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Alumni Spotlight

From student affairs to the corporate world: Shana Basnight

Shana Basnight | M.A. Alumna

Prior to starting graduate school at TC, I worked at Emory University as the Assistant Director of MBA Admissions and Coordinator of Diversity Recruitment. My admissions experience allowed me to see firsthand some of the challenges that exist within the higher education system and Teachers College was the best place to gain extensive knowledge on research, best practices, and theory that would allow me to become a more effective practitioner within higher education. After completing the program, I returned to Emory to work as an Academic Advisor at Rollins School of Public Health. While at Rollins, I was able to apply what I learned during my time at Teachers College and help graduate students successfully complete their Master of Public Health degree. Shortly thereafter, I received another opportunity to join The Coca-Cola Company and work with their University Talent Programs. I currently serve as a Program Manager for their internship and leadership development programs in Atlanta, GA.

From undergrad to full-time professional: Marci Zimmerman

Marci Zimmerman | M.A. Alumna

After serving as an academic advising intern, First-year seminar instructor assist, and First-Year Experience Coordinator, I knew that I wanted to immediately pursue a master’s degree in Higher Education upon graduation from Gettysburg College.  As a full-time master’s student I was hoping to better inform my practice with a strong academic understanding of the foundational and contemporary elements that constitute Higher Education as a specialized area of education.  I was drawn to the Higher and Postsecondary Education program because offered the highly desirable balance of intensive study on current policy, theory, and trends within the higher education industry, and practical experience through a graduate assistantship. The experience was incredibly valuable as I benefited from the shared understanding of both my full-time student peers’ assistantship experiences as well as my part-time student peers’ perspectives, which ranged from 1 – 20 years of professional experience.  Now, as an Associate Director at Columbia Business School, I constantly reflect back on the concepts and best practices I learned as a master’s student so that I can provide exceptional student support service.

From the corporate world to student affairs: Tara Schwartz

Tara Schwartz | M.A. Alumna

As an undergraduate business major at Cornell University, I had a smooth transition into the finance department of Citi when I graduated. At Citi, in addition to my finance responsibilities, I became very involved in recruiting undergraduate students for the analyst program I was a part of. I read student resumes, conducted information sessions, interviewed students, and mentored new analysts. Over time, I realized that my favorite part of my job at Citi was when I could work with undergraduate students. I knew that in order to develop a career focused on my interest in higher education and working with college students, I needed to expand my knowledge of the field by pursuing a Master’s degree. As a full-time student at Teachers College, I interned at the Teachers College Career Services Office. The internship was an integral part of my career transition, because I learned skills necessary for the career development sector of higher education. I now work at the NYU Wasserman Center for Career Development as a Career Development Counselor serving both undergraduate and graduate NYU students.

Transitioning to a new sector of Higher Education: Student Affairs: Aaron Gomes

Aaron Gomes | M.A. Alumni

Having been a commuter student at a college that was predominately comprised of commuter students, I did not feel a strong sense of community on campus and was not as involved in campus life as I wish I had been. Immediately following undergrad, I accepted a position as a unit manager for Columbia Dining and was subsequently promoted to Assistant Director.  Little did I know that after a couple of years of working at Columbia, I would become so passionate about higher education! Not only did I interact with students day to day in dining locations, I was able to help with move in, volunteer for various programming opportunities, and help with Commencement—my favorite time of year! I had missed out on all of these great events in undergrad, and I knew I wanted more!

I had learned about the HPSE program at Teachers College, and knew that it was the right program to find my niche. The program allowed me to learn about all aspects of higher education from history, policy, finance, theory, student engagement, and curriculum. I was proud to be in the HPSE program and knew that I wanted to transition into a new role where I had more interaction with students.

Upon graduating from the program, I immediately took advantage of a part-time teaching opportunity at Baruch College to teach a Freshman Seminar and Transfer Seminar course.  I immediately made connections with my students, who like me, were commuter students.  I constantly found myself encouraging them to be active in student life as I had regrets not having done so. Shortly after this experience, I accepted a position as Assistant Director of Student Community Programs for Columbia College and the School of Engineering and Applied Science at Columbia University. In my current role, I will be working on New Students Orientation Programs (NSOP) programming, advising the first year and senior year student councils, and will advise approximately 20 student groups along with managing other programs that promote community building.

Career changer finds new home in student affairs: Sophia Li Ferry

Sophia Li Ferry | M.A. Alumna

In 2008, I applied to the Higher and Postsecondary Education program at Teachers College because I knew I wanted to work in a university setting. Coming from a different field, the profession was difficult to break into, even with highly transferable skills. For several years prior, I applied to student affairs positions in California (where I was living) with no luck. Getting an MA at Teachers College helped me get a foot in the door. Since graduation, I have been working at the Columbia University Medical Center. I am also working on my doctoral degree so that I can advance my career in higher education.

Keeping the passion alive: Bekka (Schnell) Goldberg

Bekka Goldberg | M.A. Alumna

Before enrolling in the Higher and Postsecondary program at Teachers College, I served as an Apartment Coordinator at Creighton University. During my time at Creighton University, I started taking graduate courses in their counseling program. Although I enjoyed my time in counseling courses, I decided I wanted to study higher education in particular, rather than pursuing a generalized counseling degree.  Eight applications to different graduate programs later, TC was the last school I heard from; however when I visited, I knew I had to seize the opportunity.

During my time at TC, I worked the Department of Residential Programs at Columbia as a Graduate Assistant in a Freshman Residence Hall. I found the program to offer great insight into the history of higher education and also enlightened me with the broad possible career paths I could choose. I also found that the professors inspired me on a daily basis, and the other students pushed me to think outside of the box and were so generous in sharing their own expertise within the field as we discovered new avenues together. I am so grateful for the intensity and rigor of the program. I really feel like it helped me further discover and define my passion for working with students.

After TC, I was fortunate to be able to combine the skills I learned in the program with my previous expertise in the arts. I worked at The School of American Ballet at Lincoln Center in Student Activities and Residence Life for a year, and then moved to Boston. I began working in admissions at Walnut Hill School for the Arts, an independent high school. I managed dance recruitment, served as a college counselor to seniors from all majors, and spearheaded the School’s efforts in social media. This is now my second year as a full time college counselor at Walnut Hill. I regularly draw on concepts I learned from my time at TC and I am thankful every day that I’ve been able to keep my two passions—student affairs and the arts—active in my professional life.

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