A Sweet Success: Reflections on Sweeten Up Your Network 2017

33206351623_3f2bc1eabe_oIn partnership with the Career Center and the Office of Alumni Relations, the UMBC Student Alumni Association (SAA) was proud to host the annual Sweeten Up Your Network event on Tuesday, April 11. As one of Career Month’s staple events, Sweeten Up Your Network is open to students and alumni from all majors and years, and is almost entirely planned and executed by a team of SAA members. Because of their amazing efforts, this year we had just under 30 alumni and over 50 students participate!

As the Assistant Director of Alumni Relations, I have the honor and privilege of supporting both current students and alumni in developing programming that connects them to campus and one another. Sweeten Up Your Network is one of the most special examples of how these types of programs can really impact both sides of the speed networking table. I asked two participants from the evening to share a little more about their experience.

Julia Celtnieks ‘13, Media & Communication Studies

Despite being a relatively recent alumna, as well as a staff member, I’d never made it to Sweeten Up Your Network before this year. Nonetheless, I was intrigued by the opportunity to help students hone their networking skills, as well as offer some of my insights as a young professional. As it turned out, I had as much to learn from this experience as they did!

Most of the students I met and spoke with were going into fields completely different than my own: the sciences, psychology, engineering. At first it was challenging to tailor the conversation to their specific experiences, but then I realized I didn’t have to. There are plenty of ways to make connections, and many things I’ve learned over the course of my post-grad life, like the ins and outs of entry-level job searching, can apply to almost any area. Sweeten Up Your Network is really about getting students used to the idea of networking in general, and I think giving them the chance to talk with alumni in a variety of careers is what makes it so unique…and so perennially popular.

Alida Hartwell ‘19, Bioinformatics and Computational Biology

I have been with SAA since the fall 2016 semester. SAA is full of amazingly motivated and helpful people. They always manage to make our meetings not only productive, but fun as well. All SAA events that I have participated in have felt like that, too. I also love that our events are planned and run by the SAA members.

Specifically relating to this event, I was very excited going into it. Ever since I joined SAA, the upperclassmen have talked up Sweeten Up Your Network. My experience was even better than what I was expecting. There were so many alumni from all different fields. I got the chance to speak with people who are in fields that I am considering going into, which was awesome for me because I got to see how powerful a degree from UMBC can be in the real world. Even talking to people from different degrees and fields was eye-opening. All of the alumni were passionate about UMBC and still love it […] it made me feel very proud to be attending this university. Overall, I think the best thing about Sweeten Up Your Network was the chance to see what it will be like years after graduation, whether that is what careers people with my major have or how much Retriever pride alumni carry with them!

33206351523_5884d6e832_oSo there you have it! If you’re an alum who wants to give back to the UMBC community, click HERE to learn about all the pathways to get involved. We’ve always got events and programs going on that could use your support.

Jessica Wyatt, Assistant Director of Alumni Relations

Meet the Staff: Jessica Wyatt, Assistant Director of Alumni Relations

Here in the Office of Alumni Relations, we spend a lot of time telling stories about and talking with our wonderfully supportive alums. However, we’ve decided to turn the tables and take time to get to know the people behind the scenes – the  advancement and alumni relations staff members who are hard at work on behalf of our alumni. Today we’re talking with Jessica Wyatt, who started as our newest Assistant Director of Alumni Relations this summer.

jessica_wyatt-0128Name: Jessica Wyatt

Job Title: Assistant Director of Alumni Relations

How long have you been here? Since July

Where are you from originally? That’s a really hard question to answer. I was born in Massachusetts, and we stayed there until right before high school. [Then] my family moved out to Kansas. So I was in Kansas for high school, and then I went to college in Wisconsin, and I’ve moved around ever since. So if you ask me where I’m from, my answer will be Kansas, because that’s where my parents are now.

What do you like most about UMBC? Definitely the staff. […] It’s a creative, wacky group of people, and I’ve never felt more included so quickly. When I started here, it felt really comfortable, and it was kind of hard to have “think time” because there’s always someone who wants to engage with you, hang out with you, go to lunch with you, take a walk with you, stand in line at Starbucks for 45 minutes with you. There’s always someone who’s interested in what you’re doing, and there’s always somebody who will push you outside of your comfort zone for good reasons, and there’s always somebody who’ll challenge you in a way that’s unexpected.

What’s your favorite thing about your job? I love the variety of what we do in Alumni Relations. No day is ever the same, and that’s the world I came from. Coming from the nonprofit world, it was chaos all the time, and this feels like slightly more organized chaos. In a good way. And I think for my realm specifically, I love working with [the Student Alumni Association]. It’s the best, and the students I’ve been given to work with are just great. Love them. Love them.

Who do you admire and why? Can I give two? [As far as] people I actually know, I really admire my husband, who is a strategic thinker, a rational human being, and somebody who is willing to figure it out to make it right. In the world of people I am not engaged with, I really admire David Lynch, and his history and career of being a visual artist and kind of taking a chance on film, and continuing to take chances in more of a mainstream media realm, and then being like “Who cares?” and going into whatever the heck he wants to do. [My] first exposure to mindfulness and meditation practice was reading one of his books years and years and years ago, and having that seed planted and being able to come back to it has been really exciting. I really admire his work and all that he does.

Have you ever done anything crazy or out of the ordinary? Have you met me? That’s like my goal, is every day is a little bit crazy and out of the ordinary. So after college I went into the Peace Corps. I lived in Senegal for two years, and every day was a crazy, out-of-the-ordinary scenario, [like] killing scorpions with my Vogue magazine (which was a really devastating experience, because you had to make a decision: you could either get stung or ruin your Vogue). […] I feel like getting up every morning is crazy. It’s amazing how our bodies still function and we can get through each day.

Are you a cat person or a dog person? Now there’s a great question. So I grew up with dogs, and I love, love, love dogs and I thought that was gonna be my life, but with living in a small apartment, and with my husband being allergic to dogs [and cats]…we got our first cat, and his love overcame his allergies, and we now have two cats.

If you could be another staff member for a day, who would it be and why? Somebody on the grounds crew who gets to deal with the plants. I would love [that], for a variety of reasons: I love a good day of manual labor, where you get to see a tangible outcome. […] So much of what we do here, there’s so many intangibles that you can’t see, so knowing that you’re working towards something but not having a clear picture of what that “something” is is exciting and frightening. Being able to work on the grounds crew, I’d even say [for] a week, and being able to physically transform a space, I think, is really exciting. Physically transforming a space for the betterment of a community. People feel better when things look nice, and plants are cool. […]

Tell me more about your educational background. [I have] an M.F.A. in Community Arts from the Maryland Institute College of Art, and [while I was there] I worked with the Refugee Youth Project, and that’s where I had my first [epiphany] about how murals can be transformative, not only from a service perspective but also how you community organize to create a mural and the different levels of change that are involved when that happens. I worked with a group of high school youth, and we did a week-long mural facilitation project, and so now the Baltimore Resettlement Center [has] a mural on the side there, and that’s…it’s not mine, it’s my kids’. […] [Community arts is about] space: how do you navigate it, and how do you leverage that to achieve an outcome? […] It’s creating connections, breaking down barriers, and leveraging people’s strengths to move a collective forward. People who don’t even know that they’re part of the same network [learn] that they’re part of a larger thing, and helping people understand how the little impact that you make helps create those waves, to help facilitate great change. If we all take one step forward, we’re all taking many thousands of steps.

Take one small step towards updating your contact information here, and meet some of our other staff members here!