advice for current HESA students and emerging practitioners can be summed up as follows: stay relevant, find your mentors (across disciplines), and be open-minded. “Even when things are challenging, figure out how you can learn or gain something from the experience,” she says. “Everything is an opportunity!”
Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared on HartfordBusiness.com on August 2, 2018
Meghan Hanrahan is the UConn School of Business’ director of the business analytics and project management graduate program in downtown Hartford and Stamford. Hanrahan has worked for UConn for 14 years and served in a variety of roles across the institution . . . [read more]
Congratulations to Lexy Parrill (‘17) who recently received the Chester A. Berry Scholar Award at the Association of College Unions (ACUI) National Conference. The award is given annually to the author of an outstanding work of writing in the field of college unions and student activities. We caught up with Lexy to find out more about her research:
LP: My involvement in this work stems from an independent project I conducted as an undergraduate at Indiana University. The project focused on memorial unions and, like any great research project, it led me to a series of unanswered questions. Ever since, I’ve been obsessed with the Union Idea and the notion that college unions (and campus centers) are more than just facilities: they are part of an educational philosophy that brings together the community using programming and physical space.
I received this award alongside my mentor and research partner Mara Dahlgren. Mara was my advisor when I was a student at Indiana University. We have a shared appreciation for the college union idea, and we both understand the powerful role history plays in shaping our perceptions, attitudes, and–in this case–buildings. Mara is the Assistant Director of Activities and Events at the Indiana Memorial Union at Indiana University.
I received my bachelor’s degree in History, and I strongly believe that it is important to understand the context and background of an institution–in this case, the college union– in order to produce useful knowledge. When Mara and I began looking into this phenomenon, we realized there was no central database that contained basic information about college union construction, naming practices, memorialization, services, funding, missions, student involvement, etc. We decided to develop this tool, and so far we have collected 750 unique data points (and counting!) from institutions across the world.
This data has allowed us to reframe the college union story and provide data to support (and rebuke) anecdotal stories. We plan to continue to collect information from additional institutions and set up systems to maintain our existing database. We hope this tool provides a jumping point for researchers and practitioners in the field of college unions and student activities.
The HESA community wishes Lexy the best of luck as she continues to examine higher education policies and systems as part of her exciting and important research.
We love to hear from HESA Alumni, so if you have a story to share click here to get in touch!
The course “Seminar in Higher Education” is an important aspect of the HESA core curriculum. Set in the final semester of the HESA program, the course is designed to further integrate HESA’s curriculum and practice-based experiences to prepare students to make the transition into the next chapter of their journey, whether it be in a professional setting or entering into a doctoral program.
Traditionally, the course has featured a mock interview component which gives students the opportunity to refine their interview skills. This spring offered that same opportunity to students, but featured an exciting update. Intentional changes were made to further reflect what students will experience in a first-round interview while simultaneously providing an opportunity to network with the HESA alumni community. Instead of the traditional in-person mock interviews, students connected with HESA alumni over digital platforms for virtual, web-based interviews.
HESA Program Director Dr. Kari Taylor, who is teaching the seminar this spring, worked with Caitlin Trinh, Director of Alumni Relations at the Neag School of Education, as well as Ana Clara Blesso, Assistant Director for Experiential Learning at the Center for Career Development, and Lisa Famularo, a HESA student whose Graduate Assistantship is with the Center for Career Development. Caitlin reached out to program alumni and helped connect them with the initiative, while Ana and Lisa helped to prepare students for this experience by giving a presentation to the class on how to best prepare for an interview prior to the mock interviews with alumni.
Each student submitted a resume and cover letter for a position to which they were interested in applying. These resources were shared with the alumni who served as the mock employer. Instead of one day for all the interviews, each student-alumni pair negotiated the scheduling of their own interview. With these changes to the overall experience, the HESA community was able to use its strong reciprocal relationships to help students refine their career skills and build valuable professional and mentorial relationships.
