From STEM to HESA: How a future HESA professional sees the beauty in having both degrees
I entered Lehigh University in the fall of 2009 knowing exactly what I wanted: an engineering degree. Historically, Lehigh has been known for its engineering program, in fact, their longtime mascot was “The Engineer,” (later it was changed to the Mountain Hawk). I knew that if I had excelled in my academics, got involved in campus life and served the Bethlehem community, the career and success I had wished for would at my fingertips upon graduation. However life has shown me, as it has consistently done for quite some time, that one’s true passions always find its way to the surface. My true passion lies within the academic setting. As a young girl, I woke up every morning full of energy, ready to take on what the school day had in store. I loved to go to class and be engaged. My desire to learn is one of my biggest strengths. I found opportunities to learn and be engaged outside of the classroom, too. I was an editor for my middle school’s newsletter, which consisted of learning how to utilize editing and publishing software and technologies. I joined the reggae dance team, basketball and throughout high school I was in almost anything you can imagine, activities ranging from rugby to community service.
I packed up my belongings and began my new life at Lehigh University. During my first semester, I took precaution. I took up one extracurricular activity as a member of Women’s Rugby because I was unsure of the work load and of course, my studies came first. By my second year, I was comfortable with the academic load and was pretty good at time management. I got involved with the Women’s Center, Student Activities, Orientation, marketing for special University events, and finally, the reason why I am writing this blog: My Dean of Students internship.
Let me confess, I did not know about the career field or how one becomes a professional in this field. I got connected with the Associate Dean of Students because I simply needed a job. I approached the Director of the Women’s Center in hopes to turn my volunteerism into a minimum wage opportunity. I was informed that the Women’s Center was unable to do so, but I guess she had seen something in me that motivated the Director to get in contact with one of the Associate Deans.
I began to learn more about the career field and the various ways Lehigh’s own professionals have landed into their current positions. I thought that maybe this is something I could possibly do. I love being in an academic setting. I wanted to work with and be a resource for students, and Higher Education & Student Affairs professionals are a key factor in the development, growth and success of students at any institution. From Career Services to Residence Life, the programming and advising that occurs are far more significant than a GPA. When I ask professionals why did they choose this career, most of them mention a special mentor from their undergraduate years or a program that has provided a safe, judgment free atmosphere for them to be who they wanted to be. Ultimately, I believe that each professional’s motivation lies under the common umbrella of giving back. Why must one keep knowledge and experience to one’s self when passing them along guarantees eternity?
These ideas, experiences, as well as being a fellow in the NUFP program have placed me at an excellent advantage: I am aware of and certain about a career field that will allow me to convey my passions.
As I enter my senior year at Lehigh, I am very excited to tell everyone about my career choice and how I got started. As an Industrial Engineering student with minors in Engineering Leadership and Philosophy, I can understand the reactions I get from fellow students, faculty, family and friends. Most wish me the best of luck with a warm smile; others conclude that my switch from STEM to HESA contributes to the women’s trend in science, technology, engineering, and mathematic fields: not too many of us are sticking with it.
However, I see a vast amount of skills upon completing both degrees: project analysis, statistics, operations and management, data analysis, financial management, working with diverse groups of people, being a solid teammate, understanding and appreciating challenges, problem solving, advising and intervention skills.
The best professionals in any career field are the ones that continue to develop the skills they possess, but also embrace and value learning new skill sets. Of the HESA professionals I have met, almost all of them have to do some form of financial management and project analysis, before and after the project is put into fruition. HESA professional do their research: benchmark assessments, attending specialized/ strategic conferences, or just simply poll the students attending the institution.
I think it is a beautiful thing to have such a technical degree such as Industrial Engineering and pursue a HESA master’s degree. I am confident that I will do great things, make lasting connections and most importantly, make an impact on my future students.
Lehigh University ’13
Philosophy & Engineering Leadership Minors