Return to the RCAH: alumni meet with current students at WNL

The RCAH wrapped up Wednesday Night Live for fall semester with an alumni panel on November 12, 2014. Former students Hannah Ettema, Molly McLean, Emily Nott and Alexis Ringman returned to the halls of Snyder-Phillips to share stories, ideas and advice with current RCAH students. Emanuele Berry, a 2012 graduate, also joined the conversation via Skype.

Ettema is the communications and development associate for the National Forest Foundation in Montana. McLean works with students in Detroit schools to help prepare them for graduation through City Year Detroit. Nott is a program coordinator for After School Matters, a Chicago-based program that provides after-school activities for kids ranging in topics from sports to technology to writing. Ringman is a project administrator for the Model Approaches to Legal Services project at Elder Law of Michigan. Berry currently works as a reporter on the race and culture beat at St. Louis Public Radio.

Ettema has been working at the NFF for three years. As a communications and development associate, she manages events along with the Foundation’s website and social media accounts.

“The summer after I graduated, I was applying to jobs here, there and everywhere. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do,” the 25-year-old said. “My mom likes to live vicariously through me, so she’d send me job postings. I think she literally googled ‘Montana writer jobs,’ and found this one.” After applying for the job and enduring a "terrifying" Skype interview, Ettema was offered the job. 

Ettema said she encourages students to step out of their RCAH bubble.

“You have to be proactive about your education,” she said. “The next step is not going to fall into your lap. Start something new, find that job; don’t just expect it to happen naturally.”

She also advised students not to be cautious about asking for help.

“Reach out to alumni like myself. I’ll gladly chat or email or edit or review anything sends me,” she said.  “People are here because they want to help you, so take advantage of that.”

Emily Nott has been working with After School Matters for about six months. After graduating in December of 2013, Nott spent some time working a nanny. Not long after, she said she was offered a teaching job, but she turned it down because it didn’t feel quite right. She opted instead for a position as a program coordinator with After School Matters, in which she oversees approximately 25 after-school programs.

Nott said she faced a few challenges after graduation, namely finding a job and living in a new place.

“It’s a time of uncertainty after you graduate,” she said. “You will be pretty scared for at least the first 6 months of your new job. It’s a constant question; there are no grades to tell you anymore. Until you get that first review, it’s like, ‘wow I don’t know if I’m doing everything I should be doing.’”

Nott said she feels like RCAH is what helped her prepare the most for her position.

“It wasn’t my education degree that got me this job, it was RCAH and the work experience I had during college. I did things that correlate with literally every program I’m teaching,” she said. “I don’t know what I would have done if I’d have been in another discipline … Believe it or not, this degree will get you a career you want to be in. As a freshman, I never would have thought that program specialist at a nonprofit is something I could do.”

Nott also encouraged students to seek out internships. While at MSU, she worked with REACH Art Studio in Lansing.

“The two reasons I was hired for this job are my RCAH degree and three years of on-staff experience at a nonprofit,” she said. “When I told my coworkers I was 22, they said ‘Shut up, you have three years of job experience.' I said, 'No, I did that in undergrad.' It almost killed me and it’s what got me a job.”

Carrie Payson, RCAH sophomore, said she always comes out to WNL, adding that she enjoyed the alumni panel because she thought it was exciting to learn about all the possibilities RCAH graduates have.

“I don’t know why anyone would miss one,” she said.

Story by RCAH student Kelsey Block. Photos by RCAH student Ian Siporin. 

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