Riley Fickett, Student Event & Special Programs Coordinator, Mount Holyoke College
What is your current position at the Mount Holyoke?
I am the Student Event & Special Programs Coordinator. My main responsibilities are to work with our 130 student organizations on the creation and execution of their events and to create special programming sponsored by the Office of Student Programs which includes bus trips, movie nights, outdoor festivals, and everything in between! I also advise the Student Programming Board and the Sophomore and Junior Class Boards.
What do you love about working at Mount Holyoke?
I love working with our students! Mount Holyoke students are from all over the country and world (we have about a 30% International Student population!) and each one of them is so, so talented. I am constantly blown away with the drive and ambition, their passion for world issues and activism, and their overall commitment to making the world a more inclusive and accepting place. As a professional I am constantly being challenged to think and act outside of my comfort zone and as a result have grown tremendously as a professional and as a person and it’s all thanks to the students that I work with.
When you aren’t working, how do you spend your free time?
I’m a long-distance runner and am currently training for my fourth marathon! I’m a big fan of spending time outside, especially when the weather is warm. I also really love to read, draw, paint, play video games, and blog!
Who inspired you to get involved in Higher Education?
My mentors at my undergraduate institution Lasell College – Jennifer Granger and Kelly O’Shaughnessey. I had a bit of a second-semester-Senior-Year crisis while in college and knew that I didn’t really want to pursue a career in my major. I knew that I loved working in my many roles at the college and it was Jenny and Kelly that taught me what the field of Higher Education was all about. They were both my guides in figuring this path out, getting into graduate school, and even with my post-grad job search! I can’t say how much I appreciate them.
What is the most valuable lesson you have learned in your career (so far)?
Self. Care. We preach it all of the time in this field and taking self care seriously has been invaluable to me through my graduate experience and through my first year as a professional. It is for both my benefit and for the benefit of the students I work with as well. It is OKAY to step away from your work and focus on yourself or whatever makes you happy. At the end of the day, work will always be there waiting for you, but if you burn yourself out you won’t be able to serve your students effectively.
What is on your Higher Ed bucket list?
I would love to eventually end up on the Leadership Development or Leadership Education path. Seeing students find their voices as leaders has always been my favorite part of the job and to be able to learn and teach about leadership development theories and practices or maybe even create a leadership development curriculum at an institution would be an incredible experience for me!
What advice would you offer to new professionals who are starting their first professional position?
As a new professional, it was really hard for me to find the courage to speak up and share my opinions. I often felt that in my first year that it was more important for me to learn the culture of the campus and understand my surroundings before inserting my own thoughts and ideas into the conversation. Looking back on my first year, I wish I had challenged myself to conquer those fears and share what was on my mind more often. A lot of the time one of the reasons you’re being hired because you will give your campus or organization a fresh set of eyes. While it is very important to learn the culture of your new environment, your colleagues also want to hear what you have to say to gain that new perspective. Definitely pay attention to the environment around you, but don’t be afraid to speak up!