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ALUMNI NEWS

Fall 2021 Alumni Welcome from Program Coordinator

(Photo courtesy of Kenny Nienhusser)

Dear HESA UConn Alumni,

Greetings from Storrs! I hope this newsletter finds you and your loved ones well as we grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic that continues to engulf our lives. 

I thought to begin my inaugural newsletter as HESA Program Coordinator with a story I enjoy sharing with prospective and incoming students. While UConn is composed of about 40,000 members, the acronym “HESA” is widely recognized on our campuses. 

When I arrived at UConn, over three years ago I would reveal my affiliation with HESA with colleagues across our campus and they immediately recognized our program, and often they would share how they were connected to our Program (most often through current and/or past students who had assistantship and/or practicum in their offices). I share this experience because our community is a special place and you have contributed to that legacy—working at your assistantship, engaging in your practicum, connecting with and supporting the thousands of students who made their way to our offices, participating in campus activities, and countless other ways. That legacy is the foundation we use to continue to strengthen our program and develop HESA professionals to be the next generation of change agents on our college campuses and in our society.

Now, let me transition to some program updates. In true HESA fashion, there has been much going on in our vibrant community in recent months. This semester we greeted our first- and second-year cohorts to campus for our welcome events, which were held in person in late August. Our first-year cohort has a slightly adjusted program of study, including some revised titles of our course. You can view those modifications here

Recently, the HESA faculty decided to pursue a pilot admission process, which makes some slight adjustments to how we have admitted students in the past. While this pilot admissions process unfolds, we remain committed to support the learning, development and growth of HESA students as practitioners who are grounded in our field’s scholarship. In particular, we strongly believe that practical experiences in higher education and student affairs are vital to the learning and success of our students, and are committed to identifying and placing HESA students in graduate assistantships, practica, and other professional experiences relevant to our HESA practice. I encourage you read that information in this edition of HESA Happenings.

We are actively recruiting for our UConn HESA Class of 2024. Please encourage interested students to attend one of our upcoming information sessions scheduled for Wednesday, October 20, 2021, 5:30pm EDT and Tuesday, Nov 16, 2021, 8:30pm EST. More information about our program and admissions process, including how to sign up for an information session, can be found here

Last academic year the HESA faculty was successful in getting a new PhD concentration approved—Higher Education, Racial Justice, and Decolonization—in the department’s Learning, Leadership, and Education Policy Program. The title and focus of our concentration align with ACPA’s Strategic Imperative for Racial Justice and Decolonization. We are actively recruiting students for that new program; if you are interested or know of people who might be interested please encourage them to explore our program. More information about the new Higher Education, Racial Justice, and Decolonization PhD concentration can be found here. General inquiries about the new PhD concentration can be sent to Dr. Saran Stewart.

While the faculty have been busy with (re)envisioning our curriculum, programs, and processes, they continue to excel in our field and on our campus. Their work is truly inspirational and at the core of that work is disrupting persistent and systemic inequities in Higher Education while also making campuses more welcoming spaces, especially for minoritized students, including at UConn.

We are launching some new initiatives to further engage with you, our alumni. We want to know about all the great things happening in your worlds—good news, publications, promotions/new jobs, programs developed, and more. To let us know, please complete our HESA Insider. We plan to highlight some of these good news on our social media accounts, website, and/or future newsletters. 

Another way to get involved with our program is to consider hosting a practicum opportunity for a current student. We are currently collecting practicum opportunities for the spring 2022 term. Practica can be in-person or virtual, so if you are an alumni a far distance from Storrs, this is your opportunity to supervise and mentor a current UConn HESA student. To see more information about hosting a practicum opportunity and how to submit a potential site you can go here. If you have any inquiries about how to host a practicum opportunity, please contact Dr. Adam McCready.

Also, I encourage you to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. We enjoy hearing about all the wonderful work you are doing, so do contact us via email and/or by tagging us on social media.

Wishing you a positive conclusion to 2021 and that 2022 brings you health, happiness, and more good news for you to share with the UConn HESA community!

Take care . . . cuídense!

