Study abroad…in the USA?


Recently, I have noticed a pattern of student appointments that I’ve conducted who are interested or will be participating in Elon University’s Study USA program. For a little more context, Study USA is a program unique to Elon in the sense that the University offers three different centers: Elon in Los Angeles, Elon in New York, and Elon in San Francisco. Participating in any of these programs would require successful completion of an internship and at least one course taught by an Elon University faculty at each site, so it’s a great way to complete any Experiential Learning Requirements!

Additionally, I have been asked to assist in some pre-departure presentations/workshops for students who will be participating in the program during summer 2018. Initially, I was trying to piece together why the pre-departure information could be that helpful or even necessary—they are staying in the U.S. so there shouldn’t be any big changes, right? Wrong.

Transitioning to a large city (especially from rural Elon/Burlington, NC) can pose challenges for students in the way of culture shock and homesickness, not to mention the stress and anxiety caused by trying to secure an internship in either given city!

With this framework in mind, I spoke with Cindy Sweeney, Associate Director of Career Services, (who formerly worked in the Global Education Center), and Victoria Thompson, the current Assistant Director of Study USA. I asked about the program details and how career advisors can best serve students who may be opting to participate in either Study USA here at Elon, or any other city-specific national program.

Preparing for such a unique experience presents challenges that students may not have to face abroad or even here at Elon. I think successful preparation and assistance to students boils down to three things: Articulating your story in a real-world setting, identifying mentors, and understanding work culture.

It’s one thing to meet with a career advisor to practice for a mock interview, or even strut your stuff at the bi-annual Job & Internship Expo, but it’s quite another when you’re having to talk about yourself outside of the classroom. In a larger, more diverse area, it is important to be able to efficiently talk about your skills and experiences. The more you practice or attend employer meet-and-mingle events, the more comfortable and authentic this will feel.

During my conversation with Victoria, we talked a lot about the value of utilizing LinkedIn to identify mentors in one of the Study USA programs. Though there are many networking/LinkedIn philosophies, it boils down to intentionality. What messages are you putting out there? Further, are you being considerate of who you are connecting with? Recent graduates may be more willing to help and can paint a clearer picture of realistic 5-year goals.

Finally, successful preparation for a Study USA experience boils down to understanding and defining work culture. Students’ experiences may be limited thus far to their own internship opportunities or even what they see modeled in a ‘9-5’ workplace environment. This may look very different for companies in LA or San Francisco where socializing with coworkers is common in the evenings. There may even be nights where you will have to work until 8 or 9pm but then have the flexibility to start later the next day.

The bottom line is that career advisors can absolutely be influential to students embarking on such a unique experience. It’s just a matter of listening and preparing.


Plans, Pathways, & Progress


The past three months (Wait, did I really just say three? Are we living in the ‘upside-down’?) have begun to shape the course of the 2017-2018 academic year here at Elon. I’ve identified areas in career services that I want to focus on, and with the assistance of my supervisor, Ross, have been able to see some of those plans come to fruition, which is an amazing feeling!

When we first arrived at Elon, Rachel and I crafted professional development plans, which essentially outlined all of the areas of career services we wanted to learn and grow in. To highlight some programs and areas of interest that Rachel and I have developed, both individually as well as collectively, I thought it would be great to list them to capitalize on our progress.

Give Thanks Program: I was first given the idea for a “Give Thanks” card program when I spoke with Amy Willard from Wake Forest University, who talked about the success of the program and how encouraging students to write a thank-you card emphasize their professional development and focuses on networking and following up with an employer, mentor, faculty member, or personal contact. Students are encouraged to stop by the Moseley Center Mailroom on November 15th from 10am-3pm. There, they can pick up a thank-you card, designed by current iMedia student, Nick Cook, ’18, and with special calligraphy assistance from our own Amber Moser! #Collaboration (You can see more of Amber’s work  on her Instagram, here, and Nick’s portfolio can be accessed here)

