SBS Alumni Step Up to Support Students During COVID-19 Pandemic
As the impacts of COVID-19 upend students’ lives at UMass and beyond, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences (SBS) alumni from all across the country are stepping up to help.
From transitioning to online classes to managing the new reality of social distancing and the financial and emotional challenges that come with it, SBS students are dealing with profound changes in their personal lives and communities. Graduating seniors, in particular, are reckoning with a suddenly uncertain future and a capricious job market. In addition to sharing job opportunities and internships, SBS alumni are participating in virtual events with students to offer career advice and knowledge.
On Thursday afternoon, April 23, the SBS Career and Professional Development team welcomed four journalism and communication alumni: Dan Lamothe ’04, staff writer for the Washington Post; Victoria Graves-Carillo ’00 ’02MPA, communications manager for the Harvard Kennedy School's Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business & Government; Karyn Martin ’01, founder and chief strategy officer of Golden Thread Agency; and Dave Erickson '93, writer and producer for Paramount Studios, co-creator of Fear the Walking Dead.
“Bring something to the table, more than just your resume. Find a mentor. Just write; just sit down and do it."
Each panelist shared lessons on how to break into specialized and exclusive fields, and how to continuously improve in order to achieve sometimes seemingly impossible goals.
“Solicit criticism from as many people you can from people whose work you value,” said Lamothe. “Seek mentors.”
“UMass made me understand there are a lot of options and opportunities and I could take advantage of them later on,” said Graves-Carillo.
“Bring something to the table, more than just your resume,” said Martin. “Find a mentor. Just write; just sit down and do it.”
“I took the right class with the right teacher,” said Erikson. “It was sort of like a fine tuner for me. I wrote a lot of TV movies that I wouldn’t wish on anybody. But all of my key moments came from being at UMass specifically.”
That evening on April 23, the UMass Amherst Office of Alumni Relations held its own panel, featuring: Michael Balbanov ’08, SVP of sales, North America at Guardian News & Media; Samm Smith ’08, associate editor of digital content at UMass Amherst; and Gregory Walters, Jr ’09, program manager at FluentStream.
Panelists shared their experiences graduating in 2008 into the Great Recession, and how they adapted and succeeded in spite of a bleak market.
“I got a sense of humility,” said Smith, “and I became a lot more malleable in what I was looking for and much more willing to keep an open mind in what I was looking for in a job after that.”
“It’s not about finding the perfect job or any job, it’s finding a job where there’s parts of it you like,” said Balbanov. “It’s kind of about finding the right fit for a number of things for you.”
“Getting a mentor, that’s the best thing you can do to help guide you,” said Walters.
The following day, the SBS Career and Professional Development team hosted a second panel. This time it was a more intimate setting.
Paul Hohenberger ’87, principal gifts officer for The Pew Charitable Trusts, was joined by several undergraduates interested in communications, policy, and development. He let students know to expect small bumps and setbacks in their careers; It’s all part of the journey, and most important is how you respond to these situations.
“Sometimes the job you didn’t get is a great thing,” said Hohenberger.
And on April 30, Alumni Relations held a second panel featuring Shaneka Davis ’09, Stuart J. Novick Legal Fellow at the Office of the General Counsel at Boston Children’s Hospital.
Davis, and her fellow panelists gave attendees a look at alternative paths worth considering after graduation instead of joining the workforce, such as graduate school, the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, or national service.
All of the alumni who took the time to speak with students were adamant that they connect via email and/or social media. The combined efforts of Alumni Relations and the SBS Career and Professional Development team provides students with support, guidance, and shared experience that empowers them to pursue their highest endeavors.