What is your current job and how did you get there?
I am Assistant Director of Student Activities at Columbia College Chicago. Our department fosters community and collaboration through college-wide events and programming that reflects and defines our campus culture. Some of our events include Manifest Urban Arts Festival, Parent & Family Weekend, and Wabash Arts Corridor (WAC) Crawl. We also oversee the Student Veteran Center and its programming, as well as various awareness month initiatives.
I’m fortunate to have had many varied, interesting jobs while in graduate school and as I began my career. I worked as an artist’s studio manager, fashion collection assistant, researcher for art historians, grant writer, exhibition coordinator, and project manager. As a freelancer for several years I had to be open to new experiences, work with a variety of personalities, and balance a lot of projects at once. Prior to my current position, I was the coordinator of ShopColumbia, Columbia’s student and alumni art boutique, where I helped artists learn the process of marketing and selling their work. Through this position I also hosted events, concerts, pop-ups, exhibitions, markets and professional development workshops – many of which were class collaborations with the Business & Entrepreneurship department. All of these experiences, skills learned, and relationships I made along the way have led me to the position I currently hold at Columbia.
What field are you working in?
My position in Student Success at the college has required me to work as an event planner and programmer, while creating learning opportunities for our students outside of the classroom. For example, I have an awesome team of student production assistants who have a very big role in producing our programs and events. This has easily been the highlight of my job, but also very essential. They have a better sense of how to engage the student body, so I take their opinions very seriously. They have a lot of responsibility in our office and this often becomes a major portfolio piece for them. Plus we have lots of fun while we are at it!
Were there any particular professors who have made a significant impact on you? How?
Bob Blandford was my advisor and professor during graduate school and had a big impact on my career. We joke about how he is still my unofficial life coach. Bob created learning opportunities for us within his classroom to get real-world experience and connect us to professionals in the field. He encouraged me to create independent studies that explored my interests more specifically so I could get the most out of my education. At the time, the arts management graduate program had a visual arts concentration. There were nine of us in the program and Bob was instrumental in fostering a close, collaborative group who truly enjoyed each other. Six years later and we are all still in touch. It’s been great having such a fantastic, talented group of friends I can rely upon.
How did the business program at Columbia prepare you for what you do now?
Moving to Chicago and completing the Master of Arts Management program really opened me up to career opportunities I didn’t know existed within the arts. The fact that Columbia employs instructors who are working professionals in their field is a huge benefit. They were able to help facilitate relationships within Chicago’s rich artistic community, which led many of us to internships and job opportunities. The hands-on nature of the curriculum was also essential to helping me feel prepared when I graduated. There were several projects I worked on within my coursework and through outside internships and jobs that contributed to a strong portfolio upon graduation.
Do you have any advice for current Columbia students?
I always encourage my students to be proactive with their education and use this time to explore. They have an opportunity to get whatever they want out of it – whether it is through internships, class projects, getting to know their instructors, joining student organizations, collaborating with fellow students or pursuing off-campus jobs. There are so many ways (and resources available) to tailor their time at Columbia to meet their needs and create a really fulfilling experience.