NECPA Note

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

NECPA Graduate Spotlight May – Jordan Swift

Smiling woman in graduation attire.

Name: Jordan Swift

School:  Providence College

Program: Higher Education

Type: Master’s

Current employer:  Complex Director at Providence College

What do you love about working there?

No matter where I work, I always look for two things: Is the mission infused in the department? Could I learn from my coworkers and could my coworkers learn from me? In the three months that I have worked at Providence College, the Friars sure have surpassed that expectation! The Vice President of Student Affairs at Providence College announced that professional staff members will be provided the opportunity to participate in the Flourishing Friday’s program. Flourishing Fridays are for staff members to truly understand human flourishing by connecting with others and recharging outside of the work environment. As a new employee, I have been so fortunate to have met and connected on a deeper level through laughter playing dodgeball or wiffleball. This Flourishing Friday program symbolizes the cultural importance of building community and getting to know another staff member’s diverse story while engaging in fun and healthy activities.

How do you like to spend your free time?

Having mindful moments. Taking in every new conversation over coffee while listening to the sweet sounds of Dave Matthews Band.

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

I loved my Foundations of Higher Education course because it was the first time that I was able to connect theory to practice. The course was designed around a forty-page paper encompassing the creation of a college of our choosing. We were able to design our own mission statement, explore areas of the field that we were unfamiliar with, and discover our “why”. I was able to ask myself: What am I passionate about in the field? Who can I learn from next?

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

Student affairs is a truly holistic field. There are days when you want to cry or days when you just want to hug everyone that you see. You learn crisis management. You learn how to interact in a truly special way. You learn about equity disparity. As a values and mission-driven person, I found mentors in the field who were constantly challenging me to think about these aspects of life that you cannot learn in any other field. I thought: Why not learn about life while working?

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

Life is never linear. Talk. Ask questions. A lot of them. Be genuine. Always.

What is on your Higher Ed bucket list?

Meeting the mindfulness guru, Jon Kabat-Zin!

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

I have three “finds”: 1. Find a school that reflects your values and mission. 2. Find people who will smile with you. 3. Find a school that connects your personal story with academics.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

You never know who will be interviewing you for your dream job. In my experience, get to know your classmates, your professors, your staff members, your colleagues, and your students.

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 April – Tierra Saunders

Woman smiling in graduation attire.

Name: Tierra Saunders

School: Post University

Program:   Master of Science in Higher Education Administration

Type: Master’s

Current employer:  Admissions Counselor at Post University

What do you love about working there?

The culture of Post University is amazing! When I first started working at Post I was immediately welcomed. Everyone on the team that I work with are absolutely amazing. We all help each other out no matter what office you are working in. This is also my first job after college and I got so lucky. It made me fall in love with higher education even more. Also, I love that everyday I am helping a student not only pursue a degree but also pursue their dream. Changing lives one day at a time!

How do you like to spend your free time?

Currently I have been doing a lot of cooking in my free time, I have a million recipes saved on Pintrest. Usually while I am cooking I listen to Podcasts, currently I am obsessed with My Favorite Murder with Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark. When I am not cooking, I like to shopping, workout, and read.

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

My favorite grad school course is Legal Practices and Ethics in Student Affairs. Professionals in student affairs face many ethical dilemmas every day and it’s super important that we are familiar with the legal foundations and laws that govern higher education.

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

In my undergraduate experiences I was a student worker in the Admissions Office and Career Development Center. Also, I interned with the Institutional Research and Planning office. Having the experience of seeing the inside workings of higher education and having the opportunity to work closely with student affairs professionals inspired me to want to get involved with higher education.

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

Success is not a straight line. I can be way too hard on myself at times because I want to make sure that I am successful in everything that I do. I realized that sometimes we are going to have obstacles that may lead you to fail and that is okay. You just have to pick yourself up and keep going as well as learn from those mistakes. That’s what really makes a person successful, accepting that it will not be a straight line and being able to get over those curves.

What is on your Higher Ed bucket list?

I definitely would like to work with a Career Development Center again, I enjoyed working there as a student and I also see the importance on helping students with finding work after they graduate and providing them the tools to be successful. I would also like to be a Dean or a Director of a program some day.

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

Take your time, graduate programs will always be there and you want to make sure you choose the perfect one for you. Reach out to graduate admissions and chat with them over the phone instead of just having information sent through the mail or e-mail. Make a list of questions that you may have so you do not forget to ask them. Also if you have friends currently in the same program that are you interested reach out to them as well and ask them about their experience.

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