To get a better understanding of the new mock interview experience, we caught up with one student-alumnus pair: Current second-year HESA student Cristina Carpentier and HESA alumnus La’Rez Wilson (‘13), who currently serves as the Community Relations Coordinator in the Department of Social Change at The Ohio State University.
The Student Perspective
What do you feel that the mock interview program offered you at this point in your HESA experience?
CC: I thought the mock interview assignment was really helpful. Considering that the job search is taking up most of my brain space these days, it was nice to have a class assignment with direct application to that process. While I didn’t end up actually interviewing for the position I chose for my mock interview, the experience still offered me the direction and motivation I needed to improve my interview skills. La’Rez offered me specific feedback on things I did well and the answers that needed further thought; it was a solid combination of a confidence boost and an opportunity for growth. It was also nice to connect with a HESA alum so close to graduation because it reminded me of how far this community extends.
How did you prepare for the interview?
CC: I wanted to be able to answer questions with concrete examples tied to my skills and values. So to prepare for the interview, I scanned the job application for specific skills the employer was looking for and came up with a list of my related experiences. I also read through the office’s and institution’s websites so I could clearly explain how I saw myself fitting into those spaces. Lastly, I came up with a few questions that would help me get the pointed feedback I was looking for from my mock interviewer.
What’s one thing that surprised you about the interview?
CC: I was surprised by how quickly La’Rez and I connected! I suppose it could’ve been because I knew he wasn’t actually looking to hire me – that certainly took some pressure off – but I think it was more than that. I liked knowing that he had been through the same graduate program I’m currently going through. It made me feel more comfortable than I was expecting to feel, which helped me to put my best foot forward. I also appreciated having the opportunity to talk to him a bit about his position and function area. He offered me some helpful and comforting insights on the job search within the service learning and civic engagement function area that I was not planning to walk away with.
What’s one particularly great piece of information you took away from the mock interview process?
CC: I walked away from the mock interview process understanding the importance and value of presenting your most authentic self in interviews. I struggled to answer questions when I began thinking about what the interviewer wanted to hear and he noticed this struggle. On the flip side, the responses that came from my personal values and experiences were clearer and more meaningful. La’Rez advised me to take a moment to myself to consider what I really want to say before responding to challenging questions. I now know that doing so will help me to offer more genuine and effective responses.
What advice would you give to next year’s mock interviewees?
CC: I would advise next year’s mock interviewees to take full advantage of the opportunity by really applying themselves to the assignment and working to build a connection with their interviewers. The job search is a pretty daunting process – take all the help you can get!
The Alumnus Perspective
Can you take us through your journey since you graduated from the UConn HESA program?
LW: Currently I’m at The Ohio State University and I’m working as a Coordinator within their Department of Social Change. I found myself there basically because of my love of working with students, specifically in the realms of civic engagement and service learning. Before coming back to Ohio, which is where I’m originally from, I was doing similar work at Washington University in St. Louis for 4 years. I remember applying for jobs during my second year in the UConn HESA program and I was a little nervous because I was one of the folks in our cohort that didn’t like interviews. When I found the position at Washington University I thought: I love working with students and I love working with kids, so it’s a good combination. While at UConn, I was working in the Office of Community Outreach and I was a Graduate Assistant for the Community Service Learning Community, and those positions made me really want to look into how I could do that professionally and full-time.
What made you want to be a mock interviewer?
LW: Well, I thought back to my own mock interview experience. At the time, I felt like I just tanked! Some of the biggest feedback I got was that I didn’t leverage my skills and experiences enough to really showcase all the work I had done. So when I got the email about being an interviewer for the mock interview program, I thought: this is my time to professionally give back. I know what it’s like to go through the interview experience, I know what it takes to prepare for an interview. At Washington University, I did a phone interview, I did a Skype interview, and of course I had an on-campus interview, and then as part of the job selection process I was required to write an essay. And all this while trying to figure out my plans for the future, still applying for other jobs, and in the midst of my final semester at HESA; it was pretty stressful. So when I got the email from HESA I thought, I need to share these experiences with others and really offer that space for reflection.