Kenny Nienhusser, EdD (él, he, him, his)

Associate Professor and Program Coordinator, Higher Education and Student Affairs

Faculty Director, La Comunidad Intelectual

Interview Preparation: A Reflection on Mind, Body, and Soul

By Jillian Ives

Interviewing season is upon us, although it might look a bit different this year. I’ve had a fair amount of virtual and in-person interviews over the years, both as an interviewee and interviewer. There is a wealth of information out there, so I do not plan to summarize it all here. However, I would like to offer my fellow HESAs a different perspective on interviewing as they prepare to search for summer internships or full-time positions. When facing the daunting job search, taking the time for reflection is essential. Interviewing is just like any other learning experience—it is a developmental process for the mind, body, and soul, not an obstacle to overcome for a final result. I like to reframe interviewing, to see it as an opportunity to check in with myself and further refine my values, my goals, and my experiences. 

When facing the daunting job search, taking the time for reflection is essential. Interviewing is just like any other learning experience—it is a developmental process for the mind, body, and soul, not an obstacle to overcome for a final result. I like to reframe interviewing, to see it as an opportunity to check in with myself and further refine my values, my goals, and my experiences. 

The Mind

First, reflect on how your mind functions under the stress. When you are nervous, do you talk fast, slow, or stumble over your words? Do you get easily distracted? Try to think through these things and be proactive where you can. For example, if you are virtually interviewing and know you get easily thrown off by distractions, close out of your email, silence your phone, and try to find a quiet and minimally decorated space. I know that I tend to not talk much when I’m nervous, so I purposefully post bullet lists of key experiences I want to highlight near my computer screen so that I can remind myself to expand on my answer by adding an example. For the things you can’t control, just be honest about them. If you get nervous and you forget what you were saying or can’t get the right word out, just reset by saying something like, “I’m sorry, I’m so excited to be interviewing for this position that I think my brain was moving faster than my mouth!” Reframing your nerves as excitement can make them less intimidating. Admitting your nerves can also go a long way with a search committee. We are all human after all, and they are probably nervous and stressed too!

The Body

Also know how your body functions under stress. Reflect on your nervous habits in an interview—do you tap your foot or pen? If you aren’t sure, run a mock interview with a friend or at the Center for Career Development and have them look for those habits. I know I tend to play with my jewelry when nervous, so I make sure to wear smaller earrings and no necklace when I interview to mitigate that habit. Although sometimes these small habits help us relieve stress, so if you are interviewing virtually you can take advantage of the format by squeezing a stress ball under the table. Also know how your body reacts to prolonged stress if you have an all-day interview on campus or are doing multiple virtual interviews in a row, like at The Placement Exchange. Pace yourself, and do what re-energizes you during breaks. Listen to a song, meditate, eat a snack, or whatever helps de-stress you.

The Soul

Lastly, reflect on your soul. By this, I mean whatever soul means to you—whether that is spiritual, religious, or just what centers and nourishes you. One of the best ways to feed your soul is to not compare yourself to your peers during job season. Everyone will get jobs at different times, and it is not a reflection of your worth. Plan ahead of time what you are willing to accept and not accept in a job offer so that you do not question whether you are settling or not when you start to feel peer pressure. You do not need to find the perfect job because this will be the first among many. However, you do want to find a position that you can be happy in for at least a few years. Your soul impacts your mental and physical wellbeing—they are all connected. This is proven in research on how racially minoritized people end up facing physical and mental health conditions when working in a racist workplace—it is damaging to the soul, body, and mind. During the interview, pay attention to the diversity of the office space and gauge whether they value and prioritize equity. Ask questions about whether they have the resources that will feed your soul, whether that be affinity groups for faculty and staff, churches nearby of your religion, or beauty salons or barber shops that cater to your hair type. Make sure to reflect on what you personally need to be happy, healthy, and positive. For me, family nourishes my soul. I made finding a position near family a priority, so I didn’t feel pressured by the normative idea of conducting a national search.

A Few Other Tips and Tricks

Staying organized is perhaps the best advice I have for tending to your mind, body, and soul during interview preparation. Start by creating a spreadsheet to track every position you are planning to apply to. List the positions in rows, and the different information about the job and application in columns. For example, in the columns note the application materials required to apply, due dates, basic information about the institution, office, and position. Color code or mark off each as you submit the application. This will help you stay on top of due dates, but it will also help you remember what you’ve applied to and where, as your mind starts to muddle the applications over time. Then create a folder for each position, and save the final versions of the application materials you submitted and any research notes you collected about the position. If you get an interview, this will be very helpful for you to refer back to. Not only will it help you not duplicate your research efforts, but it will also help you remember what experiences you mentioned in your materials. 

