HESA Alumna Receives Award

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.

Lexy Parrill (’17)

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!


HESA’s Mock Interview Program Welcomes Alumni Participation

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

Headshot of Cristina Carpentier
Cristina Carpentier

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

Headshot of La'Rez Wilson
La’Rez Wilson

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.

Neag School on the Map: Higher Education and Student Affairs Alumni Employed Nationwide

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.

Jeffrey Alton (’06) interviewed for Insight into Diversity to talk about Asian American and Pacific Islander serving institutions

Asian American Students Find Academic, Cultural Support at UIC

Editor’s note: This story, written by was originally posted in Insight to Diversity in March, 2017

“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.”


Asian American Students Find Academic, Cultural Support at UIC

Alumni Spotlight – Andy Nagy (’14)

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.

Community Outreach HESA GAs. Nagy, left, with Truth Hunter ‘14 and Jess Sokol ‘12.

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.

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.

Jack Nguyen (’15) named Director of Asian Pacific Islander American Affairs at the University of Florida

Multicultural and Diversity Affairs selects new APIA Affairs director

Editor’s Note: This story, written by Sara Tanner, originally appeared on the UF News website on June 29, 2017

After a thorough national search, the University of Florida’s department of Multicultural and Diversity Affairs (MCDA) is pleased to announce that Jack Nguyen has been selected as Director of Asian Pacific Islander American Affairs. He will start Monday, July 17.
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Alumni Spotlight – Emerson Loisel (’15)

by Carissa Rutkauskas

MICA is pet-friendly, and you will often run into four-legged friends.

Curiosity led Emerson Loisel, UConn HESA ’15, to his current position as Assistant Director of Student Activities at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA). Although the VT native and University of Vermont alumnus (Political Science and Women’s and Gender Studies ’13) didn’t know where he saw himself going when he started the HESA program, he knew he liked school and wanted to be in an education-related field.

At the beginning of his HESA studies, Loisel didn’t have an end goal other than to follow his curiosity, but he did know that he wanted to be in a place where he could challenge systems of power, especially in their overall intentions. He feels that HESA more than prepared him with a knowledge base of higher education and student affairs practices, giving him the tools to navigate unfamiliar situations and contexts. Upon his arrival at MICA, Loisel recognized that he did not share many of the identities of the people of Baltimore his students were working with but did hold a desire for them to have an exceptionally positive, productive, and self-directed education experience.  Loisel shares, “UConn taught me achievement is sticking to my beliefs and ethics, not just checkmarks. HESA gave me the tools to leave institutions better than I found them.”

Loisel is not an artist, but a self-described art appreciator. He enjoys and relates to the way artists engage in and question the world around them. MICA students’ sense of cohesiveness around pushing boundaries aligns with Loisel’s personal beliefs.  He started his position at MICA a couple of months after the death of Freddie Gray. Gray was a 25-year old Black man arrested by the Baltimore police for allegedly possessing an illegal switchblade. While in police custody Gray suffered a severe spinal cord injury which is widely believed to be the result of excessive force used during transport to the police station.  As a result of this injury Gray fell into a coma and ultimately died.  Gray’s death is widely considered murder.  Through the MICA students’ art-based activism related to the Gray tragedy, Emerson Loisel began to better understand and find his place in his new city, school, and student body. The art students have a refined skill to critique artwork; they were able to transfer these skills into their present surroundings by engaging in social justice and community service as a response to events leading to Gray’s death. Their actions helped deepen Loisel’s understanding of the ways a city and university can share a healthy symbiotic relationship, if forged properly.

Loisel at MICA’s 2016 orientation. He notes, “People take you more seriously when you wear a headset.”

MICA is a small private institution, home to just 1,850 undergraduate students and 250 graduate students, a drastic difference from Loisel’s previous experiences in large, public institutions. Aside from the regional transition, his transition from student to professional has provided him with a more realistic perspective of administration. He now understands the difference between high-value and low-value work – as a grad student it was sometimes easy to quickly complete the low-value work, but as a professional, prioritizing high-value work requires more focus. Loisel has also learned to make decisions with self-assurance and better understands what he functionally can do and ethically should do.

Loisel speaking about a student he nominated during the MICA Involvement Recognition Ceremony.

