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Professionals share their college experiences and advice

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Professionals share their college experiences and advice

Q: As an undergraduate student what did you do to further your college career?

Mayra Moreno: Anchor Reporter for ABC – University of Houston class of 2007

B.A. Journalism and Spanish

A: “I had many internships and I was doing so much. I was worried about getting a job and understanding my field, having enough contacts within the police department. I was constantly busy doing stuff. I was scrambling left and right just trying to get my feet in the door.”

Q: What advice do you have for mass communication majors?

A: “Definitely internships get to know people and have people in the business get to know you. It is always important to build relationships of contact because this is how we pretty much get around, it’s a small world. Just show initiative, people will notice that in the newsroom. That’s the biggest key and that’s what I tell a lot of students. Students that contact me I tell them to make sure to get two or three internships if you can, the sooner the better.”

Norma Torres Mendoza:Director of Financial Literacy and Alumni Funding for IDEA Public Schools – Rice University Class of 2013 

B.A. Political Science and Hispanic studies

Norma Torres Mendoza

A: “ As the first one in my family to attend college, I understood the complexities and obstacles associated with applying and attending college. I co-founded the Young Owls Leadership Program, whose mission is to get first generation college students to the best Universities and Colleges. I started this program with the hopes that more students like me had access to schools like Rice University. My initiative and leadership was often a topic of discussion for job interviews and during my informal interview with Harvard. I started this non-profit to do my part in closing the achievement gap, but little did I know that this program would advance my career in many ways.”

“In addition, I took on other leadership roles as the President of the Hispanic Association and leading many civic engagement groups. However, it was always key that I maintained a high GPA as my priority was to be the first one in my family to graduate from college.”

Dr. Brian Domitrovic: Chair of the History Department at Sam Houston State University – Columbia University Class of 1989

B.A. History

A: “I was on the debate team (president senior year), wrote for a number of publications (including an opinion column for the daily), and had a 10-hour a week on-campus job. I was pretty dedicated to studying, often hitting the books late into the weekend nights. I also became interested in being able to identify good writing.”

“One advantage of going to school in a big city is that you can get “going out” out of your system pretty easily because of the intense quality of the experiences. I remember hitting Saturday Night Live or some neat spot in Manhattan for an evening and then having no problem at all with studying for something like two weeks straight before doing something on the town again. I think it’s an advantage of urban campuses.”

Q: What advice do you have for students pursing a history degree?      

A: “History was the subject of Tacitus, Churchill, and Jimmy Buffett, and what figures ranging from Alexander the Great to Napoleon wished to influence and be chronicled in. It is also the most scientific of the disciplines, in that its source base is irretrievably fixed. Undergrads studying history should become naturally fascinated by what happened and how that might be related to others: to know and to write and speak. It is supremely humanistic to absorb and communicate history.”

Linda Abad: Graduate student at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio – University of Houston Class of 2011 

B.S. Biology and French

Linda Abad

A: “I researched, I volunteered at an underserved hospital, I took classes to further my medical knowledge even after I graduated, I look for work at a hospital to get a lot of exposure and shadowing opportunities.”

Q: Do you have advice for students pursuing a career in the medical field?

A: “Join clubs, volunteer and do research, all of that helps. You’re going to be going up against students that also have good grades and have volunteered and have been in clubs, find your niche and excel in that, join mission trips, stuff like that makes you stand out.”

Jamie Russell: Geotechnical Engineer – Sam Houston State University class of 2012

B.S. Geology 

A: “Make the most of the resources and opportunities you have available to you. Attend writing and research workshops to help strengthen your writing skills for your personal statement and CV/resume. Bolster your CV by participating in extracurricular activities, conferences, short courses, and research opportunities directed in the field of study you plan to pursue in grad school.”

Jamie Russell

“Finding a good fit is important. This can potentially make or break your graduate experience. Be patient and make the time and effort to jump through the hoops. It’s a long, tedious and sometimes stressful process but incredibly worth it in the end.”

“A great source of first hand input in the graduate program selection process are your very professors, classmates and friends who have attended grad school. The biggest difference between applying to university for undergraduate versus graduate studies is the graduate process is a lot more personal. Contact your potential graduate advisors, plan a visit to campus and talk to their grad students, ask your potential advisor about funding and what they do for research. Sit in on a couple of classes and get a feel for the environment.”

Benjamin Bigham: History Teacher – Sam Houston State University class of 2014

B.A. History

A: “Once I found a subject I enjoyed I found every opportunity to work with my professors for new opportunities. I did an undergraduate symposium where I presented research on the beginnings of the Arab Spring.  For my senior year I spent most of my time in classrooms doing student teaching and preparing for my career as a teacher”

Dr. Nancy Baker: Interim Associate Vice Provost at Sam Houston State University Rutgers University-New Brunswick class of 1990

B.A. History

Dr. Nancy Baker

A: “I approached college like it was the start of my career. I took advantage of additional learning opportunities, such as recommended field trips to museums in New York City or invitations to special events hosted by my college or the department of my major. I spent time getting to know professors in my field well, whether by visiting during office hours, working as a research assistant, or doing semester-long independent studies with them.

