Attending the Duquesne University President’s Inauguration

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On Thursday, September 22, 2016, I had the honor and privilege of attending the Duquesne University President’s Inauguration. You may think it’s odd that I was there, considering I have absolutely no connection to Duquesne whatsoever, and in fact, before that day, I had never actually even been on Duquesne’s campus. This opportunity came about for me, when I got an email from someone at the University of Delaware’s Alumni office, saying that UD’s President, Dr. Dennis Assanis, had been invited to this Inauguration, but he was unable to attend – since I am the UD Pittsburgh Alumni Club President, would I like to represent him instead?

Absolutely. My first thought was that it would be a great networking opportunity, but also, if nothing else, it would be a unique experience on its own. Continue reading

University of Delaware Tailgate in the Burgh

UD Pittsburgh Alumni Club BoardWhen I graduated from the University of Delaware in 2012 and moved back to Pittsburgh without a job, I thought I was leaving everything behind. My friends and classmates I’d met at UD were mostly from the east coast, as well as my professors and potential job contacts. I’d had work experience affiliated with the university and I’d become familiar with the area and the companies. I’d consulted with a staff member at Career Services and I perused the job boards on their website many times, and it seemed that they had the most connections in east coast cities.

When I moved back home, I felt lost. I was working as a waitress, attempting to reconnect with a few high school friends, and struggling to search for a job on my own. I thought I had lost my network.

But by a miraculous stroke of luck or fate, I came across the UD Pittsburgh Alumni Blue Hen City. Just a few months after meeting a few fellow alumni, I felt like I’d found my home again.

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What You Don’t Know, As You Head Off to College

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This past weekend, my family gathered to celebrate my cousin Abby’s graduation from high school. Aunts and uncles and cousins came together from all over Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Philadelphia to celebrate the twelfth cousin of the family to graduate and head off to college.

As the newest inductee into the high school graduate club, my cousin doesn’t know yet what she is in for. She’s about to start her next chapter in life at the University of Dayton in Ohio. She doesn’t even know yet how good it’s going to be. She doesn’t understand the college memes or the post-grad-problems or the Buzzfeed lists. She can’t yet fathom how much trouble she’ll get into. She doesn’t know which girls will become her best friends or which boys will break her heart. She can’t know that yet, but she will.

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Twenty Something

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I turned 24 last week. Somehow I do not feel older at all. I expected to feel 24 and I don’t.

There are significant birthdays, that bring with them significant milestones in your life. And then there are the years in between. When you’re 13, you are a teenager, when you’re 16, you can drive, when you’re 18 you can vote, when you’re 21 you can drink.

With my birthday at the end of May, some of the in-between years still held certain milestones. The end of each year of my life was the end of a school year – a major transition period. When I turned 14 in May of 2004, I had finished middle school, got my braces off and got contacts – talk about transformation! When I turned 22, I graduated college. The very day of my 22nd birthday, I packed up my house in Delaware and moved back in with my parents.

These big events are what make you feel older. They are what give you the feeling that it’s the end of one thing and the beginning of something new. They make you step up, take responsibility, or do something different.

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How to Land the Job of Your Dreams: The Arbitrary Interview Process

interview_blogI have been working at Beyond Spots & Dots for two full months. It feels like a lifetime. How did I get so lucky, when some people struggle to find a job they love?

I have been thinking  lately that the whole job search process is a blend of luck and strategy and wit and formula–therefore it is entirely and completely random. There is no “process.” No one is right or wrong, no one has the advantage. It’s everyone for themselves. Yet we try to help each other out by doling out these rules and say that they will work if you follow them to a T.

Like little robots, college students come out of graduation with resumes and cover letters in hand, and carefully practiced answers to interview questions. With a degree, some activities and an internship, they all look the same on paper. What it comes down to must be the interview. Continue reading

Pittsburgh Blue Hens’ First Summer Picnic

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Once again, I was taken aback by the enthusiasm and college pride shown by my fellow Delaware alumni.

