Meet CMU Graduates

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Calling All Alumni

Are you a recent CMU or WCCC graduate now working in the field you studied? If you'd like to be featured, please contact the marketing office at marketing@coloradomesa.edu.

Meet Drisa Carrizo, '08

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Certified Public Accountant, DAC Advisory Services
BS Accounting & MBA (3+2 Program)

What do you do on a day-to-day basis?

I work with individuals and small businesses as a tax and general business advisor. As the owner of my own business, I do a lot of networking and practice development as well as technical tax work for my clients. I also volunteer in my community, serving on the Board of Directors for an organization called Sandpipers, which accounts for time in each of my days. You can also find me playing tennis or golf on a daily basis or swimming laps in the pool, practicing yoga or getting my butt kicked in a spin class. Life is all about balance.

How did your experience at CMU prepare you for your career? 

My experience at CMU helped mold me into a well-rounded human. Earning by BS in Accounting and MBA ensured I was compliant with all requirements to practice as a CPA in Colorado and in California, where I currently live and work.

What was your transition like from being a student to your current career position? 

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I remember it being a bit of a shock, but a fun challenge. The hardest part for me was going from wearing comfortable gym clothes each day to dressing in business casual attire.

What do you think set you apart from the other applicants for your current position?

I believe my attitude and personable demeanor have set me apart throughout my journey in the accounting world and have taken me a long way in growing my tax practice.

What advice would you give to incoming college students?

Embrace every experience as an opportunity to learn and grow. Take personal accountability for your experiences and try not to dismiss anything as pointless. There will likely be a time down the road when you will realize how important and impactful all your college moments were. Oh, and have FUN!

Connect with Drisa on LinkedIn

Published 1/24/18

Meet Josh Dillinger, '17

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Monument Valley High School Art Teacher, Kayenta Unified School District
BFA, K-12 Art Education

What do you do on a day-to-day basis?

I teach drawing, painting and ceramics to students in 9th-12th grade.

How did your experience at CMU prepare you for your career?

The education program gave me training in new and upcoming practices in education, so while my veteran coworkers are just learning the new ways I already have them down. My student teaching with District 51 gave me experience with programs that many other schools use, which meant that I was knowledgeable, and did not have to make up ground learning new software on top of everything else.

What was your transition like from being a student to your current career position?

It has taken some adjusting, going from a college schedule to a full-time job schedule is not easy, but ultimately it has been a smooth transition. Post-grad life is tricky, all of the real-world things you have to do can seem to just pile up. But thankfully I was well prepared for my career, so while I am learning a lot about the art of adulting, I am confident in my ability to do my job which meant one less thing I needed to learn.

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What do you think set you apart from the other applicants for your current position?

The variety of training I had in all mediums and my willingness to get AP certified made me valuable since here at MVHS I have to teach all the art courses. I also was valuable to a small high school because I had great experience with student activities (such as clubs and organizations), and a background with college recruiting; all of which I developed during my time as a Mav. 

What advice would you give to incoming college students?

Go to class, take every opportunity you can and enjoy it because it goes way to fast!

 Connect with Josh on LinkedIn 

Published 2/7/2018

Meet Julie Fritz, '11

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Chemistry Teacher, Meadowcreek High School/Gwinnett County Public Schools
BS, Biology with Chemistry minor

What do you do on a day-to-day basis?

I’m in the classroom every day! I work to find ways to engage students in the content while also trying to help them develop critical thinking skills. I work in a Title I school, so many of my students (over 90%) live in poverty. With so many students that don’t have basic needs consistently met, or perhaps they live in a situation of uncertainty in terms of if they will eat or have electricity on any given night, the challenges of engaging students in learning are different than in many other schools. In addition to being in the classroom, I am also the faculty sponsor for the Environmental Club. I work with students daily with our recycling program, our campus beautification and our community garden. We collect paper recycling once a week, clean up litter from our outdoor classroom areas and run and maintain our garden. 

How did your experience at CMU prepare you for your career? 

I think the faculty and professors at CMU are amazing. I left with a very high-quality science education, but I also learned how to be a mentor and a role model from my experience. Dr. McQuade continues to act as a mentor to me, taking an interest in my career choices and offering me advice when I've asked.  The other professors from the science department that I've interacted with have all gone above and beyond in their role as a teacher. The professors at CMU challenged me to think deeply about the information that was being taught so that I wasn't just memorizing facts, I was engaging in the scientific process. I use those ideas and techniques every day in my classroom. 

What was your transition like from being a student to your current career position?

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I think that going straight from a student to a teacher has its own unique challenges. You don’t really have to get used to a new setting, you’re still in a classroom and still a part of the educational system. Getting settled into the new role is a little different. Suddenly, YOU’RE the expert, which can feel a little overwhelming. Having a solid scientific knowledge base and such varied examples of great teaching are what have helped me be successful. It was also challenging for me since I decided to become a teacher after I left CMU, so I didn't get any formal training before stepping into the classroom. But I survived, and I am honestly happy every day that I decided to make teaching my career.

What do you think set you apart from the other applicants for your current position? 

I think my content knowledge was one of my greatest assets. I also had experience working with students in a variety of subjects because I worked at the Tutorial Learning Center (shout out to the TLC!). I was able to give concrete examples of how I addressed students with different needs and learning styles, and how that could translate into working with high school students.

What advice would you give to incoming college students?

There are a few ways to get the most out of your experience. First, get involved! Join a club or get a job on campus. It will help you meet people who will become part of your support system. Second, find out when the tutoring center is open, and go AS SOON AS you realize you need a little extra help. Waiting until you get a low score on the first test, or worse, right before the final, is less effective. College is different than high school, you must seek out resources to help you succeed. So figure out what you need to be successful and take advantage of the help. CMU has systems set up to help students with almost any issue, you just have to be proactive and ask. Finally, make connections with the faculty and staff. I had a significantly richer experience because I worked closely with my faculty advisor. He even helped me secure summer internships around the country.

Published 8/8/2018

Meet Robin Toomey, '17 

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Estimator & Project Manager, Martin Marietta
BA Construction Management

What do you do on a day-to-day basis?

In my current position, no day is the same. Everyday has different challenges and solutions. One compelling thing about Martin Marietta is we work on small driveways and state highways, and everything in-between. My job starts when a customer contacts Martin Marietta wanting work done. I will typically go out and look at the area or download site plans to take measurements. After that is completed, I will send our proposal to the customer. When the work is awarded, I then set up jobs and communicate between my co-workers and the customer of when and what work needs to be completed. I am the contact throughout the project. I will meet with customers before, during and after the work to ensure they are getting the best product. Once the work is completed, I am responsible to invoice the work and make sure we receive the payments from the customer and pay our vendors.

How did your experience at CMU prepare you for your career?

The four years I spent at CMU prepared me for my career in many ways. Being in the construction management program, it was important to think of the unwritten and be self-motivated. Being at a smaller university like CMU, I was able to build strong relationships with professors and many of the students in the program which has helped me to network in the industry.

