What did you study at Yale? What is your current profession/job?
I studied music theory at Yale as a PhD student. Now, I work in the non-profit sector and am currently the director of the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans, which is a $90,000 graduate school fellowship for outstanding immigrants and children of immigrants.
What do you like most about your current role? What do you find most challenging and/or rewarding?
I like being part of an organization with a valuable mission. Immigration is so important to our country and to our universities; it’s motivating to work on an issue that I care deeply about. In addition to believing in the mission, I find that the most rewarding part of the job is working with our remarkable Paul & Daisy Soros Fellows.
Practically speaking, the aspects of the job that are most challenging and rewarding are two sides of the same coin. It is wonderful to lead an organization where we can make anything happen that we feel is important. If there is a project we want to take on or an initiative we want to implement, we can usually move it forward. We’re able to think critically about what we do and make the types of changes that can be much harder for bigger or more bureaucratic organizations to make. At the same rate, being part of a small organization means that we do everything ourselves. If we want to accomplish something, we must take it on – we can’t turn to a department or team within the organization and hand off a project.
How did your time at Yale shape your career trajectory?
This is a big question, because there are so many ways that my time at Yale shaped my career trajectory. After I got my PhD at Yale, I taught for a few years, and then transitioned to academic administration, first as a residential dean at Yale and then as the director of an honors college within Hunter College, CUNY in New York City. As a PhD student, I realized how much I valued education and academia, but I was drawn over and over again to teaching, advising, and working on larger administrative issues and challenges. For example, I was active at the Slifka Center, and saw how much being connected to a community affected students’ success. Later, as a residential dean, I learned about the power and importance of sustaining and strengthening community—which is work I continue to do for the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships community. I also worked with Sterling Memorial Library on hosting a conference related to musical archives the library had acquired. Through experiences like these I learned that there were important and meaningful ways to make a difference in the educational system beyond academic research. Finally, I met several mentors and colleagues at Yale who have provided invaluable guidance and support to me throughout my career.
What are the main skills that you acquired as a GASA student which help make you successful in your current career?
Through teaching smart and enthusiastic Yale undergrads, I learned how to be an engaging teacher and presenter. Through my research, I learned to be more analytical and detail-oriented. All of these skills have been critical to me as director of The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships. But one of the most important things I learned as a PhD student was how to write. While writing a dissertation is very different from the writing I do now, the sheer volume of writing that a dissertation requires, and the need for it to be clear and well-thought out, helped prepare me for the career I have now.
Did you acquire any professional experience related to your line of work while in graduate school?
I don’t have anything to add beyond my other responses.
What advice would you offer GSAS students who are interested in your line of work?
If you are interested in working in academic administration, I would recommend finding ways to get involved with campus projects–in planning an event, hosting a speaker series, or by volunteering to do some work at one of the residential colleges. Reach out to people doing the work you are interested in and see if there are ways you can support them. If you’re interested in working in non-profits, I recommend volunteering with a non-profit. Even helping for a few hours a week would put you in a position to better understand their work, see how you can use your skills to contribute to it, and could help you think through how you might position yourself to work in a similar organization in the future.
Moving from academia to a different type of work requires a pivot: finding some experience or skill set you have that aligns well with the position you are moving toward. You can best set yourself up for transitioning to a different type of work by developing as many skills and experiences that relate to that work as possible.
Finally, develop a team of mentors that you are excited about. Search out people who are doing work that you think is interesting, even if it’s not connected to your research or field. I’ve found that people from different backgrounds can provide fresh eyes and help you see your career in new ways.