Last weekend, the UD Pittsburgh Alumni Club hosted a Blue Hen Picnic event in North Park. As the newly instated Vice President of the club, I had decided back in April or May that this would be the perfect event. I believed that by having a casual summer picnic, we could break away from the happy hour, downtown crowd of the usual events and start to attract new alumni, bring some families out, gain a reputation as a club that has various events for all interests, ages, and life stages. Continue reading

Real World Summer

This is my first summer in the real world. It’s the first summer where I have not had ample free time, hours to lay in the sun, or days to do nothing. It’s the first summer where I’m actually working a real job, a job that requires me to come in every day at the same time and leave when the sun has already passed its prime.

Last summer, I had graduated college, but I was still clearly not in the real world. I was still job searching and teaching swimming lessons and didn’t start working in a restaurant until later in July or August. I still had plenty of time to enjoy the summer months.

And all the summers before that my summer job didn’t count. As a lifeguard, I went in to work around 11 AM and spent my days in a bathing suit, soaking up the rays, lounging by a pool. I got nice long breaks where I could lay out or swim or read a book. I taught a few swimming lessons and left the pool at 7:30 PM, with time to either go home and relax or hang out with friends, knowing that I didn’t really have a care in the world, and that an 11 AM start time the next day was plenty of time to sleep in.

Just a typical day, on my break at the pool.

Just a typical day, on my break at the pool.

Unfortunately, I didn’t appreciate those days when I had them. I have had a summer job since I was 15. I started working at a pool–selling ice cream bars in the snack shack and cleaning up the wrappers that escaped the garbage cans. The next summer I was a lifeguard at a different pool and just couldn’t bear to leave that easy life. I knew that it was an easy job. It was a great job for a swimmer, and I could use the skills I already had. But by the last summer or two that I spent there, I started to hate it. I was tired of the sun. I hated putting on sunscreen every day. I was appalled that I had let myself sit there staring at water all that time, basking in boredom. And I had read too many articles about lifeguards getting skin cancer. I finished up my fifth year lifeguarding and never looked back.

It was an easy job. But I still didn’t fully appreciate it. It’s hard to appreciate something until you’re done with it, until you’ve seen the other side.

And here I am. On the other side. And now I see that the old grass was greener.

I am a summer person. I love summer. I love sun and the beach and warm days put me in a wonderful mood. So now I wake up in the morning, shower and put on a sundress. But when I get to work, I can’t even tell if the sun is shining because my office doesn’t have a window. I leave work at 5:30 PM and I feel that summertime is passing me by. I find it difficult to do anything after work knowing that I just have to wake up again early the next morning. My skin will be permanently ghostly this year, unless I try really really hard on the weekends to lay out–but on the weekends, I have other things I’ve been waiting all week to do.

Summers in the real world have turned out to be much more depressing than I originally anticipated.

So this week, I am lucky to be on vacation. I am incredibly lucky that the organization I work for was able to give me a few days of paid time off (and that my vacation happens to be over the 4th of July holiday, when our office is closed anyways). And I can say for a fact that I am taking full advantage. I have turned off my work email syncing on my phone. Our beach house actually doesn’t have wireless internet connection this year, so I won’t have to worry about seeing all the emails pop up on my computer. (I’m writing this from a Starbucks.) I brought plenty of books and bikinis, with the expectation of clearing my mind and de-stressing.

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During those lifeguard years, I would get to the beach and it would be just a different version of my work-day. Sun, water, sunscreen. But this year…this is vacation. This is the true meaning of vacation. It’s a relief. Taking some time to yourself to unwind and relax, to get away from the real world for a short time. And to figure out how to better appreciate the real world when you go back.

So far it’s off to a rainy start. But honestly, I don’t even mind. There will be other days to lay on the beach. Today I will read a book.

A Blue Hen Forever

UD Pgh Alumni Club at a Pirates Game, May 3, 2013

UD Pgh Alumni Club at a Pirates Game, May 3, 2013

It started with a happy hour. 

I had gotten an email from the office of the University of Delaware Alumni Relations, saying there was an event for UD Alumni in my area and I was invited.

