Way back in January 2016 I started my work study position as a Peer Educator in UMD’s Career and Internship Services (C&IS). The semester before, I was looking for a work study position that would give me a break from my technical work and saw a Tweet about the Peer Educator position. Seven semesters, four years, and 2000+ resumes later, I am wrapping up my time as a Peer this semester. I have completed a lot, learned a lot, and shaped my future while working in C&IS.
What I Did
One of my greatest weaknesses is making assumptions. I assumed that all I would do as a Peer Educator is review resumes and do homework when there was no resumes to review. Reality check, there is almost always resumes to be reviewed; dropped off, submitted on GoldPASS, collected from classes, or brought by students during drop-ins. If there was not a resume to review, C&IS puts Peers to work on projects – to advance the office’s mission, to grow your strengths, and match your interests.
My favorite project I worked on as a Peer was implementing, “Love Your Major,” a retention initiative made possible by a grant from Strategic Enrollment Management. I challenged fellow students with the question, “Should I choose, change, or embrace my major?” The goal of Love Your Major was to encourage students to think about their major over the summer, so they could hit the ground running in the fall. The target audience was all returning students who would start their sophomore year fall 2017. Students received information about how to choose, change or embrace their major by mail, email, and social media. I hosted weekly interactive Facebook Live events. I interviewed fellow peer educators on how they choose their majors, described how Career & Internship Services can help students pick their major, hosted Q&As with career counselors, and gave an office tour of Career & Internship Services. It was extremely fun to mix web design with social media, with career outreach.
C&IS carefully collects data on where UMD alumni work six months to a year after graduation. I have edited, modified, and updated almost every webpage related to that data to insure that the public has the most accurate information. Learning about where alumni from each major go after graduating was interesting and I encourage everyone to take a look at that data.
What I Learned
During my first year as a STEM major, I held a toxic elitist view on what majors are and are not meaningful. After working with Peers of other majors, learning about what alumni from other majors do after graduating, and hearing goals from students of other majors my mind was opened and changed. It was fascinating to learn the goals of each collegiate unit on campus, learn about each major, and hear about students’ career aspirations during resume reviews. I am thankful for how fun, cool, and supportive all of the fellow Peers I have worked with are! Enjoyment in office and extracurricularly.
I had a morale break down one semester not far from graduation. I wanted to drop one of my majors, petition out of engineering senior design, overload a semester with classes, move to Arizona, and work at Taco Bell. I am not exaggerating, this is simply what I wanted, and I was serious about it. Fortunately, the C&IS work environment of being submerged in a sea of counselors snuffs out crises quickly. I am completing both majors (in less than three weeks), staying in Duluth until I do, and had an extremely positive senior design experience. I am thankful for C&IS’ supportive senior staff!
What I’m Doing Next
Early this winter I will be working full-time at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX. This has been a multi-year long journey and still feels unreal. Our Peer supervisor suggests that working at NASA will feel real once I have been their longer than my longest Co-Op stint. In the far future I can see myself continuing my career in space exploration, becoming a K-5 teacher, and/or intentionally working at Taco Bell. I am confident about my future because of all of the love and support C&IS has shared with me.
Photo source: Kirsi