Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Twenty-nine years later

 What's the secret to working for the same company for 29 years? Loving your job and who you work with.
            “I love helping students find what they need,” said Fran Garrison, one of the librarians at North Hall Library, “Especially when it's something hard to find. It's like a treasure hunt for me and it's such a great feeling when you've found what a student needs to do well.”
            Hailing from Southern Virginia, Fran joined the staff at Mansfield's library after graduation from library school in Nashville.
            “I had job offers from Macon, GA and Mansfield. I came to interview here for the experience and had no intention of coming here, but I loved the people here and I decided to take the job. They were so kind and sincere that I fell in love with the place. At first I was only going to stay for two or three years, but I met my husband who is from the area and Mansfield really became home.”
            Fran's first position was as the education librarian which she found appealing because her undergraduate degree was in elementary education. Twenty-nine years later, she has many more academic areas that she is responsible for. Fran over-sees the library resources for: education, school library sciences, psychology, communication, philosophy and music. While she's not a specialist in many of the areas, she always does her best to find what students need.
            Fran's advice for students is something that we hear a lot from professors, but it has a new meaning coming from someone who many of us don't see every day. She said, “Get involved, and not just in campus organizations. Get involved in class, get to know your professors and utilize the resources available to you like the learning center, writing center and the library. Not only do we want to help you and see you succeed, but all of those things contribute to your success.”

Thursday, April 24, 2014

How Does That Make You Feel?

The end of the semester is slowly creeping up on all of us. The past few weeks and the weeks to come are arguably the most stressful weeks of the semester, especially for those of us who are graduating. The stress of trying to find full-time employment and the high amount of work that needs to be completed for class is starting to take its toll.

            Luckily for MU students, when the going gets a little too tough to handle, the counseling center on campus is available for us if we need it. Jolene Meisner started as a temporary counselor at Mansfield in 2008, filling in when other employees were out on medical leave. She is now a full-time staff member who I would recommend to any student on campus.

            I personally have never utilized the counseling center, but Jolene made me feel comfortable the moment we walked into her office. We chatted first about me and what my career goals are and then we flowed into an interesting, yet brief conversation about social media and the effects it has had on society. While the banter only lasted a few minutes, I felt instantly at ease with Jolene and may have told her my deepest thoughts.

            I learned that Jolene and I shared a similar love for Mansfield which is something I’ll miss terribly in the fall.

            “The scenery is beautiful here, and for me Mansfield is close to home.” Jolene said, “I’m originally from Millerton and I did my undergrad here so it was nice to be closer to home when I took the temporary position.”

            Jolene stressed that the counseling center is an incredibly positive place despite that stigma that students may have based on the name.

            “I came to Mansfield from an in-patient facility in Elmira. While I enjoyed working there, the environment in the counseling center is incredibly positive even though some of the students we see are sometimes at their worst. What we are able to do here as counselors is to help them see their potential and blossom. It’s a challenging job but it’s very exciting for me when I get to see that happen.”

            I spent about 45 minutes with Jolene from start to finish and even though it was a short period of time, she left me feeling ready to tackle the rest of the semester and to make the best of the few weeks I have left.

            “Really take in all that college has to offer,” Jolene said as advice she offers to students, “Never again will it be so easy to socialize and to be with friends.”

From L to R: RHA Winter Formal 2010,
My friend Fenna, from the Netherlands, and me enjoying lunch in Stockholm, Sweden, 
COM Day 2013

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

You've Got Mail

            I grew up in a small town very similar to Mansfield in New York state. During high school, my family moved back to Pennsylvania, outside of Philadelphia but over the past five years, Mansfield has become my home. Edgard “Gardy” Domench, head of mail services at MU moved here in 1991 from Puerto Rico and for the past 22 years, Mansfield University and the  community have been his home.

            “My move here was originally going to be short term but now Mansfield is my home.” Gardy, told me many times. “ I applied to work at the university once a week for six months. My first job here was as a custodian and then I began working in the mailroom part time. I had never thought of a career in mail services.”

            When I first came to Mansfield, I was a student in the biology program never thinking of a career in a communication field. I even remember laughing when Communication Department chair, Dr. K. Sue Young, said I would fit in well with the department. My meeting with her was only to get paperwork signed for a course approval for my semester abroad.

            I studied in Finland, a small Scandinavian nation of only 5.5 million. Yes, the entire country has fewer people than Manhattan!

            “I’m an outsider,” Gardy said, referring to the fact he immigrated to the US from Puerto Rico, “But I always feel welcome here. Mansfield is a little family, I’ve had the opportunity to get to know people from all departments on campus and that’s something special.”