What your transition like from being a student to your current career position?

I was fortunate enough to take a job with a company I interned with while I was a student at CMU which made the transition extremely rewarding. For me personally, school became a routine, and in my career every day is different which has challenged me to be critical of my own work.

What do you think set you apart from the other applicants for your current position?

What I believe set me apart from other applicants was my experience. I had three different internships throughout my time at CMU which allowed me to experience diverse projects and companies in Colorado. Having these opportunities allowed me to apply my coursework to “real-world” scenarios, so when it came time to interview I was confident talking with professionals in the industry.

What advice would you give to incoming college students?

Take advantage of all the opportunities CMU has to offer. From social events to the career center workshops, the time you spend at CMU will build you up to be the person you are once you graduate.

Connect with Robin on LinkedIn

Published 3/21/2018

Meet Jordan Fisher, '17

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Desktop Technical Analyst, Colorado Governor's Office of Information Technology
BAS, Computer Information Systems 

What do you do on a day-to-day basis?

Working as a Desktop Technical Analysts I troubleshoot and resolve issues with IT related infrastructure and end devices for CDOT Region 3.

How did your experience at CMU prepare you for a career?

I was fortunate enough to get a job as a student worker for the IT help-desk at CMU and worked there for several years while attending school. This helped me get hands on experience dealing with customers and large IT projects. During my time at CMU, I joined several clubs and organizations. Through these clubs, I gained experience in competing in national IT conferences against college students from across the country. These clubs allowed me to test my skills and knowledge.

What was your transition like from being a student to your current career position?

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As with starting any job, there is always some apprehension involved; learning about your expectations. No matter what you do this always exists and it takes time. However, attending CMU really helped shorten the transition stage for me at my current job. I was able to get to work and actually feel like I was getting things accomplished and solving issues, not spending all of my time learning how to do the job. This was by far the smoothest transition into any job that I have had.

What do you think set you apart from the other applicants for your position?

Between the skills, I gained from courses at CMU and working for the help-desk, I was exposed to a very broad assortment of experiences. From this, I accumulated a large amount of knowledge and continually improved my skills.

Connections are important to have in any field of work; CMU allowed me to create connections with many of the professors and staff, some of which I have listed as contacts on my resume. Definitely having a four-year degree from an accredited college like CMU helped me stand out from the competition.

What advice would you give to incoming college students?

Buckle up and do the work. It is not going to get any easier and you might as well get used to. Who knows, you might find that you actually enjoy it!

Connect with Jordan on LinkedIn 

Published 5/15/2019 

Meet Kiersten Ridgel, '16

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Software Engineer, Visa
BS, Computer Science

What do you do on a day-to-day basis?

I code new applications, fixes and functional entries for Visa transaction processing code. This can include everything from internal displays for others on my team, to code for international transactions to comply with international embargo rules. I also answer help internal help tickets to help the client-facing account managers understand how the code is working to process transactions.

How did your experience at CMU prepare you for a career?

CMU’s computer science department faculty emphasized solving and debugging code problems on my own, as much as I could. While I have a team that is great at jumping in to help me with a problem, I’m grateful that I learned tenacity and patience while in school. CMU also does a great job of teaching many different languages and applications, so that a computer science student can go into a career in video game design, scientific technology applications such as space flight engineering, or as the sole computer tech for a start-up. I’m grateful for the variety and opening my mind, too.

What was your transition like from being a student to your current career position?

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I thought I’d hate a full-time job and the eight-hour days. The truth is, by the time I got to my first day on the job, I was breathlessly excited to not be opening another textbook! I felt humbled by how far I went in the space of a few months, from earning my diploma to having a job title, steady salary and time to do something other than homework. It was like taking a huge gulp of air after you’ve dived as deep into a pool as you can. It felt crushing and difficult yet, when you surface, the air never tastes so sweet and free.

What do you think set you apart from the other applicants for your position?

I was offered this job because of my internship in the summer of my Senior year (I graduated in December). I was offered the internship because of my experience in being a TA. That teaching experience showed that I had patience and had really learned the material, which to a potential manager, translates to patience, trainability and willingness to share knowledge and help your team succeed. So, having an internship and TA experience on your resume are both huge helpers.

What advice would you give to incoming college students?

Join a sports team. Rent a new piece of equipment from the OP. Take that spring break trip. Apply to things that you’re not quite qualified for. Schedule lunches with friends. Buy a printer. And feel free to take longer than four years. Life looks a lot different after even one year.

Connect With Kiersten on LinkedIn

Published 4/24/2019

Meet Bridget Rader, '15 

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Case Manager, Andrus Wagstaff, PC
BA, Criminal Justice 

What do you do on a day-to-day basis?

On a day-to-day basis I am responsible for organizing and verifying facts from our clients about their potential claim. I collaborate with attorneys and paralegals in the mass tort process, interview clients, develop client case-specific proof required to sustain a claim and relay the advice and counsel of the attorneys to clients. I also prepare and help file complaints on behalf of clients.

How did your experience at CMU prepare you for a career?

When I was a student at CMU, I felt comfortable approaching and working with my professors, especially since class sizes were relatively small. Not only did I learn about the criminal justice system, but I also gained interpersonal skills which have allowed me to succeed.

What was your transition like from being a student to your current career position? 

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Transitioning from CMU to a career in Denver was relatively easy. I felt like my professors helped me understand numerous concepts and theories, which prepared me for both a career and to pursue a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice.  Although I am technically still a student for a few months at Colorado State University, CMU allowed me to understand the importance of balancing school, work and my personal life.

What do you think set you apart from the other applicants for your position?

I had been practicing my interviewing skills since I was a student, which really paid off. Although I didn’t have any experience in the legal field, I focused on areas relevant in both my previous work experience and courses I had taken at CMU to show my bosses now that I was the best fit for the position.

What advice would you give to incoming college students?

Get involved and don’t procrastinate. For me, the social aspects of college were just as important as the academic portion but make sure you know how to balance the two. I would also say to try to narrow down what your long-term career goals are early on and work toward achieving them by joining clubs, interning and utilizing workshops designed to help you succeed. Don’t be afraid to get to know your professors. Having a reference from a professor can make you stand out from potential competition when applying for a job. Most importantly, remember that college will fly by, so make it count.

Published 6/13/2018 

Meet Jenna Wadleigh, '17

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Production Stage Manager, University of Utah School of Dance 
BFA Dance, BA Theater Technology and Design

What do you do on a day-to-day basis?

I oversee all School of Dance performances; organizing logistics during pre-production and managing the student performers and crew backstage during shows. My role is to ensure the safety and success of the performance for all involved. I am apart of enforcing show schedules and rules, and I work closely with the production team to fulfill the needs of the faculty choreographers and the student dancers.

How did your experience at CMU prepare you for your career?

During my time in undergrad, I had many opportunities to manage shows and work with a variety of people. This gave me the chance to foster my organizational and interpersonal skills, as well as broaden my knowledge through experience. This allowed me to explore my interests in performance management/technical theatre and dance in tandem with each other due to the close relationship of those departments.