Give Thanksflyer

College Fellows’ Career Trek: Next, my interest in becoming more of an expert of knowledge in Elon’s College of Arts & Sciences has led me to partner with both Aisha Mitchell, Assistant Director of Corporate & Employer Relations for the College of Arts & Sciences, as well Sara Cone, Assistant Director of Career Services for the College of Arts & Sciences, to curate a “Career Trek”, in which we anticipate taking a 12-15 College Fellows to various employers who are doing great work in a variety of industries, to hone in on skills that Arts & Sciences majors already possess and emphasize that they do, in fact, get jobs! The date is set for January 24th and I will be marketing the event soon.

Additionally, I have appreciated and enjoyed the narrative of empathy and curiosity that the SPDC is taking towards partnering with Elon’s Center for Race, Ethnicity, and Diversity Education, and am also enjoying being a part of a productive brainstorming cohort with Rachel and others, both in our staff, from the CREDE, and from the LGBTQIA center.

SAMP CaREerLay: Finally, I am in process of developing a structured program to help prepare students for life after Elon, featuring budgeting sessions, meal prep and cooking, and essentially Adulting 101. Towards the end of spring semester, it’s my hope that students will sign up to participate in a career-themed ‘relay’ race, to compete against their peers at the Station at Mill Point in testing their knowledge as a race against the clock.

In terms of some fantastic programming that Rachel Brown has curated, she’s written about her upcoming events below:

Library Drop-In Hours: First and third Wednesday of every month, 3pm-5pm, back of the first floor of library in the Information Commons. Stop by to get your resume or cover letter reviewed, your LinkedIn updated, or your internship and job search skills refined! The next date will be November 15th!

Working Women Workshop: Tuesday, February 6th, 6:00pm-7:30pm. Isabella Cannon Room in the Center for the Arts. Different panelists will speak to their experiences in the workplace. After the large group panel, panelists will lead small groups focused on different topics that often affect women such as the wage gap, leadership, and mentorship.

SAMP Initiatives: Drop-in hours are held at the Station from 4pm-6pm on Mondays. However, starting next semester, we will have a special event every few Mondays where we have a focused discussion about a city where students may want to move after graduation. We will bring in alumni who live in those cities to give students tips and tricks and discuss how to network in the new cities to prepare for when #WereNotInBTownAnymore

She is right, Elon grads will not be in B-town anymore. Here’s to rolling with our innovative ideas to help support Elon students even further!

Fall-ing Into Your Transferable Skills


Autumn signifies a time of change. Sometimes that can be scary and it may look differently depending on whether you’re a first-year student merely starting to adjust to your Elon life, or suffering from senioritis and ready to embark on your professional journey.

Personally, not only am I starting to enjoy sweater weather and all of the fun fall activities, but I am also experiencing a change in work environment and transferring some of my skills from my background in Mental Health Counseling. Though my career change has not been extremely different, there have been some notable changes in which I have adapted to a different way of doing things, for example, in terms of note-keeping, or having more flexibility with scheduling.

In my time working with students one-on-one and through classes/presentations, I have found that many counseling skills are useful, if not necessary, in my career shift. For both students and working professionals alike, I think the below skills may be useful in translating into your own career change or emergence into your given field.

Holistic Understanding

In graduate school, one of the aspects of counseling that I really appreciated was taking a holistic approach. It’s easy to stereotype or make judgements about students based on a resume review where the student needed a lot of hand-holding, etc., but it’s not fair to both the student and yourself if you only consider the “Elon student” side of the person. Sometimes I find myself asking students questions about why they are interested in a certain internship or where they want to live after graduation, because it gives me a broader sense of who they are outside of their role of being student. I think applying this knowledge to my work as a Career Advising Fellow has been helpful in ‘getting the bigger picture’ as well as learning not to jump to conclusions. Having a holistic perspective challenges you to go beyond what you know, whether that’s deciding which majors lead to the career path you want to choose, or simply knowing the full scope of a job you’re about to take.

