NECPA Graduate Spotlight February 2021 – Amanda Higgins

Smiling young woman (Amanda Higgins) in sweater.

Name:  Amanda Higgins

School: University of Connecticut

Program:  Higher Education and Student Affairs

Type: Master’s

Current employer: UConn Center for Students with Disabilities – Assistantship

What do you love about working there?

I love the opportunity to communicate with a wide variety of individuals. I also love the challenge of managing complex processes.

How do you like to spend your free time?

I typically travel as much as possible. During this pandemic I have been spending a lot of time on YouTube watching cooking channels.

What is your favorite grad school course/experience and why?

My favorite courses and experiences were our Practicum courses. These experiential learning courses were awesome opportunities to work in other offices on campus while focusing on growing my skillset and professional network. I did two practicums in academic advising offices, which set me up for success in the job search.

Who/what inspired you to get involved in higher education?

As an undergrad I worked with some awesome individuals working in student affairs so when I was looking for a career change I had great mentors to help me make the switch to higher ed. I also knew I enjoyed working with college students and I felt supported in the switch from corporate life to higher ed.

What is the most valuable lesson you have learned in your career (so far)?

No two students are the same! It’s important to meet students where they are and adjust my advising style to meet their needs.

What advice would you offer to those who are starting to search for grad programs?

Identify what your goal is for your role after grad school. If you would like a more advising or counseling based role, make sure the program you choose incorporates those components. Additionally, I would recommend speaking to current students in the program about what their typical days look like and any information they can provide about the program.

Do you have someone you’d like to be featured as NECPA’s graduate student of the month? Nominate them here!
https://forms.gle/HzuFswPqRtFbfvcS8

NECPA Graduate Spotlight August – Sarah Mayer

Smiling woman, Sarah Mayer

Name:  Sarah Mayer

School: Bay Path University

Program:  Higher Education Administration

Type: Master’s

Current employer: Labouré College as an Administrative Assistant and LPN-RN Program Coordinator

What do you love about working there?

We have a very unique population of students that consist of mainly non-traditional age women coming back to college to pursue a higher education. A lot of our students have overcome tremendous odds to pursue a degree in Nursing, which is even more commendable in our current healthcare situation in this nation. These men and women inspire me everyday because they see how frightening it is to be a healthcare worker in this new COVID-19 world, yet they are diving into the field, head first. It’s incredibly rewarding to work with this specific population of students even more so now in this unprecedented time we are currently living in.

How do you like to spend your free time?

I really enjoy cooking in my spare time. Being stuck at home right now I’ve really pushed myself to be more adventurous in my culinary endeavors.

What is your favorite grad school course/experience and why?

My favorite course would have to be my Women in Higher Education course. Women in Higher Education was extremely enlightening to the unique needs of women in higher education, specifically how we can really be receiving an incomplete education as many college courses are taught solely from a male perspective, often by a male professor, with systemically sexist undertones that many of us are not even aware of. This course emphasized the value of female perspective and how it should be used to shape all fields in higher education (and society at large) to be more progressive and inclusive.

Who/what inspired you to get involved in higher education?

I did have a lot of encouragement from family and friends, but I really pushed myself to go back for my master’s in higher education administration because I was feeling uninspired in my previous career field and always felt a natural pull towards higher education since I first attended my undergraduate school, Rhode Island College. I worked there while attending classes and didn’t realize until a few years after graduating that higher education is where my passions truly exist.

What is the most valuable lesson you have learned in your career (so far)?

Voice your opinion! Even if you feel like the lowest person in the hierarchy of your institution, your perspective is a valuable asset, no matter your position. If an institution’s executives do not see that, they’re missing out on an opportunity to grow and become more efficient and effective.

What is on your Higher Ed bucket list?

I definitely plan on going back to school for my doctorate. I’ve come this far and I need to go all the way!

What advice would you offer to those who are starting to search for grad programs?

In this day and age, find a school that has experience working in an online setting. Higher education is already seeing a massive shift in its structure and an institution that is already well-versed in completely online learning is going to set you up to be successful.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

Please wear your mask and listen to healthcare workers! My institution can only graduate so many nurses so fast to combat this pandemic and thank you nurses everywhere! You are the real superheros in the world today!

Do you have someone you’d like to be featured as NECPA’s graduate student of the month? Nominate them here!
https://forms.gle/HzuFswPqRtFbfvcS8



NECPA Graduate Spotlight July – Denis Garcia Reyes

Smiling man outdoors.

Name:  Denis Garcia Reyes

School: The University of Vermont

Program:  Higher Education and Student Affairs Administration

Type: Master’s

Current employer:  Assistant Residence Director in Residential Life at the University of Vermont

What do you love about working there?