What was your transition like from being a student to your current career position? 

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After graduating from college, I expected the transition would be a struggle, but that doesn't mean it was very easy! However, I was actively making connections with peers and other professionals while still in college, and I gained some tricks to the trade before I began seeking a job. In this field, your connections and good relationships with other professionals is important to your hire-ability. So I had some security in my career while I worked out how to transition my personal life.

What do you think set you apart from the other applicants for your current position?

My recommendations, my particular skill sets pertaining to both management and dance, and my well-rounded resume. As a dancer and artist myself, I have a strong understanding of calling dance performances and working with fellow dancers and choreographers. I was able to speak the language of the production team and creative team during my interview and was a relatable choice to be a member of staff. Most importantly, however, it came down to my work ethic and ability to grow. During my studies, I made the decision to push myself and to say yes to any job offered or volunteer opportunity that was presented. It was hard to juggle everything at the time, but this also gave me a wealth of experiences to draw from, and the ability to adapt and handle multiple situations. In my experience, being extremely adaptable is how you get ahead.

What advice would you give to incoming college students?

 The advice I give is the same I wish I would have gotten when I started, which is don't be afraid to ask for help. Otherwise, I would say to sign up for those 8 AMs, get an internship and study abroad! Don't take those opportunities for granted, and go and make the best out of your journey. Lastly, make sure you build and keep your bridges and treasure your friends!

Connect with Jenna on LinkedIn

Published 8/8/2019

Meet Camille Arnn, '17 

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Satellite Systems Engineer, NASA
BS Mechanical Engineering

What do you do on a day-to-day basis?

Currently, I am training to become a flight controller. This requires learning all about the ISS external thermal system (space is really hot when you’re directly in the sun, and really cold when you’re not) and the electrical system that uses power generated by solar arrays to provide power to the Station’s crew and science projects. Eventually, you can catch me on NASA TV working in Mission Control. 

How did your experience at CMU prepare you for your career?

The hands-on nature of the engineering program at Mesa really helped me learn how to be a part of a team while working to solve problems.

What was your transition like from being a student to your current career position? 

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The transition was smooth. A large portion of flight controllers are hired on newly graduated, so having such a large group of people who have recently gone through the same thing helped.

What do you think set you apart from the other applicants for your current position?

Internships and projects I worked on while still in college provided me the basic set of skills NASA is looking for in new hires. 

What advice would you give to incoming college students?

Finding a major (and ultimately a career) you’re passionate about makes those 8 AM lectures and all-nighters easier to power through.

Meet Emmie Madison, '14

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Content Writer, Public Trust Advisors, LLC
BA, English Language and Literature: Colorado Mesa University
MA, Communication: CU Denver 

What do you do on a day-to-day basis?

My job consists of reading, writing and editing in one way or another every day. Many of my coworkers joke that I’m “the only one at the firm who can write” so a large variety of content passes my desk for editing. While my responsibilities are different day-to-day, I am primarily responsible for content creation and editing for everything from internal and external newsletters, blogs, emails, handouts and presentations. I’ve taken on some larger projects such as creating a Brand Book and Content Style Guide for my company, establishing the tone, voice and style of writing for my company. I don’t have a finance background, so I try to read an article or two every day to enhance my knowledge of the public funds’ sector.

How did your experience at CMU prepare you for your career?

CMU taught me how to work hard but how to enjoy the hard work. My professors were passionate about English and reading as well as writing and their passion became my passion. They loved what they were doing and had made careers out of their love for the English language. I quickly knew I didn’t want to be a professor (although the thought did cross my mind a few times), but I knew I wanted writing to be a large part of my career.

What was your transition like from being a student to your current career position?

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I’ve had a bit of an unorthodox path from student to employee. After graduating from CMU, I moved to Vail for two years to live the stereotypical ski bum life before pursuing my master’s degree in the fall of 2016. I landed an internship that turned into my current full-time job. So, there was a time that I was working full-time and going to school full-time. Now that I’m done, I miss being a student, but I’ve been enjoying a regular sleep schedule.

What do you think set you apart from the other applicants for your current position?

I went into the interview knowing I knew nothing about finance or investment, so I knew I would have to explain how my skills would positively impact the business. I had a positive attitude and explained my very basic experience of writing and marketing in a professional setting and my willingness to learn a new industry. After the interview, my now boss had me create a sample blurb on the company for him based on their website and that was my chance to let my writing skills speak for themselves.

What advice would you give to incoming college students?

My main advice, particularly to those of you pursuing English degrees, is to take internships (and later jobs) that may not sound like your dream job but they will allow you to write or edit or both! No matter what industry, your writing skills will improve so much, and you’ll gain an understanding of what writing looks like in a professional setting. Prepare yourself by taking classes that will look good on your resume and that will allow you to write for any industry because you never know who will want your unique writing style and skills. When I was younger, I told myself “as long as you’re writing, any job is your dream job” and that’s a motto I still live by today.

Connect with Emmie on LinkedIn

Published 7/25/2018

Meet Jordan Veith, '18

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Environmental Scientist, Kleinfelder
BS, Environmental Science

What do you do on a day-to-day basis?

My time is split between fieldwork and office work. While I am working in the field, I am usually conducting various site inspections or collecting samples to provide data that is used in environmental decision making. When I am in the office, I am generally writing reports on my field findings to ensure our clients are compliant with applicable environmental regulations.

How did your experience at CMU prepare you for your career? 

The experience I received from attending CMU prepared me for the variety of fieldwork I am now conducting in my career. The environmental science program included many outdoor labs and fieldwork opportunities. These opportunities taught me "be ready for anything" mentality that is necessary for spending many hours in the field. The late Dr. Russ Walker (pictured) truly prepared every one of his students to be successful in their environmental consulting careers.

What was your transition like from being a student to your career position? 

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The environmental science professors at CMU helped make my transition from student to professional very smooth. I stepped into the office familiar with terms and procedures related to the environmental field, which quickly equated to respect from my colleagues and project opportunities to further develop my skills.

What do you think set you apart from the other applicants for your current position?

The tangible experience related to my career field separated myself from other applicants for my current position. CMU's location is prime for different types of environmental fieldwork. This ranges from participating in a snowpack monitoring study on the Grand Mesa to measuring different stream characteristics of desert ephemeral streams. Being able to experience different such different landscapes in such proximity to CMU helped me to become a more rounded candidate.

What advice would you give to incoming students?

One of the biggest pieces of advice that comes to mind for incoming college students is to begin building your professional network as soon as you can. I like to joke that "it's not about what you know, it's about who you know." Whenever you have the opportunity, push yourself outside of your comfort zone, talk about your goals, experiences and career interests. You never know who might have a connection to your next opportunity.

Published 8/22/2019

Meet Haelin Steward, '18

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Co-Owner/Operator 5280Fit
BS, Exercise Science

What do you do on a day-to-day basis?