Using Empathy

Empathy is key in building relationships, and particularly when considering it as an applicable skill for the workplace, no matter where you are professionally. To be empathic requires one to have respect for another’s perspective and understand where they are coming from; empathy is extremely beneficial, regardless of where you are in your career journey. (More on empathy as one of the best transferrable skills here). In an effort for the SPDC to engage in a more meaningful way with organizations on campus, we’ve begun using a Design Thinking approach. Design Thinking is essentially a solution-focused mindset to solving problems. Take a problem, for example, creating more inclusive workplaces. We must empathize and understand the needs of the individuals and students we are serving before jumping to a solution, much like we should be doing in our own career paths.

Establishing Rapport

I was nervous initially about the transition from working as a mental health professional to a career advisor, specifically because of the short amount of time (30 minutes can fly by!) when working with students. Sometimes, I end up scheduling a second appointment with them, and other times, that may be my only interaction, so it’s imperative to create a safe space to welcome friendly conversation as well.


Listening-blog post

You may have heard of the above quote, and I personally find it’s applicable in ANY stage of your life. Sometimes (and I’m guilty of this, too) we feel anxiety just to say something, rather than to hear what someone is actually trying to convey. Taking a step back, and fully understanding another’s perspective is very important, especially in Career Advising.

Do you have any suggestions for other transferable skills that are useful for students and professionals alike? Please leave a comment below, and truly: Happy Fall, Y’all!


Joining the Team

By Kristen Aquilino, International Career Fellow

Hi everyone! It’s very exciting to be here at Elon and a part of the SPDC team. As Danielle mentioned in her post on Monday, I just recently arrived and thought this would be a great opportunity to say… thank you for such a warm welcome!

Three weeks ago I started as an International Career Advising Fellow and am thrilled to be able to work with students and colleagues to help foster the global career aspirations of the Elon student community. So far it has been a wonderful whirlwind of meeting new people, training, settling in, and learning about all that the university has to offer.

My path to Elon has involved a variety of both domestic and international experiences, each with a very close tie to the field of Education. After completing a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and International Studies at Penn State University, I worked to gain experience within education from multiple vantage points including consulting, teaching, and programming, as well as through completion of a Master’s degree in International Education Policy at the University of Maryland. As for this leg of the journey, it’s great to be immersed in the southern hospitality of North Carolina and energized by the innovative spirit of Elon.

With this blog, we (the fellows) look forward to posting interesting discussion topics, reflecting on our experiences, and sharing helpful resources along the way!

A Rainbow of Campus Activities

Created by: Katie Smith, 2012-2013 Career Advising Fellow

I have chosen to work in higher education for many reasons, one of which is the opportunity to hear brilliant, acclaimed, and influential speakers. Another is the opportunity to participate in silly events and fundraisers such as the Elon Color Run. Both happened this past week!

Last Thursday evening, Maya Angelou, a world-renowned poet and author spoke at Elon’s fall convocation ceremony, an event free to Elon students, faculty, and staff. For almost two hours we sat packed in the alumni gym, spellbound, listening to a woman whose name we knew and whose words we’ve read. Angelou opened with a song and spoke about her life with a sharp wit and poetic cadence, telling jokes, making occasional jabs, and imparting great wisdom to first-year students and anyone else who was along for the ride.

Angelou encouraged students to take advantage of their time at Elon multiple times throughout her speech. She challenged students to make use of the library’s resources and to push their teachers, maximizing their education and learning a history different from their own. “Be a rainbow in the clouds for others,” she told us. “When you learn, teach, and when you get, give.”

Maya Angelou Speaks at Fall Convocation

While walking home, still slightly stunned from listening to such a brilliant woman, I had the surprise of running into a student game of flashlight tag. It’s the simple pleasures that can balance the intellectual challenge of living and working on a college campus, and for this I am grateful.