As a general rule, I had dismissed UD emails, ever since graduation. Delete, delete, delete. I loved my four years, but I’ve done my time. All they want is money and I’m sorry, but I just don’t have any. I’ll be paying off those four year for ten more, so nope, I don’t think so.

Except the words “Happy Hour” jumped out at me. So I begged my friend Laura to come along, just see how it was, we could leave if it was super lame.

It was a Friday evening after work. We ended up staying for a few drinks and a few appetizers. And I actually had a great time.

When I went to college in the state of Delaware, it didn’t occur to me that when I graduated and possibly moved back home, that I would be leaving all my friends and would be very far from the people I’d met and grown to love. My friends are scattered across the east coast and trickling into the south. All by myself in Pittsburgh, I find myself missing my friends from Delaware, a phone call just not cutting it.

So when I walked into the Harris Grill and started talking to some of the alumni, I was amazed. They had lived on the same street I did. They had frequented the same bars. They remembered the same things. Some were athletes like I was, others had taken the same classes. I found that I could strike up a conversation with anyone in the room and feel comfortable. I felt like I had found a unique little family there.

Laura and I didn’t stay the whole time, but I didn’t leave without the promise of more. I was introduced to a board member of the UD Pittsburgh Alumni Club and he mentioned that he needed help. I said yes and handed him my card.

So here I am, planning events, making budgets, and connecting with UD Alumni in the Burgh. A position that I never thought I would be in. I thought that my four years would end and that would be that. But I hadn’t realized, as I walked across the stage at graduation, that my college experience is a part of me and it won’t just disappear because I no longer have a Newark zip code.

Last weekend, I went back to UD for Alumni Weekend. I really just wanted an excuse to get together with my college roommate and best friend who happens to live in North Carolina, too far away for a weekend visit. But the trip ended up being a little more than that.

Before the weekend activities officially started, I attended a luncheon with University of Delaware President, Patrick Harker, followed by a new volunteer training session.  I was able to meet fellow alumni from across the U.S. who had attended the university for many reasons and had then become involved in their respective Alumni Clubs for so many different reasons. Everyone had a unique story to tell, but the theme was generally the same. They came across UD alumni or alumni clubs, remembered what an impact their college experience had on their life, and wanted to connect and reconnect with others.

It was a revelation for me. I have friends, and have met others, who love their school and who will identify with their school for as long as they live, regardless of alumni clubs or networking. But those people go to “football schools”–Penn State, Ohio State, Pitt, Michigan, etc. Their loyalty lies in the fact that their school is famous in the media. People rally around players and teams, whether they attended or not.

And here I was at UD, meeting people of every age who feel that way, despite the fact that our school is not a “football school.” These people were genuinely happy to be back on campus with fellow volunteers, to tell their story, and to find new ways to engage alumni.

I learned how much Alumni Relations and the Alumni Association has grown in the past few years and how much more active alumni have become across the country. President Harker expressed his sincere thanks, acknowledging that it couldn’t be done without volunteers like us who plan events and spread the word.

After lunch, the new volunteers broke off into groups to brainstorm about events and come up with solutions to common challenges that every club faces. These challenges include having fellow board members who are too busy to help plan events or getting stuck in the rut of having the same type of events over and over, among others.

I realized that a lot of the clubs in different cities have very few board members, just like Pittsburgh, or they are brand new and are struggling with pulling new members in, also like Pittsburgh. It was comforting to hear the stories, struggles and successes of others, and I learned I was not alone.

I came back armed with inspiration and new ideas for events and ways to connect with alumni in my area. As a young professional, I feel that I  have the advantage in this Alumni Club-situation. I can plan these events, gaining valuable experience in the process–learning communication and marketing skills–and I can make connections and expand my professional network with the people I meet. The way I see it, this is a win-win for me.

I am (slowly but surely) learning to  plan these events and am becoming more confident in my new role. Not to mention, I’m meeting some pretty awesome people, who have amazing stories to tell.