On a day-to-day basis I work on a variety of things to keep 5280Fit running. Some things that I do is program my group fitness and small group fitness classes to ensure that our clients get the most out of each and every workout. Each day I teach at least 1-2 classes per day and help connect with the clients before/after class. We not only offer people a place to workout but a place to connect and grow with an amazing community as well. I love to connect with people to help them not only on their physical fitness, their body, but their mind, spirit and happiness as well. This past year I have also learned so much on how to keep a business running from the back end that consists of marketing, sales, books, payroll, taxes, etc.

How did your experience at CMU prepare you for your career? 

Other than learning everything in the science of Exercise to provide my clients the best possible workout, I also learned how to communicate, work, and lead others. These are just as important as what I learned in class.

What was your transition like from being a student to your career position? 

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I was fortunate enough to know exactly what I wanted to do going right into higher education and having a parent, my mother, own her own business. I hit the ground running right after I finished school. I started teaching classes and started learning everything that my mother had to offer me about the business.

What advice would you give to incoming students?

The advice that I would give incoming college students is to enjoy these years in college, they fly by fast. Make sure that you have fun, make friends and get outdoors, but also focus and get done what you need to for classes, it will pay off. 

Connect with Haelin on LinkedIn

Published 7/25/2019

Meet Lily Wyn, '17

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Community Health Educator, UCHealth- Healthy Hearts
BS, Fitness and Health Promotion 

What do you do on a day-to-day basis?

It is always changing! My primary job involves going to elementary, middle and high schools to educate students about their heart health so, it really is different every day. The constant is that I am working with students, breaking down misconceptions, helping to form good habits and feeling like I am making an impact on their lives. I typically end my days at Pure Barre where I am either teaching a barre class or taking one!

How did your experience at CMU prepare you for your career? 

I could go on and on about my experiences at CMU and how they directly relate to me today. It's easy to say "how will this help me in the real world?" when we are students but looking back I see things I learned every single day. In particular, a class I took about health assessments and data analysis using Excel. The program I work for collects data to inform our programming and to learn about the health habits of kids. My knowledge of Excel and simple data analysis has been invaluable.

What was your transition like from being a student to your career position? 

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Oh my goodness, hard. When you first graduate it's like the world is your oyster and then you quickly realize that the world requires experience and in order to get experience...you need experience. *Insert eye roll here* I spent most of my time job searching and writing resumes when I first graduated. Once I found my first position I worked hard to absorb as much information as I could. Was it my dream job? No. But I allowed the experience to shape me and sought to continue to learn in every aspect of my job. In many ways, my first professional position was a lot like being a student, learning and gaining experience. It inevitably led me to my current position which, I can confidently say, is exactly where I've always wanted to be.

What do you think set you apart from the other applicants for your current position?

One of the biggest tips I ever got about applying for jobs was to send a hand-written thank you note after an interview. I actually take a blank card with me when I go to interview and then afterward, I fill it out in my car with details about my interview. I go back up and hand deliver my note. I cannot tell you what a difference a hand-written note can make. In addition, I've continued to grow. I have pushed myself to learn new skills and I offer a diverse skill set beyond just my degree. Going beyond the other cookie cutter candidates really makes an impact.

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What advice would you give to incoming students?

Enjoy. Every. Second. It will fly by, trust me. Soak up the moments with your friends but don't forget that you're here to learn (and spending a lot of money to be here!). Take your studies seriously and manage your time well but make time to take care of yourself, I promise that a well-rested student is better than a student who crammed for the test until 3 am. I am not telling you to take naps over studying but I am saying manage your time when studying and make self care a priority. I met some of my best friends at CMU, Heck, I met my HUSBAND at CMU. Don't take it for granted, it's a blessing to be where you are and you just might meet the most impactful people in your life along the way.

Connect with Lily on LinkedIn

Published 5/29/2019

Meet Gray Koenemann, '18

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GIS technician- Project Manager, Kaart
BS, Environmental Science
Minor, Geographic Information Systems and Technology 

What do you do on a day-to-day basis?

Every day, I get to come into a beautiful office downtown Grand Junction on Main Street. My mornings are spent enjoying a cup of coffee as I check lines of internal, and external communication. Maintaining an open line of communication with Kaart's clients is one of my primary responsibilities. At any given time, if they contact me, I must be available, as they frequently request time-sensitive work to be completed.

When there are no pressing tasks to be completed, I default to the more routine work. With these tasks, I'm required to begin testing tools from Kaart's clients and working with their data to improve data quality in different areas of the world in OpenStreetMap, the worlds foremost open-source map. I work to respond to error messages submitted by drivers in areas of the U.S. and the UK to enhance data where navigation led them astray. This aids in creating a better overall map, and heartier navigation software. Additionally, I use very-high-resolution satellite imagery to add and improve data in areas of the U.S. and use all sources possible to identify traffic closures in Denver and Seattle.


On top of my work at Kaart, I have the privilege of teaching a course on open source GIS at CMU this semester!

How did your experience at CMU prepare you for your career? 

Perhaps the most valuable resource gained from my experience at CMU was the connections I made. Undoubtedly, I learned a great deal about the environment and the anthropogenic impact we have on it the way ecosystems function and how we restore them, and the ins and outs of a Geographic information system. Thus far, I attribute much of my success at CMU and the success I have had since graduating to the people I met along the way. 

Without the help of friends and mentors at CMU, I would not be where I am today. Many have shown undying support for the steps I have taken in my life in recent years, and I hope to be able to turn those successes into betterment for my community and support for others striving to embark on a career journey.

What was your transition like from being a student to your career position? 

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Fast! I had virtually no break between graduating and starting my career. The graduation ceremony was on Saturday, and I started my full-time position here at Kaart the proceeding Monday; however, everything was really exciting. All of a sudden I had free time, money and a routine that resembled something of a normal human being. I was (and still am) eager to grow and thrive in my position. Transitioning from a student to a professional was a time of prolific learning and creating a vast new network of friends and co-workers.

What do you think set you apart from the other applicants for your current position?

What set me aside from other applicants was my experience and background. Not only did I have a degree in GIS, but I had extensive experience as an undergraduate. During my time at CMU, I was lucky to be apart of research involving image analysis of very-high resolution drone collected multispectral imagery. These projects grew my knowledge with GIS data and doing research on novel technologies in the GIS field.

What advice would you give to incoming students?

It's all worth it. Every late night, every cram-session, every hour spent staring at screens and typing until your fingers are callused. When you reach the finish line, you will be a completely different person than you were when you started the race. Your perspective will change, your outlook on life itself may even change, but you will endure a tremendous amount of growth over the next four years that will be permanently embedded in who you are. The amount of pride you will feel after completing something you put blood, sweat and tears into over four years will feel unlike anything else in this world. So remember to take deep breaths, and don't doubt yourself.

Connect with Gray on LinkedIn

Published 4/10/2019

Meet Andy Darling, '08

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Research Scientist at Colorado State University
BS, Environmental Geology: Colorado Mesa University
  Minor Mathematics & Chemistry: Colorado Mesa University
MS, Nesciences: University of New Mexico
PhD, Nesciences: Arizona State University

 

What do you do on a day-to-day basis?

