Moderator: Ruth Shoemaker
Peggy Hanefors, Assistant Director of International Admissions at Penn
Leah Engle, Associate Director, Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs at Penn
Kendra Kemp, Administrative Assistant, Graduate School of Education at Penn
Emily Papir, Associate Director, Annenberg School for Communication at Penn
Ruth Shoemaker, Career Counselor at Penn
I graduated from Penn in Communications and Environmental Studies in 2000.
After graduation, I taught for a very short period of time until I realized that teaching wasn't what I enjoyed. I went into management consulting afterwards while I was figuring out what I wanted to do, and I did that for about a year and half.
I had worked in Penn's Admissions office as a work-study student before, so I contacted them to see if they had any open positions. They said they didn't, but I got an e-mail a week later saying that a position had opened up that I could apply for.
I've worked in Admissions here for about three years now, and I am the admissions officer for all of Europe and mainland China. I travel to Europe and China to evaluate applications for incoming students.
I was heavily involved with student life at the University of Pittsburg, where I went for undergrad. Some of the administrators in the student life office there steered me in this direction. I got a graduate assistantship at Pitt, which was a great program. I stayed at Pitt for two years and my first job was at a small private school. After that I came to Penn.
I graduated from Dartmouth. Right out of undergrad I worked in the Swarthmore College Admissions Office. I was there for about a year and a half and then I came to Penn to work in the Romance Languages department as undergraduate coordinator. In November of 2004, I transferred to the Graduate School of Education (GSE) and now I work for the Policy Management and Evaluation division.
My transitions have had a lot to do with my graduate school experience. I knew I wanted a break between undergrad and graduate school, so the position at Swarthmore was a great opportunity. About a year into my time at Swarthmore, I applied to graduate schools and was accepted into the Education, Culture and Society program at the GSE. I enjoy the program because I've found that my work experience has meshed well with what I'm learning in the classroom.
I graduated from Penn in 2000 with a major in Spanish.
I worked as a paralegal in immigration for three years after graduation.
Last year, I was in a one-year master's program at Penn dealing with higher education management. I finished that in May and in July I started at my present job at the Annenberg Center as the Director of Student Services and Registrar.
I was at Swarthmore College as an undergrad.
After graduating, I looked back at what had really been interesting for me. Like Leah (Engle), I had worked in Admissions and Career Services and had done a lot of student life-related activities. I knew that I wanted to work in some sort of counseling capacity with college students, but I had to get a master's degree to even begin on that career path.
I did a full-time, one-year program at Harvard in Higher Education Administration. I came to Penn's Career Services Office directly after, and I currently work with students and alumni in the College on career planning, cover letter and resume writing and so on. I also administer skills-assessment tests, manage the private school recruiting that goes on on campus and run our Penn-in-Washington summer program. It's been a really fun job with a range of different responsibilities.
As soon as I got to Penn, I started taking classes and working on the PhD program At this point, I have a dissertation left to write. I plan to start working part-time at career services soon so I can concentrate on my dissertation.
Jobs on campuses are terrific for free courses, but I also feel satisfied at the end of the day that I've made a difference and worked with very smart people.
Q: Do courses you take in undergrad lead to positions in universities?
I don't think courses prepare you for an environment in which you are helping students. It's mostly out-of-class activities that are meaningful to the career choice.
I got my BA in Spanish, but I don't use Spanish in my job.
Q: How can you tell which jobs fit your preferences?
I studied a lot about universities as a whole, but your out-of-class experience is important. The admissions office is a great way to enter the field because you may need it to get into a higher position. I started with that and I moved onto other things. I knew from my job experiences that I wanted to play an advisory role.
For me, coming back to Penn was appealing because it's a familiar environment. The uncertainty and confusion of the job market were big factors in my coming back to Penn. I probably won't be in higher education for my whole life, but it's a great experience. You also got a lot of benefits, like fun work and connections.
To find out what you want to do, you have to learn what's out there first. Read through the position descriptions for everything that you're interested in. The Chronicle of Higher Education is a good source for this (www.chronicle.com).
Q: How is the job market for higher education and how is the pay?
It's pretty fluid, because turnover is very high. Job fairs will have thousands of positions open every year. It's relatively easy to find a job if you're willing to relocate. As for salary, you can expect mid-twenties to thirty thousand dollars a year. Remember to always negotiate up, because you will not get it later. At Penn, the average salary increase is two percent a year.
I know for a fact that it's very competitive because I was on a search committee for two positions that require master's degrees. We got hundreds of applications for just two openings.
I agree. The biggest challenge for me when starting to work at Penn was learning the university, so it's an advantage to be a graduate of the university. The salary is higher at Penn than at a smaller school, as well.
You can play job offers off of each other, too.
You should look on job websites and individual universities' human resources sites for openings. Try to send your application to a person, not a department.
Any information about work experience in universities is important, because it is transferable.
Admissions officers tend to become guidance counselors. People go on to many different careers after Admissions and there are a lot of opportunities that open up to them.
Q: How often do you travel? Is it all paid for by the university?
Everything is paid for if I travel for the university. I travel relatively little compared to my colleaguesabout one month in the fall semester. It's still great though.
I traveled a lot domestically. I also got to target inner-city high schools and travel there. I flew every other week and drove around too. You have to be comfortable being by yourself in those situations. It also gives you great networking opportunities, too.
Q: Do any of you have experience with Graduate Assistantships? What's the best way to fund graduate school?
All of my friends worked in student affairs. The perks include free graduate education and a stipend. It's more common in student affairs than other areas.
I worked twenty hours a week, but the tuition I had to pay wasn't affected. It's like a work-study position.
I work full-time and I'm a part-time student. In other words, I'm a regular Penn employee who takes two classes a semester. The most important thing is to have a supportive supervisor who can give you a flexible schedule. Penn has great tuition assistance, but graduate classes are taxed so you end up having to work to pay for it after all. If you enjoy working for students, my advice is to get a master's degree right away. With it, you'll eventually find a position you like.
Undergraduate classes will be paid for if you work. You can learn languages, for example, or get certificates from Wharton. I recommend that, because it helps to have the Wharton stamp on your resume.
Penn also offers tuition assistance for employees' children.
Q: How many undergraduate courses can a Penn employee take per year?
The limit is two courses per semester including the summer, which adds up to six courses a year. I've found that taking two courses is manageable.
Q: Non-profit management is my career goal. Can I get there through working in higher education?
I recommend going for an assistant position so you can eventually get a full-time position and tuition reimbursement. It's only a nine-month commitment for four credits and a certificate.
I have to warn you, though, that assistantships are not glamorous.
It's a good way to have regular hours and study, though.
It's also important to keep in mind the differences in environment among research schools, private schools and state schools.
Large schools have a lot more diversity, which I think is an asset.