“I looked for opportunities to develop as a researcher and a writer, and I tried to take courses that complemented each other in the same semester (so, for example, the History of Medieval Art and the Social History of Medieval Europe). I tried to plan my college work in such a way that I would have a graduate school application that would be as competitive as possible.

Intelligence Analyst – Former student at Sam Houston State University

A: “ I would have audited more classes. Auditing is a very inexpensive method of expanding your skill set and experience. I would have sat in one or more computer science and accounting courses.”

Nico Nordstrom: Nico Nordstrom Photography – Texas State University class of 2015

B.F.A Photography

A: “I took the slow and steady approach. I only took around 9 hours per semester so that I was able to dedicate more time to furthering my career. Because of this I never had to “get a day job” when I graduated, and I was able to go straight into running my photography business full time.”

Christopher Cruz: Sam Houston State University class of 2013chris-cruz

B.A. Criminal Justice

A: “For me taking advantage of the many opportunities in college was key.  Specifically studying abroad in order to study different languages and cultures. It enhanced my academic studies and set the foundation for success in graduate school where I studied international relations. From there I was able to intern abroad two separate times and see the world while gaining invaluable professional and personal experience.”

Akosua Nsowah: Ernst & Young (EY) Accounting Firm – University of Houston class of 2016

B.A. Business

A:“Knowing how to genuinely network with other people going in and caring about the individual and creating a unique connection with that other person because eventually that is what is going to help you land a job when you graduate.”

Q: Advice to students pursuing a career in business?

A: “Be yourself. Sometimes there is so much pressure when you try to compare yourself to others. Just knowing yourself and being able to stay in your own lane and not feeling like you have to compete with everyone. Just be yourself and utilize your own talents and if you don’t have that intelligence that you think you need then show them through your own hard work.”

Q: What advice do you have for undergraduates?

Dr. Nancy Baker: Interim Associate Vice Provost at Sam Houston State University Rutgers University-New Brunswick class of 1990

B.A. History

A: “Start with your end goal in mind. If you know that you would like a career in a specific field, then begin your planning and preparation for that career as early as possible.”

“To that end, visit your professors during their office hours and get to know them. If you’re having any difficulty with the class, this will help. If you’re enjoying the class, express this and ask the professor about topics in which you’re interested. Professors like to know their students, and this will serve you well if they need to recommend a student for a special opportunity or you need a recommendation letter from a professor.

Norma Torres Mendoza:Director of Financial Literacy and Alumni Funding for IDEA Public Schools – Rice University Class of 2013 

B.A. Political Science and Hispanic studies

A: “I would advise freshmen in college to not take many leadership roles at the beginning since they are just learning a new place and a new pace of life. They should ensure that they focus on their grades and maintain a high GPA since many scholarships and financial aid are associated with grades.”

“I would also advice them to learn how to manage their finances and to try to take a financial literacy class since money management is a skill that will help them all of their lives. In addition, I would advise them to be critical thinkers and to always think about ways to help improve their environment and community.”

Benjamin Bigham: History Teacher – Sam Houston State University class of 2014

B.A. History

A: “Never be afraid to try new things, you have two years of core classes you’ll take. Take that two years and explore interests in all the subjects, and pick one that you like best. Focus on your goals and never assume someone knows why you’re doing what you’re doing, just know why you are doing it, and stick to it.”

Nico Nordstrom: Nico Nordstrom Photography – Texas State University class of 2015

B.F.A Photography

A: “My advice would be to work as hard as you can when you’re young and in school, so that way when you’ve graduated you already have steps in place for success.”

Intelligence Analyst: Former student at Sam Houston State University  

 A: “Really examine the role you want to perform within the organization and then determine the skills that would make you the most competitive applicant for the job and would help you the most in your career. Languages and Computer Science are key field in my life of work.”

Christopher Cruz: Sam Houston State University class of 2013

Christopher Cruz

 B.A. Criminal Justice

A: “The number one piece of advice I would give undergraduates is to put yourself out there. Get involved in campus organizations and volunteer work. Step out of your comfort zone and explore outside your field of study. Attend programs, school events, and social events when possible. Network and makes friends every chance you get. The relationships you develop in college may help you land that internship or first major job; and the friends you make may last a lifetime. But most of all, have fun! The overall college experience is more than just showing up to class and getting a a degree. This is your time, make the most of it!”






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