Currently, I teach graduate and senior-level courses at CSU, including Environmental Geology and Fluvial Geomorphology. On top of teaching, I also spend a lot of my time on research projects old and new. Majority of my research focuses on the landscape evolution of the western United States, which are actually extensions of undergraduate research I did at CMU. In order to conduct this research, I spend a lot of time rafting rivers and hiking in wilderness landscapes, which parallels with my personal interests (hiking, rafting) quite well.

How did your experience at CMU prepare you for your career?

During my time at CMU, I was given the opportunity to experience extensive fieldwork in geosciences as well as develop significant laboratory skill from chemistry classes. These classroom experiences were instrumental in allowing me to be successful in scientific research. The close relationships I formed with faculty at CMU helped me to understand what I was getting into (as a prospective researcher and college-level teacher). Those relationships also helped me learn the course material better so I could get good grades and get into other schools after CMU.

What was your transition like from being a student to your current career position?

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My transition into a scientist has been a gradual one that occurred mostly throughout graduate school and is on-going while I am an early-career scientist. It’s been a mostly pleasant experience to stay focused on learning and getting used to thinking about questions no one knows answers to in research. The transition from student to an independent researcher is a challenging one, and actually leads to a lot of people failing to finish graduate school and/or not getting a job. My foundational experiences before college and at CMU made it possible for me to continue to develop my thinking skills and work ethic to become an employed scientist at a major university.

One of the things I have not forgotten is the extensive array of experiences I had in my K-12 education and college. These positive experiences with many educators are largely responsible for my current success. I spend some of my time now and while I was in graduate school teaching earth science and “what college is all about” to more than 1,000 middle and high school students through various outreach programs. I try to inspire students with stories, pictures and videos from the field and by working to relate my early experiences to younger students lives as I meet with them. For those students who appreciate the possibilities of living and working outside, I think I sometimes have a significant impact on what their life decisions will be based on.

What advice would you give to incoming college students?

One of my takeaways from college is that incoming students should not be shy about getting to know their professors. Learning is largely a balance between students’ and professors’ communication of how each person thinks about ideas in order to help both grow and improve in different ways. Students should remember that most of what a student gets out of college depends on what the student puts into it. So work hard, and do your best, while remembering to have fun and take breaks. For students interested in geology or other field sciences, CMU is tough to beat!

Published 9/12/2018

Emmi Farris, '15

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Freelance Graphic Design, DBA Emmi Farris & Project Manager, SAW Advertising Agency
BFA Visual Design, Graphic Design

What do you do on a day-to-day basis?

The beauty of my job is that it’s flexible. Daily current duties include, but are not limited to: children’s book illustrations, logo design, creating infographics, watercolor sketching, designing billboards, strategy guides & window perfs, generating visual reports of client data, digitizing artwork, educating the public on art and design skills and snacking. Most importantly, I snack daily.

How did your experience at CMU prepare you for your career?

My experience at CMU was extremely broadening. The field of graphic design is so vast that you are required to take courses that seem to have no connection, but when you’re thrown into a work environment that requires you to know something about everything, the skills you learned at CMU become extremely necessary. The importance of listening to your scholastic peers and appreciating their perspective is reflected professionally when connecting with a client. In order to design something for their specific needs, it is literally your job to listen to their goals and help them obtain them through design. Though the objective of cultivating personal skills is not what you pay for, it’s the biggest takeaway from privatized education.

What was your transition like from being a student to your current career position?

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Transitioning from a student to a professional in the field of graphic design was initially disheartening. I believe a lot of students are expected to have a job in their field before the commencement ceremony begins, and when your diploma arrives in the mail a few weeks later and you’re still working a part-time job and sketching for fun you feel like a failure. I began to apply for any job I could find in the  “creative field.” I put my portfolio out seven separate times and was rejected what felt like ten times that amount. Though my initial response to the rejection of each application was devastation, I slowly became more resilient and started to offer my freelance services to people I knew just to keep my skills fresh. It wasn’t until six months after graduation I noticed an online classified ad for a position searching for my exact skill set. When I responded to the Facebook post advertising for a designer I had become so quick in being able to update my cover letter and resume that I had an interview scheduled five hours later. When I accepted the job, I hit the ground running. I set up my official sole-proprietorship and began designing left and right. Transitioning from becoming a student into a professional seemed like it didn’t happen at all then all at once.

What do you think set you apart from the other applicants for your current position? 

I believe what set me apart from the other applicants for my current position is my willingness and ability to adapt and learn new things. I am a strong believer in the idea that one never stops learning. When you hire a graphic designer you’re also hiring the IT department, the chef, the copy editor and someone who accepts “other duties as assigned” because they are so willing to learn new skills and apply their current ones to the job. My hunger to learn and go “above and beyond” has allowed me to make professional connections someone who otherwise would “phone it in” wouldn’t. I believe that skills, whether or not they pertain to the degree hanging on my wall, are applicable to your current professional position. I have a steadfast dedication to my organization and my clients, and loyalty seems to be fleeting in the industry. Genuinely caring for your work and what it represents can make an impression in the interview process and the director of SAW Advertising Agency saw that in my work before I walked in the door for the interview. In the first conversation, I had with the staff during my interview I made it very clear I was going to work hard. Even by putting in the effort to follow the application process to the “T” by integrating the instructions in a creative way set me apart from the hiring pool.

What advice would you give to incoming college students?

If you’re not passionate about your degree, I would encourage you to find what you love before entering a program. Don’t waste your money learning skills you don’t care about. Find what you love, work hard and don’t be afraid to ask questions and make relationships with your professors and fellow students. Learn from conversations and not just what’s assigned to you. Be open to learning time management first, then allow yourself to balance work and play. Your mental health is just as important as your education, so learn to listen to your body and the stressors that college will ultimately place on you. Enjoy every second of being there because you’ll blink and it’s over!

 Connect with Emmi on LinkedIn

Published 6/27/2018

John Kohl, '15

Designer, MATTER
BFA, Graphic Design-Visual Design

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What do you do on a day-to-day basis?

The lion's share of my work is identity and brand building for dozens of Denver Companies. My own work is illustration, lettering and environment focused ranging from packaging and logos to murals and architectural collaborations.

How did your experience at CMU prepare you for your career?

My time at CMU was absolutely invaluable for my career. The program Suzie Garner and Eli Hall created and are continuing to grow was almost perfectly tailored to prepare me for the position I now hold. From hands-on creative projects to a rigorous and realistic project schedule, it all helped prepare me to confidently tackle any challenge that I'm presented with. Professor Hall's attitude and passion is a huge influence on the designer that I am today.

What was your transition like from being a student to your current career position?

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Right after graduation, I had an internship lined up in Denver using connections that the MED student group had created for me. From there, I moved to a junior position and worked my way to the lead position I now hold. It may have been jarring moving cities and starting from the ground floor so-to-speak, but my education definitely provided me with the confidence I needed to grow and be competitive in a much larger job (and more aggressive) market.