 

If you are a UD alum in the Pittsburgh area, you can follow the UD Pittsburgh Alumni Club on Facebook here or find out more about UD Alumni Relations and Alumni Clubs in general here

Post-College Campus Tour

Abby, Lindsay and I with the statue of James Madison

Abby, Lindsay and I with the statue of James Madison

I visited my sister at James Madison University this past weekend.

Let me remind you, tales of my journeys are not to be taken lightly. Traveling and/or driving somewhere new is a big deal for me.

Luckily, I was not alone.

My cousin Abby is a junior in high school. She is at that magical age when you start to look at all the possibilities that are just beyond the classrooms that you begin to refer to as prison cells. But just barely. She thought (or maybe her parents thought) it would be a good idea to check out JMU. It’s easy enough to visit, while my sister is there, so why not?

We drove down on Friday morning. I won’t get too much into my little antics on the drive down–we all know I have trouble with directions. Let’s just say, my parents told me about a “shortcut” (which I guess it was) but apparently my knowledge of geography is lacking. I got a little confused (read: freaking out) when I noticed a sign for Maryland about two hours in. I thought I had somehow driven the entire way across Pennsylvania to get to Maryland. (Who knew you could go from Pennsylvania to Maryland to West Virginia to Virginia within fifteen minutes??? Obviously not me.)

Anyways….we got there just fine.

Since it was Easter weekend, Lindsay said that her roommate and suitemates would be gone for the weekend and were generously offering their beds to sleep in if we needed them.

Two of her suite-mates were still there when we got there, so we got to meet them. They said Lindsay and I are exactly alike. That’s news to me.

Overlooking the JMU campus

Overlooking the JMU campus

Then Lindsay took us on a short walking tour of the campus. And let me tell you, JMU is BEAUTIFUL. If I were in my cousin’s position, I would look no further. The campus is idyllic in that it is everything you think of when you think of going away to college and staying on a campus. It has that impressive campus feel. Pretty gray brick buildings that match, lots of walking paths, green fields, a quad, statues. Dorms were in clusters with names like Hillside and Fox and the Village. Huge dining halls and other places to eat in almost every building. (Apparently JMU is ranked #4 in best food on campus.) Not to mention the picturesque Virginia mountains in the background.

I couldn’t help comparing everything we did with my experiences at the University of Delaware. I’m not saying that I would have traded those experiences. But maybe had I looked at JMU when I was in high school, I would have considered it. I was tallying up the pros and cons, and as far as I could see in a weekend visit, there weren’t many cons.

**Maybe I should make a note here: this is not, I repeat NOT a paid endorsement for James Madison University. I swear. I was simply in love with the campus.

jamesmadisonMiraculously, we had beautiful weather that weekend. Blue skies and sun. We took pictures overlooking the campus and the mountains and with James Madison himself, of course.

We got to meet some of Lindsay’s friends and classmates, and see a few other dorms and apartments. We visited the campus bookstore and bought matching JMU t-shirts. Because everyone needs a bright neon shirt. We got to eat at the dining hall and a place called Dukes. Dining hall food is still dining hall food, no matter where you go, but I was not complaining–they had tater tots and bacon, what more could I want?

We were going to try to see a movie Saturday afternoon, but apparently they were having some electrical issues and couldn’t get the power to stay on. We ended up getting our money back, but I would have to say that was a con for the school. We went to the mall instead. Small mall but at least they had a few good stores. And it was very close to campus, close to restaurants and a bowling alley.

We went out to dinner at a place called Clementine’s. It was fantastic. I wish we could have stayed for the live music but it wasn’t until 10 PM. So after dinner we went to an ice cream place called Kline’s, where they serve their own homemade ice-cream.

On Sunday morning we went to Easter mass on campus. It was really refreshing to see a mass held on a college campus, with students singing and playing guitar.

We left soon after that. And don’t worry, we got home without any mishaps.

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There’s a lot I could say about going on this trip with  my cousin looking at colleges.

Like, how does any 17-year-old high school kid know what they’re looking for? How do they know if they want the serene, 19th-century campus, or the busy city campus? How do they know what they want to do with their lives after high school?