Loisel’s inquisitiveness helps him frame potentially negative situations into positive experiences. Shortly after his arrival to MICA, a staff member left the Student Activities Office. Loisel chose to see this vacant post as an opportunity to advocate for a more effective office structure and create new positions within that space. He helped lead an initiative to restructure his office into one that functions well for student needs. Loisel may have had doubts during that process, but called upon his experiences with UConn Community Standards, under the guidance of Cathy Cocks, Kim Hill, and Jane Benoit-Bean, and in the Programs Office with Jess Gerum, and felt confident that he knew that he did indeed have the ability to form a solution.

Emerson Loisel describes higher ed as a “rad place to be” and advises finding a job that fits you – “you’ll find patience and resilience in yourself,” he says. Having a job in the saturated market of Student Affairs (the Student Affairs Professionals Facebook page has a following of over 27,000), is an achievement in itself, but Loisel offers this advice: You can find a job anywhere in the country if you want, or you can stay close to your family and network. You can make your job your life, or you can work a 40-hour week and have time to invest in other activities. Just make sure you remember to make time for yourself.

Loisel followed his curiosity to become a Higher Education and Student Affairs professional at the Maryland Institute College of Art. A fan of education, he has fulfilled his desire to be in such a space and is surrounded by students who fuel his desire to question the world around him as they develop their own interests and become conscious of the capacity they hold to disassemble systems of power.

Paula Milone-Nuzzo (’89)- alum in the news

Nursing dean named president of MGH Institute of Health Professions

Editor’s note: This story, was originally posted on the Penn State News website on March 24, 2017

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Paula Milone-Nuzzo, professor and dean of the College of Nursing, has been named the new president of the MGH Institute of Health Professions. Milone-Nuzzo will end her tenure at Penn State in August and a national search for her replacement will begin immediately.

MGH Institute of Health Professions is an independent graduate school in Boston founded by Massachusetts General Hospital and the only degree-granting affiliate of Partners HealthCare.

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Maria D. Martinez (’96) – alum in the news

Maria D. Martinez ’83 MSW, ’96 Ph.D. — Assistant vice provost at the Institute for Student Success in Undergraduate Education and Instruction at the University of Connecticut

Editor’s Note: This story, written by Neag School’s Shawn Kornegay, originally appeared on the Neag School’s website

Maria D. Martinez earned a master of social work degree from the University of Connecticut in 1983. She went on to earn a Ph.D. in professional higher education administration at UConn’s Neag School of Education in 1996. Prior to that, she earned her bachelor of arts degree in sociology from the City University of New York.

Martinez began her career at UConn in 1986 as a counselor within Student Support Services (SSS), where she worked with low-income, first-generation college students. She became the SSS program director in 1993. In 1995, Martinez became the director of the Center for Academic Programs, where she managed the operations of the TRIO Programs (Student Support Services, Upward Bound, and Talent Search).

In 2011, she was named assistant vice provost for ISS and UE&I, where she provides strategic and operational leadership for units and programs within ISS; oversees the delivery of services to facilitate the transition from secondary school to college; and manages the Institute’s budget.

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Alumni Spotlight – Meg Brannan (’16)

by Rebecca Nelson

Meg Brannan grew up in upstate New York, in Oneonta, and stayed in New York for her undergraduate career before coming to UConn to matriculate into the HESA program. Graduating from UConn in 2016, Meg now works as an Area Director at Lewis and Clark College. Much like the explorers for whom the college is named, Meg moved far west across the country to Portland, Oregon, where Lewis and Clark College is located.

 It turns out that Meg has more in common with the famous explorers than just moving west. She is constantly challenging herself and pushing herself to do things that scare her, much like an adventurer, within her own life. She says that she deliberately chose to complete her HESA practicum in the Office of Community Standards because it made her the most nervous, rather than choosing a path that felt safe or familiar.

“Push yourself to get involved in things that make you uncomfortable,” she said. “Things that push you and challenge you to grow.”

She attributes her growth and success in HESA to this adventurous attitude: doing things that made her nervous during her time in HESA, she says, prepared her to go out into the world and be a confident professional. The feeling of confidence and accomplishment that comes with successfully doing something you never thought you could is what Meg seeks out in every experience.

