For me, one of the best things about attending graduate school at Columbia has been the wealth of work opportunities on campus. I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked several on-campus jobs since beginning my current program, and I’ve learned so much! From work-study jobs to assistantships to internships, and even jobs and internships with partner organizations, there are so many opportunities to grow new skills, gain valuable work experience, and earn some scratch to pay the rent!
During my first semester, I had the opportunity to serve as a Graduate Teaching Assistant for two of Columbia’s Big Chicago first year experience courses. It was such an amazing experience that I did it again this year as well, and served as a GTA for a total of four classes, including both the Big Chicago classes and courses in the Dance and Business and Entrepreneurship departments. Getting to work with these classes was an experience like no other. It gave me the chance to learn a lot about Chicago’s history, to practice classroom leadership and organization, and I even had the opportunity to test drive some of my own curriculum that I developed independently. This experience has been invaluable and will help me greatly in the future, because I hope to teach at the college level someday. I’ve also just had such a fantastic time getting to know the professors and students I’ve gotten to work with. I feel as though I’ve truly made some mentors and mentees for life, and I’m so grateful for it.
Last spring, shortly before lockdown began, I had the opportunity to interview for a position in the Office of Transfer Initiatives, the department that guides and assists incoming and prospective undergraduate transfer students as they prepare and transition to Columbia from community colleges and other institutions. I was hired right around the onset of the pandemic and have been working with them remotely ever since. This position has given me the chance to learn a lot about the inner workings of the academic administration and what resources and tools go into helping transfer students succeed at Columbia long term. As someone who was a non-traditional undergraduate student, it’s been so rewarding to assist in finding ways to better serve the needs of transfer students and eliminate some of the potential complications of their academic paths. The whole team is amazing, and I feel so lucky to have gotten to connect and collaborate with them in this capacity.
Most recently, just at the beginning of February, I started working with Columbia’s Office of Student Persistence. Though I’m still in the process of training and getting acclimated to this new role, so far it’s been a wonderful experience, and I’m looking forward to taking on more. This department responds to alerts sent to us by instructors, advisors, and other interested parties expressing concerns about student well-being. We respond by reaching out to students directly or redirecting alerts to their appropriate destination departments, depending on the type of concern that needs to be addressed. Student Persistence plays a critical role in student retention and helps to provide students with the appropriate resources and care they need to stay on track and overcome hurdles to their success. It’s been an honor to play a part in giving students a helping hand in this role and the others, too.
In addition to the work included above, I’ve also had the joy of volunteering at campus conferences and events, as well being tangentially involved in various projects across different departments, through which I’ve been able to flex and grow my skills, while building my resume. Being so involved on campus has brought so much depth and richness to my graduate school experience at Columbia. With graduation coming up in May, I can’t help but preemptively miss all my roles on campus, but I know that even though my time left here is short, these experiences will always be a part of me. I’ve learned lessons here in my capacity as a student, educator, and administrative employee that will last a lifetime.