What do you think set you apart from the other applicants for your current position?

My education experience was centered on conceptual design with countless other mediums such as graffiti, letter-press, sign painting and physical fabrication as a background. In a time where other schools only teach students to sit in front of a computer and push pixels around; I was uniquely qualified to ideate and follow through on almost any creative brief a client may provide.

What advice would you give to incoming college students?

Put your heart and soul into what you're doing now. If you can't do that for the time it takes you to earn a degree, then you entering your chosen field is going to prove incredibly difficult and possibly disappointing.

Check out John's work:https://whatnot.work/

Published 7/11/2018

Meet Rachael Wright, '11 

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Courtesy of Courtney Jacobs Photography 

Author, Rachael Wright LLC
BA History & BA Political Science

What do you do on a day-to-day basis?

My days are divided into two camps: writing a first draft and editing. While writing a first draft, I write from 9 am to 1 pm and aim for four thousand words. This is an exercise in both ignoring myself and immersing myself in the story. First drafts are unpolished, often terrible, but a quick way to get the entire story down on paper. After I’ve completed the word count for the day I will spend an hour or so working on my website, blogging, marketing or my social media accounts. If however, I am editing a draft then my days are much more structured. I edit a novel at least four times before it’s ready for my copyeditor. My first edits are largely done to correct plot holes and any glaring issues with the structure of the novel (i.e. too many secondary characters). After the first edit is completed I send the draft off to Beta Readers who send me their thoughts on the novel and any issues that they’ve seen. After the Beta Readers finish I begin adding layers of character development, adding a local flavor to the setting, flushing out adverbs, and superfluous words.

A typical day editing looks like this: 8:30 read through an entire chapter, making notes and determining what needs to be changed; 9:00-12:00 input changes into the Scrivener app that I work on, 12:30-1:30 short break for lunch, 1:30-4:30 research for novel (police procedures, layout of streets, read Greek newspapers) as well as preparing for tomorrow’s chapter. At 5:00 I leave to pick up my daughter and at this point I’m finished for the day, although I will print and read through a chapter in the evening, to prepare for tomorrow’s work.

How did your experience at CMU prepare you for your career?

The majority of my preparation came from fantastic faculty. Regardless of what gorgeous buildings or fantastic sports complexes or gyms colleges build, the heart of what makes a ‘good’ degree are the professors. Three professors contributed inordinately to my success; Dr. Vincent Patarino, Dr. Tim Casey, and Dr. Douglas O’Roark. Dr. Patarino has twice now edited my query letters for literary agents and sat with me discussing everything regarding the publishing business and the ways in which my novels could improve. I double majored in History and Political Science and the sheer amount of books to be read, essays to be written and primary source documents to be mined for relevant information was, at times, vastly overwhelming. However, it was this discipline, this work that transformed me into the writer I am today. There isn’t much difference between writing a thesis and writing a novel (I cried during both). There are arguments to be made, vast amounts of research to be gathered, questions to be answered and underlying it all – passion. One of my political science professors said to a class, when asking what our thesis’ would be “it’s no surprise that Rachael’s chosen to study the UK.” English/UK history has been my passion from a young age: its myths, legends, stories, and my own ancestry, are what propelled me to writing.

What was your transition like from being a student to your current career position? 

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The most difficult part of my transition was suddenly being my own boss. I was not hemmed in by deadlines but I also didn’t have professors that I could see multiple times a week to ask for assistance or to pick their brains about what was weak or needed work in my novel. But as I have had some distance from college, 6 years, I’ve found that I have to start becoming someone else’s mentor. I have to give away what I’ve learned and use it to shore up the next generation. It’s always more comfortable to be the mentee, but vastly unrewarding in the long term.

What advice would you give to incoming college students? 

It’s quite a challenge coming from home where your parents have always made sure your homework was completed, and that you ate a decent meal every night and went to bed at a decent hour. The sheer amount of freedom is very disorientating, at least it was to me and my friends, and it’s very challenging to find a new rhythm for yourself. My best investment was a planner, the paper kind. Write down every assignment ahead of time and always keep your syllabi. Have fun with your new freedom, and start to build friendships with your professors – especially those that are in your field of study. 

Published 4/18/2018

Meet Paul Rice, '12

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Courtesy of Daily Sentinel

Activities Director/Personal Care Coordinator at Grand River Health & E. Dene Moore Care Center
BA Kinesiology, Health and Wellness Promotion concentration

What do you do on a day-to-day basis?

The person centered care/activities coordinator helps further develop E. Dene Moore Care Center’s Planetree model of patient-centered care. Planetree is a holistic approach to healing the mind, body and spirit and the model empowers patients through information and education, encourages more active participation by patients and emphasizes healing partnerships among caregivers, patients and their families. The person centered care/activities coordinator also oversees the Activities department and their daily functions.

 Activities Coordinator

Daily tasks associated with my job as an activity coordinator include: developing meaningful and purposeful activity programs to enrich the lives of the residents and families; developing and implementing a monthly activities program calendar based on the therapeutic scope of programs; providing a forum for residents and family members to meet regularly and share their ideas, thoughts and concerns regarding their daily living experience, etc.

Person Centered Care Coordinator

Daily tasks associated with my job as a person centered care coordinator include: providing oversight and leadership for all processes related to improving patient-centered care at EDMCC, providing updates on Planetree activities to the CNO (Planetree executive sponsor) and seeking senior leader approval for patient-centered care initiatives as needed, providing support to component teams as they work to implement Planetree model, etc.

How did your experience at CMU prepare you for a career?

After suffering a heart attack in 2008, I decided to make a career change after years of working as a residential designer. It was during my rehabilitation that I discovered I enjoyed being part of the recovery process. Originally graduating with a Bachelor of Science from the University of Wisconsin in 1988, I went back to school at Colorado Mesa University to study kinesiology. I graduated in 2012 Magna Cum Laude at the top of my class.

It was during my time working as an intern in cardiac rehabilitation that I was able to work with many of the elderly/frail population. I was also studying physical activity and aging. Working with this age demographic became my calling in life. This is where I discovered the Planetree philosophy as part of my curriculum.

What was your transition like from being a student to your current career position?

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After graduation, I was hired in November 2012 at E. Dene Moore Care Center. I initially served as a social services assistant. I worked in this capacity until the opportunity to move into the Activities Department arose. Taking on the role of an activities coordinator, I was quickly appointed the department head and activities director. With a good understanding of the Planetree philosophy and an award-winning published background in design/environment, I became a natural fit to guide implementation of activities that advance organizational progress toward person-centered care goals.

I found the training and education I received benefited me well. I was prepared to learn new information and apply what I already knew. Having some practical clinical experience while interning, really helped me to understand many of the clinical challenges that our residents face daily.

What do you think set you apart from the other applicants for your current position?