 The HESA program provided plenty of opportunities for Meg to challenge herself, from a practicum in the Office of Community Standards and a graduate assistantship at the Rainbow Center to regular facilitation experiences and public speaking. Thanks to HESA, Meg says she is much better at giving presentations and facilitating. She calls herself a hands-on learner, which made the HESA program a great fit for her. “I learned so much more than I would have if I was just sitting in a classroom being lectured at,” she said. Seeing the impact of interactive assignments and presentations in HESA made a powerful impression on her that she carries into her professional life.

 During her time at the Office of Community Standards, Meg discovered a passion for student conduct management, which led her to specifically seek out a job that incorporated both housing and conduct responsibilities, exactly what she found in her current position. In her first semester as an Area Director, Meg trained as a Title IX investigator and hearing officer, and spearheaded RA selection. She’s also been putting in extra hours at work to go to student conduct administrator conferences through the Association for Student Conduct Administration (ASCA), and plans to go to the national ASCA conference next year. Her career path has been different from what she would have expected, in part thanks to the variety of experiences she had as a HESA student. “You can’t really plan out every single detail of your career for decades at a time,” Meg said. “The experiences you have will shape the direction you go in.”

Other than pursuing things that scare you, Meg says that one of the keys to success in HESA is to “get involved in things that are meaningful without spreading yourself too thin.” HESA has so many opportunities to learn and get involved in, she says, but you have to “whittle it down and dive deeply”. It’s a common temptation to try and do as many things as possible, to boost your resume with diverse experiences, but Meg recommends instead finding the most impactful experiences and putting your all into them. One experience, she says, like her practicum in the Office of Community Standards, can be “more than just one thing on your resume”, but a multitude of challenges rolled into a single experience. During her time in community standards, for example, she was the facilitator of the book club. “The book club was outside the realm of HESA, and wasn’t an academic expectation, but I took it really seriously,” she said. “It allowed me to connect with professional staff members.” Choosing a book and running the book club, she says, pushed her to be deliberate on what concepts she wanted to focus on in her work, and she “would see that show up in [her] daily life”, and saw that it left a lasting impact on the people who were part of the book club. She chose Daring Greatly by Brene Brown, which is about how embracing vulnerability takes great courage, but allows you to become a better person, colleague, leader, and friend.

During her graduate assistantship at the Rainbow Center, Meg says that “allowing [herself] to be vulnerable” was one of the greatest challenges and learning experiences, but also one of the greatest sources of success. In Brene Brown’s book, which Meg says is now one of her favorites, Brown says that “when we spend our lives waiting until we’re perfect or bulletproof…we ultimately sacrifice relationships and opportunities that may not be recoverable.” Embracing vulnerability, an important lesson that the book teaches, allowed Meg to experience great success during her time at the Rainbow Center. She proposed, developed, and ran a program which the Rainbow Center has sustained since she left. The F.A.M.I.L.E.E. Mentor program helps first-year UConn students adjust to life at UConn with the help of continuing students, focusing on academics, maturity, independence, leadership, and empowerment. Meg says that the experience had “a lot of autonomy to do everything and anything”, which was “scary at times”.

 While at the Rainbow Center, Meg was trained in Husky Ally Safe Zone facilitation, which taught her how to create safe spaces for people of all gender identities, expressions, and sexualities. She has taken the skills with her since then, particularly the focus on inclusion. Her experiences at the Rainbow Center challenged her and has made her confident enough to be “willing to confront or intervene” in problematic situations.

“I don’t really like a typical office job that’s the same every day,” Meg says. Instead, she pursues opportunities that are dynamic and surprising, as exemplified by her experiences at the Rainbow Center, and continuing now in her job as an Area Director. She says that no matter what she does, she wants to be “happy and healthy in her career”, which for her requires a job that allows her to make “really close and personal connections with students” so she can “hear their story, help support them, and help them be successful.”

Since completing her HESA program, Meg says she’s been pleasantly surprised by the amount of free time she has. At first, she says, she “didn’t quite know what to do with [herself]”, but has come to embrace the free time. “I didn’t realize how wonderful free time would be for my self-care,” she says. “And how it would give me the energy and motivation to be even better at my job.”

 HESA, Meg says, has contributed to her current success “in a million ways, from really small things to really big things.” Put yourself out there, she says. Find mentors who challenge you. Take on opportunities that scare you and force you to dig deeper within yourself and into the world. Get out of your comfort zone, and, according to Meg, you’ll go far. If Meg’s career and successes are anything to go off of, it seems that her advice is worth listening to.