Working as an Assistant Residence Director, I have really found enjoyment in my various interactions in the residential community. I have been given an amazing opportunity work in a community where students are willing to share pieces of their cultural identity and backgrounds, whether that be through their identities such as race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion, or cultural values such as books, films, food, and music. Looking at my grad school search journey, this was something that I wanted in my experience and I am so grateful to be able to experience it in the capacity that I do.

How do you like to spend your free time?

I am a huge foodie so trying new foods is something I love to do. Watching TV is a big source of stress relief for me as well as participating in Zumba classes, and running!

What is your favorite grad school course/experience and why?

My favorite grad school course has been my practicums thus far. I have been able to dip my toes in several areas of interest while at UVM and am thankful to have been able to have these experiences to narrow down where my interest lies before the job search starts in the next few months.

Who/what inspired you to get involved in higher education?

At my undergraduate institution, I met a lot of folx who I call my mentors now that inspired my interest and passion in the field of higher education. My participation in the NASPA Undergraduate Fellowship Program (NUFP) allowed me to see the various ways folx enter this field and my NUFP mentor truly embodied the work that I want to do one day so that is why I am here today.

What is the most valuable lesson you have learned in your career (so far)?

The most valuable lesson I have learned is some advice I got early on in my grad school career, one of my colleagues reminded me that “success is a journey, not a destination” as I scrambled to try and find balance in my work at the beginning, that advice let me feel that I could give myself grace in my every day work, and allowed myself to learn through the mistakes I made at the beginning.

What advice would you offer to those who are starting to search for grad programs?

I think some advice I got that really helped me and would like to offer to those who are starting the search for grad programs is to have a list of non-negotiables (wants vs. needs) that helps you narrow down your options for schools. Once you have your non-negotiables, it allows for you to be able to go into the grad school search process more informed on what you need in order to thrive.

Do you have someone you’d like to be featured as NECPA’s graduate student of the month? Nominate them here!
https://forms.gle/HzuFswPqRtFbfvcS8

NECPA Graduate Spotlight June – Neda Ghaffarian

Smiling woman in classroom setting with glasses and curly hair.

Name: Neda Ghaffarian

School: Boston College

Program:  Higher Education

Type: Master’s

Current employer:  Office of Urban Outreach Initiatives at Boston College

What do you love about working there?

I have thoroughly enjoyed working in the Office Urban Outreach Initiatives in the Lynch School of Education and Human Development at Boston College, and I have learned so much through this experience. The community in our office and in the Lynch school is is committed to social justice education and pushing forward change within educational systems, and I greatly appreciate how the Jesuit ideals of reflection and working with others in embedded within every part of the school. I have created lifelong friendships during my time at Boston College, and have engaged in critical work with urban Boston youth and communities. Working in Urban Outreach has ignited my passion in working within urban communities, and I intend to continue to do so after I graduate.

How do you like to spend your free time?

In my free time I love to cook, take long walks around Boston, and catch up with friends that I don’t normally get to see.

What is your favorite grad school course/experience and why?

While I have loved every graduate course I have taken at Boston College, I found that Counseling Techniques in Higher Education was one of the most useful and practical courses I have taken. Not having a counseling or psych background before entering the field, I found this course incredibly helpful when working with students, and I applied everything I learned almost immediately.

Who/what inspired you to get involved in higher education?

During my time in undergrad, I spent my extracurricular time mentoring high school students through the college application process. This was the one volunteer activity I devoted my extra time too, and put a great deal of effort and care into it. This experience was the birthplace of my passion for higher education.

What is the most valuable lesson you have learned in your career (so far)?

Listen. Listening to our students and their families is the most important part of working in higher education. Listening to them allows us to put them at the center of our work, which is where they should be!

What is on your Higher Ed bucket list?

As a born-and-raised Warriors basketball fan, a trip to Davidson is definitely at the top of my bucket list! (For those that don’t know, Davidson is the alma mater of Stephen Curry, the star player on the Warriors)

What advice would you offer to those who are starting to search for grad programs?

Higher ed is a big field, and has different facets to it, like student affairs, leadership, and policy and law. Thus, it is important to first identify what you want to study, and why. What are you interested in doing within higher ed? Are you more interested in student-learning and engagement, or are you drawn towards policy and organizational functions? Once you identify what it is you are interested in learning and doing, then you can cater your search to align with these interests.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Working in this field has been a blessing, and I am so grateful to be doing something that I love. I admire my colleagues in New England and across the country who are navigating this time of crisis with such dedication so students can continue to have access to college and post-secondary opportunities. Our work is now more lucrative than ever.

I also want to give a very special thank you to Zina Hodge, who nominated me for this feature!

Do you have someone you’d like to be featured as NECPA’s graduate student of the month? Nominate them here!
https://forms.gle/HzuFswPqRtFbfvcS8