I was highly motivated to make a difference. When I submitted my letter of interest with my resume I made sure that it wasn’t a generic letter even though it was an entry level position. I found a reference from an old song that spoke to the care these people do. I quoted that song. I was turned down for that job as they thought I was over qualified. As it turned out something else opened up a few months later. That song quote stuck with the administrator. She called me back in to interview for another position and here I am today. The point is if you are passionate about something you have to find a way to get that across.

What advice would you give to incoming college students?

First and foremost, never miss class unless you have a really good reason. As someone who went through college more than once, I can tell you that by going to classes and paying attention, your stress level will be far better and you will enjoy the college experience even more than if you don’t. Take pride in what you do. Ask a lot of questions, get to know your professors... they hold the key to your future.

Read more on what motivated Paul to study kinesiology at CMU.

 Published 5/2/2018

Meet Cassidee Shull, '11 

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Executive Director, Colorado Association for Viticulture & Enology (CAVE) & Colorado Mountain Winefest
BBA, Double Concentration in Management & Human Resource Management
Minor, Dance 

What do you do on a day-to-day basis?

As the executive director of a non-profit, I wear many hats, which keeps every day interesting! Day to day, I may go from meetings for specific events like our Colorado Mountain Winefest (our largest fundraiser) or VinCO (our regional trade conference) to preparing for more high-level items like our board strategy and budget development.

How did your experience at CMU prepare you for your career?

Planning large fundraising and community focused-events during my involvement with Phi Beta Lambda and the Cultural Diversity Board was the perfect primer for what I do now with CAVE. We run the largest wine festival in Colorado as well as a regional trade conference every January. My business degree and the one-on-one interaction with my professors and advisors provided the ideal foundation to the immense networking my career demands.

What was your transition like from being a student to your current career position?

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I graduated in May of 2011 and was hired as CAVE’s first Executive Director in February of 2012. It was a quick transition from student life to running an organization but I dove right in! My time as the Director of the Cultural Diversity Board my senior year was incredibly helpful as I became familiar with the inner workings of managing committees and events and coordinating large numbers of volunteers.

What do you think set you apart from the other applicants for your current position?

I was very motivated and excited to work in the non-profit sector after graduation. I saw an incredible opportunity within our community regarding our wine industry and believe my enthusiasm coupled with my student life experience set me apart from other applicants.

What advice would you give to incoming college students?

Get involved! Attend events, take part in student life, apply for leadership positions, it really does make a difference! Networking is key and these connections can (and should!) last long after graduation.

Connect with Cassidee on LinkedIn.

Published 10/10/2018

Meet Christa Campbell, '17 

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Business Development, Bonsai Design
BA Business Administration, Marketing Concentration 

What do you do on a day-to-day basis?

I work in the business development department at Bonsai, a custom turnkey company in the aerial adventure course industry. My job tasks include working closely with the CEO and the general manager to engage with current clients and strive to develop new relationships within industries looking to bring an innovate and exciting activity to their guests.

How did your experience at CMU prepare you for your career? 

By being an active student at CMU, I learned time management, the value of networking and, most importantly, skills that have helped me build a foundation to start an exciting career in the outdoor recreation industry.

What was your transition like from being a student to your career position? 

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My transition was easier because I actively job hunted before graduation, which was key. I learned short-term achievement was more important when I attended CMU, for example grades and test scores. However, in the full-time position, I have learned to stay motivated completing small tasks that help accomplish the long-term goal. 

What do you think set you apart from the other applicants for your current position?

During my freshman year, I thought about what it would take to obtain a full-time position after graduation. I worked hard in different jobs, strived to get great grades and took advantage of every opportunity to learn and volunteer. Because I am detail-oriented, I created a well-rounded resume to not only find a job but a career that I would be passionate about.

What advice would you give to incoming students?

To help incoming college students succeed, I advise them to continually work hard and network. I wouldn’t be in this position without perseverance throughout my college years.

Connect with Christa on LinkedIn 

Published 2/21/2018

Meet Dom Lewis, '13

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Seattle Seahawks Social Media Producer 
BA Mass Communication, Journalism & Broadcast concentrations

What do you do on a day-to-day basis?

In my current role, I’m the voice of the Seattle Seahawks on social media. As the Social Media Producer I create content for our social media channels; I’m responsible for the brand voice and copywriting on our posts; I analyze trends within the social community and strategically provide topical, engaging and newsworthy content to our followers.

How did your experience at CMU prepare you for your career?

My experience at CMU prepared me for my career in a number of ways. With my major, it prepared me how to think critically in the mass media field and also how to produce and execute creative ideas. My degree challenged me to think outside the box and against the status quo. In the social space, time management and organization is key. CMU’s Mass Communication program helped me hone in on those skills which are valuable today.

What was your transition like from being a student to your career position? 

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The transition from a college graduate to a social media professional was one that was steep yet beneficial. My first job out of college was the Community Manager for US Nike Football in New York City. From Grand Junction to the Big Apple was quite the adjustment. Very quickly, I had to develop my skills in an area I wasn’t too familiar with at the professional level. After nearly two years on the job, I had developed the skills necessary to perform at a high level and take my career to the next step which helped me land in Seattle.

What do you think set you apart from the other applicants for your current position?

What I believe set me apart was my passion for the social media space, my creativity, being a great communicator, the ability to conceptualize and execute ideas, and it helps to have background knowledge of the game.

What advice would you give to incoming college students?

My advice to incoming college students would be to get involved on campus with a club, seek internships to get valuable work experience, and be adaptable in regards to your major and interests. Get as much experience as you can in your time at CMU and don’t be afraid to take risks or try something new.

Connect with Dom on LinkedIn

Published 11/15/2017

Meet Joshua Garland, '09 

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Omidyar Postdoctoral Fellow, Santa Fe Institute & Founder, Complexity Analytics LLC
BS, Mathematics: Colorado Mesa University
BS, Computer Science: Colorado Mesa University
MS, Applied Mathematics: CU Boulder
PhD, Computer Science: CU Boulder

What do you do on a day-to-day basis?

My days are usually split between two jobs. During the day I am an Omidyar fellow at the Santa Fe Institute, and during the evenings and weekends I run my data analytics consulting firm. As an Omidyar fellow at SFI, I spend my time applying, developing (and often bending) mathematical theory to describe and understand the complex world around me. The nature of this fellowship provides me with complete academic freedom and as such the “day-to-day” is often quite diverse and I regularly switch between fields---making each work day exciting and new. Some of the fields I spend my time contributing to include paleoclimate science, cardiac electrophysiology, dominance hierarchies and collective animal behavior. At my consulting firm, Complexity Analytics LLC, I work with a diverse range of companies in multiple industrial sectors (e.g., quantitative finance and social media) providing them with state-of-the-art data and mathematical analysis tailored to the demands of their company.

How did your experience at CMU prepare you for your career?

The one-on-one engagement with faculty, as a CMU student allowed me to get a handle on the material in ways that would not have been possible in a larger university setting. In addition, the capstone research project I completed as part of the Mathematics major equipped me with key skills I use as a professional researcher every day.

What was your transition like from being a student to your current career position?

