A welcome return to campus
Recent alumni discuss experiences working at the University
Published: Monday, March 19, 2012
Updated: Monday, March 19, 2012 19:03
As Brandeis undergraduate students approach the end of their time at the University, many wish to extend their stay just a little bit longer. After spending semester upon semester making friends, playing frisbee on the Great Lawn, sharing conversations and bagels in the morning at Einstein Bros. Bagels, or unwinding with a campus stroll after class, it can be difficult to make plans to move beyond Brandeis. But several recent graduates have decided that being finished with their studies does not mean they have finished with the University altogether. These recent alumni have transitioned from Brandeis students to staff members.
Aaron Louison ’11, one returning graduate, works in the Office of Annual Giving within the Department of Development and Alumni Relations. Louison started working as a Phonathon caller during his junior year, and there, he developed an interest in fundraising in higher education.
“I happened to be pretty good at it,” he says. “Then I was appointed to serve as the senior class gift co-chair during my senior year. So I served as both that and a Phonathon caller in my senior year. I was fundraising over the phone and in person for the University. I really enjoyed fundraising for the school. We set a new record for the senior class gift, and in doing so, I realized that fundraising was a cool career path to go into.”
Louison explains that his interest in fundraising for the University is tied to his grandmother’s role in fundraising for the Brandeis National Women’s Committee as the president of the chapter in Fall River, Mass. He shares that “it has been in [my] family, not only to care about Brandeis but to also fundraise for it,” Louison said.
He considers himself lucky to have this position because he says he feels invested in the University both as a former student and a staff member. “I would be helping Brandeis regardless of whether I worked here. It makes the work that I do at Brandeis that much more enjoyable, because I really enjoy helping Brandeis.”
Another former student who is involved in fundraising at the University is Emily Maskas ’11. She is the campaign coordinator of the Campaign for Brandeis, which builds funds for the University. Like Louison, Maskas also took on this position as a result of undergraduate involvement; she worked at the Phonathon center during all of her four years on campus. Maskas appreciates the work that she does with the Campaign for Brandeis, as she has long-term career aspirations in the museum field. “Museums rely very heavily on development and donor relations, so this is really good experience,” she says.
Maskas appreciates seeing how the Brandeis administration functions and is happy to confirm through working there that “they really care about the students.”
Another recent graduate who shares a sense of satisfaction in developing closer involvement at the University is Lexi Kriss ’11, the Experiential and Community-Engaged Learning department administrator.
“I basically help facilitate the Experiential Learning opportunities between students, faculty, staff and the community partners. We work on those relationships, and we create new opportunities. … I also work on the large events, like the Experiential Learning Symposium,” she explains.
Kriss says that she feels that she has an advantage working with Experiential Learning as a former student worker in the department and as a recent graduate.
“I feel like I have the best of both worlds, because I was just a student, [which makes it] really easy to reach out to people because I still know a lot of [community members].”
There is a great benefit to working in an environment that is already familiar, as Kriss affirms. Another former student, Rebeccah Ulm ’11, feels the same way. Ulm, who is in the post-baccalaureate program, was encouraged to take the opportunity to continue her studies as a Fine Arts and Art History major by one of her professors. She also serves as the educational coordinator at the Rose Art Museum.
“I am really glad that I got to stay on at the Rose longer; I still feel a strong connection [to it],” she claims.
As an undergraduate, Ulm was the president of the Student Committee for the Rose Art Museum, and through her choice to stay at Brandeis, she has been able to extend her involvement with the organization. The student guide program, which is part of Ulm’s objective as educational coordinator, “is in tandem with the initiatives of SCRAM,” … “so [I am] involved in it, in an auxiliary way.”
This group of new alumni has also found difficulties in changing identities from students to young professionals while in the same environment. Julie Judson ’11, who serves as the senior department coordinator in University President Frederick Lawrence’s office, notes the strange feeling of being at Brandeis and not being a student.
“I still know a ton of people on campus, and that’s been really great. But I never want to see them on campus. I want to see them off campus somewhere. I just really wanted to make my life different than student life, because it would have made it hard to be here every day and miss my friends [who are no longer at the University],” she says.
It is more typical for graduates to go through that transition outside of a school environment, and Judson explains what a difference it makes to do it in a place where she was once a student.
“I think that I will always care about Brandeis, and accepting the role as a [staff] person so soon after graduation is something I am still grappling with. To me, what’s important is being able to do my job in a really great way and also loving the University the way I did before,” she said.
Judson points out that she values working in “an office that makes real change for the University, ... [because] it [involves] constantly making decisions [and] meeting new people. There is always something happening, which is exciting.” She states that this aspect of her work is great as it is part of the reason why she loved being at the University. “[Brandeis is] an institution that gave me everything that I am today.”
These recent alumni made the decision to stay on campus because they all value their undergraduate experience at Brandeis, and see that the University’s value to them in terms of a career does not stop after graduation.
“I think Brandeis is a great place to work; I’m tied to this place. As far as I’m concerned, I don’t plan on leaving Brandeis at all,” Judson remarked.