The University of West Georgia (UWG) was founded over 100 years ago, and throughout the past century one thing has remained the consistent—the school continues to produce a successful and diverse group of alumni. On Sept. 17, The Center for Diversity and Inclusion, UWG Alumni Relations and The Black Student Alliance came together to present, “An Honest Conversation with UWG’s Alumni: Providing Diverse Insights, Matriculation and Life.” This discussion panel featured six UWG Alumni ranging from the class of 1983 to the class of 2014.

The panel was not only diverse in age, but also in occupation. The panelist included: Attorney Eric Maxwell; Mandy Smith, advisor and financial analyst; Reginald Moore, Special Agent In Charge in the Atlanta Field Office for the U.S. Secret Service; Cheryl Thomas Hill, coordinator and former director of Graduate Admissions for UWG; Rafael Booker, Interrelated Resource teacher; and Ashley Copeland, web content and social media manager at St. Mary’s Medical Center. There were also several alumni in the audience that interacted and participated in the discussions. Everyone was eager to answers student questions, share their experiences and offer up advice.

Smith spoke about her matriculation in college.

“At times I was a little too involved; I had to learn balance,” she said. “That’s a very important lesson to learn at all ages. You can have fun, but there is time to study too.”

She went on to talk about the friendships she made during her time here, and emphasized the importance of community.

“Keep the connections you make—you never know when you may need them,” said Smith, “And speak to people while you’re out in the community—you never know what doors will open.”

For Smith, one of those doors opened when she was selling doughnuts for a fundraiser, and she simply started a conversation with someone. That person ended up offering her a part-time job. From the experience she gained, doors continued to open. Throughout the program, each alumnus shared how unexpected doors opened in their lives.

Maxwell told a story about cleaning the dorm hallway as a RA after the residential students had moved out for the summer. He was sweeping the floor, and he grabbed a piece of paper off the nearest bulletin board to sweep the dust onto, when he noticed a job posting on the scrap. He applied and got the position, which helped him in his pursuit to become an attorney.

Ashley Copeland, the most recent graduate of UWG and former Editor-in-Chief of The West Georgian, took a very active approach in looking for job opportunities and open doors. For her, the job search began in the January before she graduated.

“It’s really about marketing yourself,” said Copeland. “Don’t be afraid to promote yourself. It helps to have a plan, or even a checklist, and to apply to several positions where you could really see yourself. Use your experiences and connections.”

Booker, who is also a graduate from the class of 2011, added to that.

“Separate yourself from the competition—become a master of your craft; that includes networking and getting to know professionals on a personal level.”

They all touched on the importance of getting involved and taking advantage of the opportunities that being a student at UWG has to offer. This could be going to the Mass Communication department’s Media Day, making an appointment with Career Services to talk about internship opportunities or just talking to your professors.

“What really helped me was getting to know my professors. They know what they are doing—there is a reason they are in the position they are in. They are here to help you, and even mentor you,” said Hill.

After sharing memories, advice and quite a few laughs, the conversation came to a close with Moore, who moderated most of the discussion, thanking the alumni and students for participating and encouraged everyone to stick around for networking. For information about upcoming events like this visit www.westga.edu/diversity.

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