            Gardy also earned a degree here in 2002. Mail services is a department that serves everyone on campus. They’re the middle man for letters and packages for campus and they deliver to all offices and academic buildings as well as service to all students.

            “We just transitioned to a central mailroom on campus but it seems to be working well.” Gardy explained. “We’ve had a lot less complaints about the mail from both students and parents since we made the switch and we’re working on more changes to offer more services to students. We currently sell stamps and can send packages priority mail for students but I’m working to offer packaging supplies and money orders so we’ll function as a full post office for campus.

            He said that he’s trying to get FedEx, UPS and USPS drop boxes placed near Pinecrest Manor where the office is located so students don’t have to walk into town to return packages through the most common carriers.

            I asked Gardy for a piece of advice he would give to students, as I have asked many of the individuals I’ve met with while writing this blog. He said simply: “You have to show them you want to work.”

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A Double Dose

The past few weeks for MU students has been rough. Find any one of us and ask. If we have time to answer you, we'll say we're stressed, on the border of being sleep deprived and that we really don't have time to chat because we have to get an assignment done, or jet off to class.

While this isn't an excuse for not keeping up with posting the inside scoop on the wonderful faculty and staff that work at Mansfield, I want to offer my deepest apologies. As a senior student, my life has been consumed with group projects for important classes that needed my attention. In the end, the projects went as well as the could, and my group members and I are not only happy with how they went, but proud that all of our time and effort paid off for us.

Between group meetings and buckling down to get some serious work done, I was able to schedule in a few interviews for the Scoop and I have some great MU employees to introduce to you in the next few days! I've had a great time meeting them and sincerely wish that I had met these individuals earlier in my college career. Looking at the words of advice they have given me, and through this blog, other students as well, I can only imagine the impact they would have made on me over the course of the past few years if I had met them earlier. Some have inspirational stories while others have a great sense of what is important to them in life, so keep an eye on the Scoop for the next few days!


Monday, March 24, 2014

"If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat. Just get on." - Sheryl Sandberg

            Mansfield graduation is in less than two months. As someone who will be crossing the stage and collecting my diploma, I can tell you that this is the scariest yet the most exciting event in my life so far. The scariest part of all is knowing how many job applications I have and will be filling out. The road between student and employee is always a road less traveled regardless of the help all of us are getting from friends, family and professors.
            I learned from talking with Nichole Lefelhoc, Director of the Career Center, that this is how just about everyone is feeling these days, and that there isn’t one “right way” to figure it all out.
            “Everything is different for everyone,” she stressed. “My job means figuring out each students’ needs and goals and guiding them to the right resources and opportunities.”
            Nichole has an incredible amount of resources for both internships and post-graduate employment too. Mansfield has their own online job/internship database for alumni and current students, known as the Mountie Career Connection.
            “At any given time, there are between 50 and 250 job and internship postings on the Mountie Career Connection. Most importantly, almost all of them are entry level positions or jobs requiring less than 5 years of experience.”
            This information also helped me feel better. Knowing that there are jobs available for entry-level employment is a relief after weeks of searching and finding most postings require 5 or more years of experience from the candidate.
            Finding the right job isn’t always easy either. Especially, when you can do so many things with your degree. Taking public relations as an example, when I graduate I can work in public relations, internal communication, marketing, advertising and events. I can also work as a social media coordinator and I could work at a university, a large corporation, a private firm or a non-profit organization just to name a few! But how do I choose?
            “When I was in my undergrad, I was a social work major,” Nichole told me, “And my advisor sat down with me and helped me narrow my focus. I had always been able to say what I knew I didn’t want to do, but I could never pin-point what I wanted to do. What I figured out after that discussion was that I loved getting to know what other people did and what it took to get them there. My job now plays into that perfectly, because I help students get to where they want to be.”
            Aside from pointing me and many other students in the right direction of where to go to look for career opportunities, what can Nichole and the rest of the Career Center staff do to help me out in the next few months? To name a few things, they’ll look at your resume and cover letters for the jobs they helped you to find. And, there is the Professional Clothes Closet, which is a resource for professional clothing to wear during the interviews we’re offered after their help. Every student is able to have one professional suit from the closet while they’re a student here. Selection is limited as the clothing is donated, but in a pinch the Career Center is much closer than the mall.
            Nichole did offer a few great pieces of advice about job hunting, which seems like the simplest thing to remember: Follow directions, triple check your grammar, and make sure to sell yourself to the employer by telling them what you will be able to bring to their company. Nichole has plenty of stories to tell from employers who have noticed when candidates didn’t do one of these things and I encourage anyone who is looking for an internship, is on the job hunt or is confused about what they want to do to stop by the Career Center in Alumni Hall and talk with Nichole and the rest of the staff. You won’t regret it!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Mi Casa, Es Su Casa

