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Keeping Up With the Alums: A Lesley Graduate Reflects on What She Learned

Editor’s Note:  From time to time, we like to look back on what our graduates have been doing since they were here.  Ana Resner sent us this essay from her home in California:

My college experience was pretty unique. By the time I graduated from Lesley University, I had attended three different universities.  But I was grateful to have finished my Bachelor’s degree in four years, despite some of the dilemmas that transferring often causes. During my senior year of college, I moved back to southern California, which is where I’m from. I attended Chapman University for two semesters, where I gained knowledge on the research aspect of psychology. However, I was able to finish my bachelor’s degree with Lesley University, thanks to their convenient online undergraduate program.

I completed three different internships during my undergraduate experience.  While I was studying on campus in Cambridge, I started as a marketing intern at The Weekly Dig, then was an advocate at the non-profit LIFT in Roxbury.  When I moved back to California, I served as a tutor/mentor at the non-profit 826 in Los Angeles. Throughout my time as an undergrad, I was a volunteer with Big Sister Association, and spent once a week hanging out with and being a mentor for my “little sister.”  It was through the courses I took at Lesley and my internship at LIFT that I realized what I wanted to do with my life. I studied psychology at Lesley, and absolutely loved the classes I took.  In addition, I found my psychology professors were unmatched in their knowledge of their field; they were always available, and creative with the way they taught the material.

Before starting college, I knew that I wanted to be in some kind of helping profession, but wasn’t sure what exact area I wanted to work in. While interning at LIFT my junior year, I was working one-on-one with members of the community helping them to access resources to housing, jobs, education, public benefits, legal aide, and much more. Thus, through a combination of the enriching courses I was taking at Lesley and the hands-on work I was doing in the community, I realized that I wanted to pursue a career in social work. This is the work that I felt the most passionate about – and the work that left me feeling the most fulfilled at the end of the day. During my second internship, I was able to gain more experience working with youth and adolescents, and I was surprised to find out how much I loved it. Both of these internships helped me to gain unique skills, apply direct service to the community, and gain invaluable knowledge from my colleagues, the individuals I worked with, and social service agencies in general.

Upon graduating, I was offered a position as an AmeriCorps VISTA Development Fellow in the Los Angeles branch of the non-profit LIFT. In case you are not aware, AmeriCorps is a is a network of local, state, and national service programs that connects over 70,000 Americans each year in intensive service to meet community needs in education, the environment, public safety, health, and homeland security. I began embarking on my “year of service” starting July 1st. I went through an intensive on-boarding process for AmeriCorps, where I was initiated as a VISTA or “Volunteer in Service to America.” I am one third of the way through my year right now, and I have learned so much from the experience so far.

As a development fellow, I wear a lot of different hats within the organization. For the most part, my main roles are to manage our social media network for the Los Angeles branch, research prospective donors, research and write corporate and foundation grants, organize fundraising and programmatic events, organize my Executive Director and Senior Development Manager’s schedules and contacts, and on top of these duties, I’m also doing one-on-one member service once a week. Working a 9-5 Monday-Friday job is definitely a huge transition from college, but I have grown so much both personally and professionally from my experience thus far.

So many of the skills that I apply on a daily basis to my personal and professional life – time management, organization, writing and communication, interpersonal communication, listening skills, etc. are in large part due to my professors and the work ethic I developed at Lesley University. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to learn at Lesley, and to have the guidance from such supportive and knowledgeable professors.  My advice to any undergraduate student feeling a little bit lost as to which career direction to fully take would be to try a variety of different internships. I would also recommend talking to professors that you feel are like-minded to your interests and personality, and ask them how they got to where they are now. I learned a lot about what I did and did not like from trying out different internships, and gained tremendous value from creating strong relationships with supportive professors.

I’m currently in the process of applying to several Masters of Social Work programs both on the East and West coasts. During graduate school, I hope to gain more clinical experience working with youth and adolescents, helping to narrow down exactly what setting would be a best fit for me to work in. I know that I will be applying much of what I have learned at Lesley, as well as what I’ve been learning during my experience at AmeriCorps VISTA, in whatever future career I have.

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