Editor’s Note: We’re trying something new this year. We are interviewing various UMD Alumni about how their experiences at UMD have impacted their professional lives. They will also be giving their advice for being successful out there in the real world.
Name: Lauren Atkinson
Grad Date: May 2011
Organization: Anoka-Ramsey Community College
Title: Academic Support Center Coordinator
What you do: I coordinate all of the tutoring services for our largest tutoring center. This position provides leadership, direction, coordination, and supervision of daily operations within the Academic Support Center. I focus on developing and coordinating a peer tutoring/supplemental instruction program and provide support for academic disciplines. I recruit, hire, train, oversee, and evaluate student tutors. My position supports the efforts to educate and advocate for diverse populations and create an environment of inclusiveness and respect for all people.
What were the jobs, opportunities, and/or classes you had that led to your current role?
I worked in the UMD Tutoring Center for three years as both a math and writing tutor. This opportunity gave me the skills to earn the Master Tutor Certificate from the College Reading and Learning Association (CRLA) which helped me land my first position as a Professional Math Tutor after college. I also completed the Kirby Leadership Certificate while attending UMD which allowed me to see the value in leadership and learn the skills to be an effective leader.
What were some of the lessons you learned while on-campus at UMD you’ve incorporated into your professional life?
Everyone has a story and has fought just as hard to be where they are as you have. I learned empathy through various roles at UMD and try and incorporate empathy into my role each day. The student workers I supervise need to feel supported, especially some of those students who have overcome a lot of barriers to even attend college. Through empathy, I can support my student workers, which in turn can help them support the students who visit our center for tutoring.
What do you know now that you wish you’d known prior to entering your role/field?
While GPA might matter for certain majors/career paths, for some of the more broad degrees, it matters much more to have experience on your resume (thankfully, I worked and volunteered while attending college, so I had experience to add to my resume)! Gain experience any way that you can. Work part-time, intern, volunteer, and then use these experiences to show a future employer what additional skills you learned outside of the classroom. Some of the best experiences might not have a direct correlation to your degree or career path, but can teach you additional leadership, management, or “soft” skills that you will need to showcase during an interview to help you stand out as a candidate for a job.
What career advice do you have for students wishing to enter your field?
Higher education is full of passion, but can be exhausting. There are many functional areas that require long hours, do not pay all that well, and make it hard to find a work-life balance. While exhausting, it is also very rewarding. If you are thinking of working in higher education, start thinking of obtaining an advanced degree. Many of our entry-level positions do not list an advanced degree, but with heavy competition to get into our field, you must have a Master’s degree or even a Ph.D. or Ed.D. to be granted an interview. Thankfully many advanced degree programs offer courses or entire programs online so you can try and get a foot in the door with an institution, while also working on an advanced degree.
Anything else you want to add about your time at UMD, or since, that greatly impacted where you are now?
Since leaving UMD I have obtained my Master of Science in Education degree from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse with an emphasis in Student Affairs Administration. While I was able to obtain my entry level position because of my background in math and tutoring experience, in order to move up within the higher education system, I was forced to get an advanced degree to help my resume stand out. This is not always the case, but due to heavy competition, I was forced back to school. I am so thankful for the broad skills that UMD gave me because it did make a strong foundation when I started my Masters program. UMD also showed me that a career in higher education/student affairs was something that I actually wanted to do!
Interested in Anoka-Ramsey Community College? You can check out their employment page for more information.