This time next week, Mansfield will be on Spring Break. Students will be at home with family, friends and pets or vacationing in the sun. When we return, we’ll be entering the home stretch until summer. Most things will be hectic for another week or so and then begin to slow down, but only for students. For many offices, this is when the year starts to pick up.
            Bonnie Phelps, the Management Technician in the Housing and Residence Life office, is just about to enter one of the busiest times of year. Spring break means e-mailing all students living on campus about leaving the residence halls to go home
and then shortly after we all return, housing selection begins for next year. Plus, Bonnie is in contact with all of the new students about registering for housing and answering all of their questions about what it’ll be like when they arrive in August. Don’t forget she’s in charge of making sure unhappy students get room changes when possible. It can’t be easy to manage solving problems and troubleshooting housing selection.
            “I do wish sometimes students know that it’s not always easy to complete their room change,” said Bonnie, “Every change affects someone else down the line, so it’s more than just making the change on paper and giving you new keys.”
            Room change requests and student complaints about on-campus living have been low this year though as all students are now living in suite-style residence halls. Many have our own rooms and most importantly, we don’t share a bathroom with more than one person.
   “There have been a lot less complaints about bathrooms and rooming in general now that we’ve transitioned.” Said Bonnie, “But my favorite part about working for this office is getting to interact with students. When I started working on campus eight years ago, I was hired for an eight week temporary position in the Student Accounts office. I’ve worked in three other offices on campus in temporary positions before coming to Residence Life and Housing as a permanent position and I’ve been offered to move elsewhere on campus. In the end, I wouldn’t have had as much student interaction in other offices and I like that my job allows me to impact students
and to have them impact me.”
            Bonnie makes a huge impact on students whether they realize she does or not. She runs housing selection, puts in the formal room changes and every e-mail you receive from housing@mansfield.edu, is sent by Bonnie.  So every time you get instructions on how to close up before returning home for a break, or a gentle reminder of how your parents, grandparents and friends can send you treats and money, you’re hearing from Bonnie. And from an RA’s standpoint, she’s truly a life-saver. She answers all our questions, and deals with all of our concerns without ever showing she might be frustrated with us. Knowing how many questions all of us students ask her on a regular basis, that can’t be easy either.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

All in a hard day's work

As a graduating senior, there are some scary things in my future. One of those scary things is the thought of having to pay bills. But what about making sure all of the bills of over 100 student organizations are paid? Kim Garrett is one of the two people working in the College Community Services Inc. (CCSI) office at Mansfield. Kim and her co-worker Nancy are responsible for myriad things relating to accounts payable for students at Mansfield including both the University Bookstore and the athletic department which means doing an audit for the department for the student activities money they use. And, they make travel and hotel arrangements for student organizations including flights, car arrangements, hotels and meals for trips as well as for the athletes when they travel to away games.
            That’s a lot of work for just two people, so you can imagine what a day in Kim’s shoes is like.
            “I like that what I do changes each day.” Kim said. “Each day’s tasks are similar, but the problems are new.”
            Working with so many students must bring back memories of what it was like to be a student, trying to figure out where you wanted to go in life and comparing it to where you ended up.
            “I had no idea what I would be doing when I was college-aged.” Kim laughed when I asked her. “I thought I’d be young forever and that I’d do more traveling. But I do remember when I was a little girl telling my mom that I wanted to be a bus driver because growing up all the cute boys rode the bus to school.”
            It’s normal though to think you want to do something and change your mind. I’ve watched a lot of students change majors. In the fall of 2012, after returning from a semester abroad, I changed my mind and switched my major from biology to public relations. Yikes!
            “If I wasn’t working in CCSI, I think I would want to own a business. Probably my own spa.” Kim said with a nod.
            That would be a great way to relax at the end of the crazy days the CCSI office sees. They issue new ID cards to students who have misplaced theirs on a regular basis and they deposit checks from fundraisers we’ve done.  Not to mention, Kim and Nancy are responsible for calming students down when we fear something has gone terribly wrong with our account and that’s not part of their job description. They’ll always do what they can to help, but sometimes it’s not possible.
            “It’s not personal, when we can’t do something to help you.” Kim and Nancy both stressed to me. “We’re bound by a lot of policies. We have to follow Committee on Finance guidelines as well as other federal policies as we are a type of bank which means unfortunately there are times we want to help you, but aren’t able to.”