Pursue the Work You’re Passionate About

Social justice and access to higher education

Pursue the Work You’re Passionate About

Examining how institutions support parents and families of students, Amanda Morgida looks at the impact this has on student access to higher education and the equity of their college experience. 

Amanda Morgida

Amanda Morgida didn’t expect to pursue a career in higher education administration. She majored in art history and Italian studies at Smith College and planned to become a museum curator. But Amanda also worked in the college’s Office of Student Affairs and Residence Life and discovered that she was passionate about working with first-year students, particularly first-generation students, supporting them in their transition to college. 

Amanda Morgida laughing in class

With the guidance of her mentors at Smith, Amanda applied to the UMass higher education program to pursue a career in student services. Amanda was drawn to the UMass program by its reputation, and the opportunity to experience a large university, and by the program’s focus on research and writing, which would allow her to continue doing scholarly work while preparing for a higher education career. 

While pursuing her master's degree, Amanda has held an assistantship in the office of Residence Education, supervising ten undergraduate peer mentors in the Commonwealth Honors College. She has also opted to sit on the Student Conduct Hearing Board to better understand how student residents experience college.

Amanda’s practicum took her to the Berklee College of Music in Boston, working in the Office of New Student and Family Programs, a new program at the college. It was an unusual opportunity to see a program in its early stages: “I really got to learn from the director and the assistant director what it looks like to start a department and functional area from the ground up.” 

In her integrative paper, Amanda focuses on her Berklee experience and how a specialized art school “can create meaningful opportunities for familial engagement.” In this work, she’s examining how institutions can support parents and families of students through the college process and how this support impacts students’ access to higher education and the equity of their college experience.

What really inspired me about working in this field is the opportunity to be a changemaker or create more opportunities for students who otherwise wouldn’t have it.

Amanda Morgida

Amanda has enjoyed the opportunity the higher education program gives her to develop as a scholar-practitioner, and she is confident that she would be prepared to move deeper into scholarship if she decides to pursue a doctorate. She appreciates the program’s emphasis on critical thought—that students and faculty look at current practices in higher education and examine whether they are the best strategies or if they should be altering their approaches. Amanda sees this as a way to provide support for students while being a changemaker at the same time. 

Amanda’s advice for any student considering the master’s in higher education is to trust themselves: “Don’t underestimate your ability to take on graduate work and to pursue the work you’re passionate about.” For those beginning the program, she recommends leaning on their cohort—both for support and to learn from them: “Because we’re all so passionate about different topics in higher ed, I’ve really been able to learn a lot not just from my courses but from my peers and their experiences.” 

Amanda Morgida sitting with laptop in cafe

Amanda also recommends that higher education master’s students think broadly in their academic choices and work experiences—try a practicum in a new area, learn about unfamiliar campus offices and processes, and explore topics outside of higher education that relate to the field. “There is such an opportunity to create the educational experience that you want.”