What insight were you excited to share with Cristina?
LW: I wanted to share what I was feeling during my own interview experiences, and to dig deeper and understand what she felt during the mock interview. Because those same emotions and behaviors are going to translate themselves into the real-life experience, so let’s take some time to reflect on it now while we still can. I also wanted to share some tips that I’ve picked up along the way from interviewing, from mentors, from my own experience, from my friends. As part of my current position, I work with incarcerated youth in hopes of helping them gain skills in order to reenter society effectively. We’ve been doing workshops in some of the detention centers in the central Ohio area and one of the things we talk about is how to recognize illegal or touchy questions that aren’t necessarily related to the job. For those populations, it’s particularly helpful to understand that because there are such high stakes involved. With Cristina, we didn’t really touch on questions to look out for or anything like that, but we did touch on how to stay vigilant about what’s being asked and why. Knowledge is power, and that’s going to be helpful going into the interview process.
What would you say to HESA alumni who want to get involved in the mock interview program?
LW: Do it! It sounds so to-the-point, but seriously. Mock interviews are a great way to professionally give back, but they’re also a way to make sure that you are still prepped and primed for the career search experience. One piece of advice that I received from a mentor along the way was that if you have the opportunity to be on a search committee, take it. Because it helps you to see what others are seeing when they’re evaluating candidates, but also to improve your eye for recognizing talent. I think that’s something that’s not easily taught. So I think being a mock interviewer is a good opportunity to keep those skills sharp and to share your experience. And ultimately, one of the strongest things that we can do as alumni is help share our stories, help make the process a little smoother, a little less stressful. I told Cristina all that I’m telling you: I was stressed out, I was nervous about interviews, and I think it was validating for her because she felt the same. And it’s good to be able to say hey, I was there, it’s going to get better. And let’s talk about how to get there.
As we wrap up another semester, we’d like to extend our gratitude to everyone who contributed to this year’s successful mock interviews. If you are an alumni who is looking to get involved for future mock interviews, please contact Dr. Kari Taylor.
Where do UConn HESA Alumni go after graduation? This map shows the program’s national reach, with HESA alums pursuing careers in Higher Education from the University of Alaska all the way to Georgia State, from Smith College to UC Berkeley. The HESA program is proud to showcase alumni placements. If you are a recent alumnus/a and would like to be featured on our website, please email us.
Asian American Students Find Academic, Cultural Support at UIC
“It is critical to provide services to ELL (English-language-learner), first-generation, and low-income students because they are often the most vulnerable populations on our campuses,” says Jeffrey Alton, associate director of the Asian American Resource and Cultural Center (AARCC) at UIC. “Also, for Asian and Asian American students, the added notion of the model minority myth, that all Asians are successful and smart, may be hampering the institution’s recognition of their need for support.”
by Carissa Rutkauskas
Cultural Center Director, Assistant Residence Hall Director, Assistant Director for Advising and Student Development, Assistant Director of Alumni Relations, Academic Advisor, Assistant Director of Student Involvement and Leadership, Associate Director for Community Standards and Investigations of X College or Y University – these are the titles you would expect to hear for a Higher Education and Student Affairs (HESA) graduate early on in his career, not Senior Volunteer Specialist at the American Red Cross.
M. Andy Nagy (’14) is living proof of the transferability of HESA skills and competencies to the non-profit sector. His first post-HESA job was that of Academic Advisor at the University of Scranton in Scranton, PA, but he lost that position last August. Wanting to stay in the greater Scranton area, but finding limited openings in the field of higher education and student affairs, he decided to expand his job search. Investigation of what fellow AmeriCorps alumni were doing – prior to his 2 years with HESA at UConn, Nagy had 4 years of work experience in civic engagement with AmeriCorps – he applied and interviewed for a position involving disaster relief with the American Red Cross (ARC). Nagy did not land that position, but soon after found himself working for the ARC as a Senior Volunteer Specialist. Reading the job description, he realized he had all of the required skills, just in a different context. He credits this epiphany to his experience in his HESA practicum with the Center for Career Development and Beth Settje’s mentorship.