Living out our simple pleasures as well as our career services duties and academic campus events, on Saturday Mikki and I participated in the Elon Color Run, a 2k fundraiser event planned and coordinated by Campus Recreation and Elonthon. Participants dressed in white and at several points throughout the race, we were covered in colored powder, creating a big rainbow mess by the finish line. This first-time event at Elon had over 450 enthusiastic participants and raised over $4,000 for the Duke Children’s Hospital.

Together, these two events paint a picture of some of the greatest advantages of working at an institution. Amazing minds and wisdom complemented with fun and philanthropy, all for a great cause.

Mikki, Hope, and I at the Elon Color Run!

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood!

Created by: Katie Smith, 2012-2013 Career Advising Fellow

On Monday September 27th from 7-9 PM, the Student Professional Development Center staff held a Meet & Greet event for our newest satellite office, located in the Station at Mill Point Depot building.

When Mikki and I each came to campus for our interviews at the end of April 2012, the Station at Mill Point was still just a blueprint and an architectural plan with the very beginning of a construction site visible to the local community. A quick four months later, a neighborhood of 24 houses stood ready for move-in day.

Approximately 320 undergraduate students live in the Station at Mill Point, a community of townhouse-style apartments designed for students of junior and senior status. Located just a short walk from campus, the apartments are designed to give upperclass students the independence they seek with the amenities they want. Did I mention there’s a small fitness center, an outdoor pool and a sand volleyball court?

As part of our fellowship position, Mikki, Ashley, and I have the good fortune of living in the beautiful brand new community at Station at Mill Point, a perk with benefits for both us and our student neighbors. Not only do we get to enjoy our own spacious 4-bedroom/4-bathroom apartment and the nearby community facilities, but our convenient residential location also allows us to give back to the community in a big way.

In the Station at Mill Point Depot building, students can find Mikki, Ashley or I working as the career advisor available for drop-in appointments Monday-Thursday from 1:30-5 PM and on Monday evenings from 7-9. While students can, of course, schedule appointments with the three of us or any other SPDC staff members through our main office in Moseley, this new satellite office location allows us to provide accessible services and greater availability in a location convenient to hundreds of junior and senior students.

The well-attended Meet & Greet event was a fantastic opportunity to celebrate our new office location and to advertise the availability of career services to our new neighborhood. Evening drop-in hours start next Monday and we are excited to serve as an additional resource for students nearing the end of their college careers. Spread the word, career services is in the neighborhood!

Exploring North Carolina!

Created by: Katie Smith, 2012-2013 Career Advising Fellow

Perhaps apparent from Mikki’s post, the past two months have been a whirlwind of new knowledge, experiences, and activities, and already, our time is flying by.

So far our time here has been a crash course in Career Services information and practices, in Elon University people and traditions, and in North Carolina culture, attractions, and even accents (hello, y’all!).

Accompanied by Ashley and other friends we have made across campus, Mikki and I have had the opportunity to explore the local Elon/Burlington area and also to visit some of the other NC cities in driving distance. In the nearby city of Greensboro, we have seen the Greensboro Grasshoppers baseball team, we have been salsa dancing, and we even joined a kickball league!  We have also spent a weekend swimming and relaxing at the beautiful Wrightsville Beach about three hours away in Wilmington, and most recently, we also had a chance to visit the US National Whitewater Center in Charlotte!

This past Saturday, Mikki and I had the absolute pleasure of advising the student-led Elon Outdoors whitewater rafting trip to Charlotte, NC, which is about two hours away from Elon. We were excited to accompany an enthusiastic group of 48 undergraduate students to this well-known park that also serves as a training center for US Olympians in kayaking. In beautiful weather, we ziplined, rock climbed, completed high ropes courses, jumped off of a four-story platform, and, of course, whitewater rafted! While we aren’t quite ready for the Olympics, we had a blast paddling our way through eddies and dips and taking cover for particularly fast plunges.


So far Elon and North Carolina have been good to us and we cannot wait to continue exploring all that is nearby!