Or, if you had the chance, would you do it differently? Did your actual college experience hold true to those campus-tour-expectations? If you knew what else was out there, how it could have been somewhere else, would you change your mind?

I like to believe that the choices you make take you where you’re supposed to go. I wouldn’t be who I am or have some amazing people in my life if I hadn’t gone to Delaware.

But when you’re on a beautiful campus, on a gorgeous day, it’s hard not to wonder.

Real World 101

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Is there anyone who is truly well-prepared to enter the real world?

Take the average American, middle-class, suburban person. They have both parents (or even one parent, whatever), a few siblings, a few hundred dollars from birthdays in their savings account, and let’s take a look at a brief synopsis of their life.

This person goes to public school. They go to a middle school that is just trying to prepare them for the “much-harsher” high school. They get through high school, with the goal of getting into the best college possible. They have this notion that their SAT scores are everything. They have to become an outstanding student, take AP and honors courses and get all A’s. They have to get into National Honor Society, join clubs, be President, and run the Prom committee. All because they have to improve their personal chances of getting into the best school.

So they graduate high school. They’ve gotten into colleges and they make their choice. They decide what will be best for them. They take into consideration what they want to major in, where they want to live, whether they will play sports. They weigh the merits of each school, the pros and cons. They make the best choice to further their education. And then their last days of summer are behind them and they’re walking the campus and taking 8 AM classes.

Now, they get good grades because it will help them get a job. They are trying to improve their personal rankings in the long line of graduates seeking the exact same jobs. Again, they join clubs, they learn skills, they discover their talents. They make themselves better people, because it’s all about them. It’s about them getting somewhere. It’s about how they will live the rest of their lives.

It’s all about them.

And then they get that job. Whatever that job may be, good or bad, high-paying or minimum wage. They get it. Congrats.

And then suddenly, it’s not all about them anymore. It’s about the company. It’s about keeping the boss happy. It’s about communicating what you’re doing in your daily tasks with the other people who are doing their own daily tasks, all in the attempt to make the company or organization or business better. It’s about anticipating what others will need before they have a chance to yell at you. If the company goes bankrupt, loses money, has to lay off workers, then you are losing money and/or out of a job.

It’s not about you. At all. 

So where did we go wrong? Or maybe the question should be, why?

Why are we told from the very beginning that it’s all about us, that we are individuals and we will succeed or fail alone, if in reality, it’s about the company and the group and the collective?

If you don’t turn your homework in, you fail the class. You get a bad grade. Your GPA drops. Your class rank falls. You fail. Your poor work ethic doesn’t hurt anyone but yourself. 

But if you don’t finish the project that you’re working on at your job, if you don’t close the deal, it is the company that pays the price. The sales drop, you lose a client, you lose money. The fault might be yours, but the consequences affect the group.

How did we come up with this backwards way of teaching children and educating the young workforce? What if we had told students that if one person was failing, none of them would get an A? Don’t you think everyone would do everything they could to help that kid get his homework done? Maybe that sounds too much like socialism. People don’t like socialism. People like to know that if they do a good job personally, that they will be rewarded.

Usually that’s the way it is in the workplace. People who excel at their jobs get promoted. But you can’t excel at your job if you’re not looking at the bigger picture. If you don’t see the work that everyone else is doing and if you can’t align your needs with the needs of the organization as a whole, then your disconnected way of thinking will never get you anywhere.

Somewhere along the line, someone came up with this “me, me, me” attitude towards teaching in schools. But then kids get to their jobs in the real world and they aren’t prepared. They aren’t prepared to write someone else’s to-do lists and manage their boss’s schedules and book flights for their co-workers and file paperwork that doesn’t belong to them. It’s this whole new way of thinking. When all you have to do is worry about your own life and your own schedule, life is easy. But put the needs of ten or twenty or a hundred other people onto your to-do list and suddenly your public school, college education just went out the window, because you’ve never had to do that before and no one prepared you.

Real life isn’t sitting in class, taking notes and passing a test. So why do colleges think they are preparing us for our careers?

 

 

(photo via)