None of Nagy’s current colleagues have a background similar to his, but they have embraced and quickly recognized the positive influence it has brought to their work. A knowledge of HESA brings a unique perspective to the table, specifically with the use of assessment, ability to strategize, and strong communication skills. Nagy also feels that the hands-on activities in the HESA classroom, HESA assistantships, and HESA practicum prepared him for intentional conversations, conflict management, mediation, and group dynamics which he utilizes with his colleagues and volunteers. While in the classroom, he did not always understand the purpose of certain topics or even entire courses. For example, he questioned why there was a course on group dynamics of “fun, random activities,” but by the end of the course, it clicked. “Everywhere you go there are group dynamics that you deal encounter. You have to learn how to pull from each other’s strengths,” he shared.
Cookout at the home of Dr. Christine Wilson (Assessment instructor) with “competent buttons.” “Christine used an adult-learning grading system in which we got to choose our own grades based upon how much we wanted to master the material. Everyone started with getting a “B” if you completed the minimum number of assignments proficiently. She made you keep doing assignments until she deemed that your understanding and application of the material was “competent”. Christine was such an important part of my experience.” Nagy, left, with Gilbert Valencia ‘14, Abby Chien ‘14, Dawn Savage ‘14.
Nagy shared an anecdote from a recent ARC needs assessment project meeting, where he and his supervisor were still learning each other’s styles. Toward the end of a long meeting, colleagues starting packing up their belongings, anxious to move on to their next task. Nagy, a detailed-oriented thinker, saw too many loose ends and extended the meeting to ensure their strategy completely took into consideration and answered all the questions necessary to complete a successful assessment. It took guts for a new hire to speak up, but Nagy’s “big picture”-thinking supervisor commented that the two balance each other well. “If I am going to spend time doing something, I am going to make sure it’s done the right way,” said Nagy.
Nagy spends much of his time working with volunteers, who constitute a vast 94% of the ARC and are all-important for the success of the organization. . The volunteers are a diverse group, from non-high school graduates, to college students, to retired folks who have had a successful career in another field – or who have never even used a computer. One of the reasons Nagy was hired was due to his experience with the college-age population, but what makes him successful is his ability to identify with people through generational differences. Understanding that many retired people want to volunteer, but get frustrated with the online application system, he has made it an initiative to accommodate and assist with the application. He has extensive discussions with potential volunteers regarding their skills, interests, and values – an aptitude that he developed from his HESA Career for the Common Good assistantship. Nagy also conducts screening interviews to make sure that the volunteer is a good fit for a particular position.
Currently Nagy is working on the needs assessment project, but in the near future, his focus will turn to recruitment – based on the results of the needs assessment. When data comes back, he will be setting up opportunities to recruit at health and safety days, community events, senior centers, and college fairs. He sees this as an opportunity for anyone who wants to volunteer stating that there is something for everyone. There are opportunities in disaster preparedness, developing new skills (such as learning PowerPoint or how to build a database), and blood donation, just to name a few. Nagy will be building partnerships with companies to donate in-kind goods (which might have otherwise been destroyed or recycled) and heading out into community to work with organizations that have mandated volunteer hours.
Since he was an undergraduate at Susquehanna University, Nagy thought he would spend his entire career in student affairs and is grateful to have had the opportunity to have worked as an Academic Advisor at the University of Scranton, commenting that, “everything, everything I learned in HESA, I applied in my first year of work. Sometimes it takes until you are in your first job to understand.” He hopes to someday look Dr. Sue Saunders (HESA Coordinator during Nagy’s program) in the eye and say “now I get it.” Getting it – the interpersonal interactions, assessment, group dynamics and conflict management skills, classroom knowledge, and assistantship, practica, and volunteer opportunities – has afforded M. Andy Nagy the understanding of the transferability of what HESA has taught him to extend that to the non-profit sector.