February 19, 2016

Alumni Voices: "It Just Didn't Fit Anymore"

Another of our Alumni Voices, Alexandra Milan (SAS '13), shows us that one of the forms of transfer shock or sophomore slump may be doubting an academic path that was once very clear:

I transferred to Rutgers after completing my AA at my hometown community college. I had double majored in psychology and philosophy and loved it. Naturally I thought that I would continue on this path at Rutgers.

My first semester, I took the class that changed my mind: Philosophy of Perception. It was so different than the philosophy courses I had studied before. All I could think was, “Why is everyone arguing? You are all just saying the same thing and none of it is actually helpful in the real world!” When it came time to write my midterm paper, I had absolutely nothing to say. So I had to drop the class!

The next semester I attempted another philosophy class. While I ultimately did well, I found that I was not connecting with the discipline like I had in the past. It just didn’t fit anymore.

I was set on Psychology as my major but needed a new minor to fulfill my requirements. Eventually, I decided to go for a criminology minor within the sociology department. I had considered studying criminal justice in my first year of college, so I knew I was interested in the subject and already had some of the requirements met. If I hadn’t given this a shot, I wouldn’t have taken Race Relations.

We had in depth discussions about social injustices plaguing our society. Our class was diverse, and I was able to hear so many different perspectives on the issues. My gut told me the answers to fighting these injustices lie within the educational system.

After graduating, I moved across the country to do AmeriCorps in Seattle, supporting high school students on a campus bursting at the seams with culture and diversity. It was the most significant year of my life to date. Now, I am pursuing a career working in college diversity programs and applying for the University of Washington's Leadership in Higher Education program.

Although I am not pursuing a career in psychology or criminology, the things I learned during my education helped me understand myself, the world around me, and my place in it. Making this change was terrifying, but even on the most challenging days I am thankful that I get to do something I am truly passionate about.

Alexandra Nora Milan
SAS, Class of 2013

Remember to utilize campus resources if you're experiencing Transfer Shock or the Sophomore Slump!

February 12, 2016

Alumni Voices: "I Stepped Out of My Comfort Zone"

In today's Alumni Voices post, Laura Barrett-Hansen (SAS '11) points to how a seemingly random course may have unexpected and serendipitous effects on your plans:

In high school when I was applying to colleges, I was dead set on hospitality management – because, thought my 17-year-old self, who doesn’t love restaurants and hotels?! Rather than going out of state (too expensive) or going to Rutgers-Camden for their hospitality concentration, I settled on (aka, left myself no other choice) Rutgers-New Brunswick. At some point in the midst of advising day and choosing classes, I signed myself up as a Pre-Business major. I suppose I thought that Business School would put me on a perfect path for hospitality management.
Well, let’s just say Calculus and Microeconomics were tragically not my thing, making for a traumatizing first semester. 

When we were registering for the next semester, one of my dorm friends convinced me to sign up for an Intro to Labor Studies class with him. I knew nothing about labor unions or employment relations. This course ended up being so interesting, engaging, hands-on, and practical, that I declared Labor Studies as a major in that same semester. 

Finding the Labor Studies program completely changed my outlook on college and certainly helped my self-esteem after a very challenging first semester. I eventually became a TA for the Intro course. During my junior year I got an internship with a professor who was at the Center for Women and Work, where I met the supervisor whom I still work for today in the Education and Employment Research Center at SMLR. 

Because I took a chance and stepped out of my comfort zone in taking that one Intro course, I have a Master’s degree and full time job here at Rutgers. I never left and I love what I do!

Laura Barrett-Hansen
SAS/SMLR, Class of 2011
Senior Program Coordinator
Education and Employment Research Center
School of Management and Labor Relations

January 29, 2016

Alumni Voices: "Medicine is not the only way to help people"

In the first of our series of alumni voices, Neelesh Mittal (SAS '10) shows that sometimes the right major path leads to unexpected but fulfilling destinations:

When I got to Rutgers in the Fall of 2006, I was ready to pursue a career in medicine. After all, it’s what I wanted to do since I was 5 years old. My entire family knew that and expected me to become the surgeon I always said I would become.  I knew that I needed to ace Organic Chemistry, do clinical or lab research, score at least a 30 on my MCAT, and volunteer.

All this excitement came crashing down after my very first semester when I completely bombed General Chemistry I. After some deep thinking, I decided it was no matter because I would study super hard for General Chemistry II and show improvement and then medical school admissions committees would not care.

Flash forward to May 2007 – I did not improve much in General Chemistry II. The same story pretty much repeated itself for many of my major classes. I did however do clinical research the following summer and was published in two leading medical journals. Even with my grades, I pressed on, dropping a lot of cash on an MCAT course and taking the test twice. I got a half way decent score, which was not enough to offset my transcript. Advisers, professors, and smart friends and family all suggested finding a new route to helping people. 

I had enough credits to graduate with my Cell Biology and Neuroscience major one semester early, so December 2009 was the end of college for me. This was a good time for reflection. I didn’t do well in my science classes but excelled in my political science and other humanities classes. While I still had a passion for health & medicine, I came to the conclusion that becoming a doctor simply wasn’t going to be that path. I needed a job so I started researching the companies that would come to the Rutgers Career Fair in January. My experiences included clinical research and two publications and a stint as a pharm tech. I figured I could get a basic clinical research job at an academic hospital and buy time to really figure out what was next (because who wants a dead end $11/hour lab job?)

One of the companies coming to the career fair was a medical device company which created devices in the same area as my clinical research. I extensively researched this company and saw they were hiring for a role in Regulatory Affairs – essentially, getting new devices cleared by the FDA and foreign regulatory agencies. I met them at the Career Fair, went into their office the next week for an interview, and got an offer two weeks later. It was the only company I applied to. They loved that I had done all this research and showed a passion for working in teams and across multiple functions. Flash forward 5 years, and I have transitioned to a rewarding sales and marketing role at the same company where I work with surgeons one-on-one in the Operating Room to advance patient care.

Moral of the story: Medicine is not the only way to help people. Life goals made when you were 5 can and should change. Listen to the smarter and older people around you. I can’t speculate what would have happened if I changed paths earlier in my college career, but I know for sure I would have saved a ton of time, money, and stress. Sure, I’m not the guy at the OR table, but it definitely beats not being in the room at all.