There are many resources out there on how to research a position and prepare for interview questions, so I won’t expand on that much here. However, one tip I have to save you some time—and thus save you effort in mind, body, and soul—is to have an interview question cheat sheet that can apply to all positions. Write out the most common interview questions in higher education (you can find many online), and the ones that are common to your functional area (experience advising, supervising, organizing programs, etc.). Write out your general philosophy for each question—what is your advising or supervision style for example. However, the key here is to think about all your experiences over time and map them onto these questions. You can actually create a table with the questions in rows and the experience examples in columns. This is important because a good interview answer moves from the hypothetical or theoretical, to include a specific example to illustrate your answer. This is often called the STAR method—the example should briefly explain the Situation, Task at hand, Action you took, and Result. So the table will help you think through the different experiences you have, what questions they might apply to, and if you have any gaps to consider. This really helped me in my interviewing experiences. When they asked a question about advising a student who was facing personal challenges, I knew I had 2-3 stories in my pocket to use. Maybe I had already used one that overlapped with another question they asked about advising students with minoritized identities, so I had 1-2 back up stories planned. 

Additional Resources

There are so many resources out there about interviewing. I’ve listed a few below as a start. 

UConn Center for Career Development has many great interviewing resources, from videos on how to answer common questions, mock interviews, negotiating job offers, and more. They also have resources specifically for graduate students, and the common materials required for job applications.

The Student Affairs Collective has many blog posts written by student affairs professionals going through the job search process, and their tips and tricks. For example, see this post on the TPE experience.

Also, don’t forget that your network is a resource. Lean on HESA and UConn alumni. Check LinkedIn or HESA alumni groups to see if you know anyone working at the institution you are applying to. Email or call them to see if they can give you some insight into the institutional culture—what do they like or dislike about working there, what are the students like, etc. This will help in your preparation, but also give you better insight into whether you would want to work there.

 

Jillian Ives is a 2014 graduate of the HESA Program and a current PhD candidate in the Neag School of Education’s Learning, Leadership, and Education Policy program. Jillian also represents the Department of Educational Leadership as a representative on the Center for Career Development’s Graduate Student Career Council. 

Fall 2020 HESA Director’s Welcome

Dear HESA Family,

As the season changes and we enter into the crisper and cooler months, I want to send a warm and heartfelt welcome to our HESA community. This Fall semester is different from any other we have experienced before given the wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and surge of anti-Blackness racism in the US. More than ever, the student affairs professional is being asked to redefine their role and re-conceptualize programming and activities to both combat anti-Blackness, simultaneously contend with the spread of a pandemic and traverse virtual and racial battle fatigue.

Throughout it all, the HESA faculty continues to excel, lead and set an example in the field of higher education and student affairs with their scholarship, leadership and activism. I invite you to visit our HESA website to see all they have been engaged with and accomplished. They work tirelessly to prepare for a virtual Fall semester and like many of us, have had to pivot, become more agile and adapt to our “new” normal. I would like to welcome both Drs. Frank Tuitt and Adam McCready to the team as well as our graduate assistant Ashley Robinson. We are excited to have this stellar compliment of scholar-practitioners within the HESA program.

This year, we hosted our first virtual academic welcome and welcome back retreat for both cohorts of students. Our admissions cycle went live in September and we are actively preparing for our upcoming informational webinars. Our first HESA Prospective Student Webinar will be held on October 13 from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m.

The HESA program continues to engage in curriculum renewal and we will announce some exciting changes to our program in the near future. As we strive to engage our students in transforming theory to practice, the program faculty decided to sign up for a program-wide registration for this year’s ACPA21 Virtual Convention. This means that all students and faculty in our program will be able to participate in the convention, which will take place from March 1-17, 2021. The registration also includes a complimentary 1-year membership for master-students who are not currently not members.

Lastly, I want to thank our graduate assistantship and practicum site supervisors, who continue to provide invaluable on-site training and professional development for our students. Without you, our program would not be complete. As we all continue to pivot and adjust to a constantly changing climate, I ask that we show grace, support and care for each member of our community. I wish for you and your loved ones continued good health, safety and wellness.

Saran Stewart, Ph.D.
Director
HESA Program

Saran Steward, headshot

Alumni Spotlight – Meghan Hanrahan (’04)

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

Meghan Hanrahan (’04) serves as Director of UConn’s Master of Science in Business Analytics & Project Management program

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!”  

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