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The transition for me was pretty seamless. As an undergraduate at CMU, I built a fundamental knowledge base around Mathematics and Computer Science. I was then able to build upon that base as I embarked into research as a graduate student, and I continue to leverage that knowledge as a full time research fellow today.

What do you think set you apart from the other applicants for your current position?

Determination, passion and work ethic. When I first heard about the Omidyar fellowship I knew it was THE job for me after I graduated. As such, I did absolutely everything in my power to make that dream a reality. I knew that in this application process I would be competing against the top scholars from all over the world, and so I worked incredibly hard day and night to prepare myself and be ready for this opportunity. I am not the smartest person out there by any means but I am willing to work as many hours as it takes until a job is done or a problem is solved, and I believe it was that drive and work ethic that got me where I am.

What advice would you give to incoming college students?

Don’t rush and enjoy every minute of it. I see so many students rushing through undergrad and cutting as many corners as possible so they can get out in the real world and get a job.  Take the time you have in college to be curious about the world around you and learn broadly. You’ll have the next 60+ years of your life for a 9-5 job.

Published 11/29/2017 

Meet Adriana Ramos Gonzalez, '17

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Medical Lab Technician, St. Mary's Hospital
AAS, Medical Laboratory Technology 
BS, Biology with a minor in Chemistry 

What do you do on a day-to-day basis?

As a Medical Lab Technician, I analyze blood and various body fluids for cellular and chemical composition; these labs provide information for patient diagnosis and treatment. I perform chemistry, hematology, coagulation, toxicology, immunology, microbiology and immunohematology testing. I work alongside other medical professionals to assure patient results are accurate, and completed in a timely fashion. Currently, I am working the night shift in which I also perform the necessary maintenance and quality control measures needed for various analyzers used in patient testing.

How did your experience at CMU prepare you for your career?

My experience at CMU prepared me for my career by allowing me to complete 40 hours a week of clinical experience for an entire semester. This opportunity allowed me to be immersed in a medical laboratory and put the theory learned in class, into practice. Also, the small class sizes of the MLT program allowed me to get one-on-one time with my instructors and develop close friendships with my classmates.

What was your transition like from being a student to your current career position?

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My transition from student to professional Medical Laboratory Technician was smooth. I was fortunate enough to receive a job offer from the lab where I completed by clinical rotation while still at CMU. The combination of the hands-on experience at St. Mary’s Hospital and the MLT program at CMU successfully prepared me for my board examination. I contribute a large part of my success to the application of classroom knowledge to real-life scenarios that I experienced while working as a student at St. Mary’s. This is all due to the structure of the CMU program.

What do you think set you apart from the other applicants for your current position?

During my clinical rotations, I was able to meet and work alongside many laboratory professionals. This opportunity exposed my work ethic, as well as the specialized training I received at CMU which led to a job offer at the end of my program. I am not sure if things would have gone as smoothly if CMU did not have this partnership with the surrounding hospital laboratories. Learning how the laboratory operates as a student was definitely an advantage when starting my new position.

What advice would you give to incoming college students?

My advice for incoming students: prioritize your work, find a good place to study, seek help if you need it, don’t be afraid to go to office hours, allow yourself time to recharge, join clubs, start clubs, make many friends and enjoy your years at CMU!

Connect with Adriana on LinkedIn 

Published 2/6/2019

Mathew Coronado, '15

Choir Director, Gunnison Watershed School District
BA, Emphasis in Music Education K-12 and Vocal Performance

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What do you do on a day-to-day basis? 

I have five different choral ensembles grades sixth-twelfth in which I teach music literacy and performance skills to on a daily basis. This involves studying music theory, vocal technique, performance etiquette and of course, the music! We are usually working towards a performance or cumulative project in my classroom.  We hold concerts every quarter and go the Colorado West Music Competition annually.

Outside of the classroom, I teach voice lessons and rehearse for my own performances. I am a current member of crossover male quartet II Divo Colorado in association with Western Slope Concert Series. I am continuing to study voice privately with Dr. Graham Anduri (CMU Professor) and regularly aim to challenge my performing abilities. 

When I'm not doing something music related, I've found great joy in the many different types of outdoor recreation available in Gunnison including hiking, mountain biking and skiing. During semester breaks I find myself traveling regularly and exploring the outdoors. 

How did your experience at CMU prepare you for your career?

Because of the medium size of the CMU Music Department, I was fortunate to have a wealth of performance and leadership opportunities. As a performer, I was able to participate in several different ensembles from classical choral settings to music theatre, opera, operetta and chamber music. I was able to hold leadership positions within CMU’s choirs as a section leader, an overall choir president and an assistant director. Each prepared me in a different way to be a director of my own ensembles and to perform in professional and semi-professional settings.

What was your transition like from being a student to your current career position?

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When you’re a student, you’re learning often pedagogical techniques and the theory behind education. Student teaching, you get crucial experience as a mentee in the classroom, but you don’t truly get to discover what kind of teacher you are until you’re the only adult in charge of a classroom. Your first year as a teacher has a very steep learning curve, but it’s an awesome and rewarding journey. 

As a performer, you have to learn how to make and find your own opportunities after you graduate. This may involve starting an ensemble, looking for existing require enduring stress and uncertainty but it’s how much of the world of professional music operates.

What do you think set you apart from the other applicants for your current position?

In both the music and the education worlds, professionalism and the pursuit of excellence can be the difference between being hired and never getting a gig. The faculty of the CMU Music Program gave me all the necessary tools to become a competent musician, but also stressed the importance of professionalism on and off the stage (or in and out of the classroom). They expected me not only to be an excellent musician but also be an extraordinary ambassador for my school and for myself as a professional. Establishing myself as a hard-working, professional student in my school and local community has led to may employment opportunities, including my current position.

What advice would you give to incoming college students?

As a music major, you’re learning how to commit, collaborate and work hard as much as you’re learning about music theory or vocal technique. Don’t forget that the world of music and education is very collaborative and that interpersonal skills will get you just as far or further than your musicianship.
Published 11/12/2018

Meet Emilia Ludwig, '16

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Cardiac Telemetry Unit Registered Nurse (RN), St. Mary's Medical Center
BSN, Nursing

What do you do on a day-to-day basis?

On a day-to-day basis I care for patients when the most important muscle of the body is compensated, the heart. I am fortunate to be able to provide hands on care to treat patients who are having heart attacks, irregular heart rhythms, high blood pressure, heart failure, pre-operative and post-operative open-heart surgery, heart valve disease and vascular disease. On the Cardiac (Telemetry) unit we also have a variety of other conditions we get the opportunity to work with, including sepsis, COPD exacerbations (lung issues), minor burns and suicide attempts, to just name a few. We also have the opportunity to float to other floors within the hospital. My other priorities include providing education and comfort to patients, their families and friends. Last but not least I have the opportunity to SAVE LIVES.

How did your experience at CMU prepare you for your career?

My experience at CMU prepared me for my career because in the nursing program we had the opportunity to have over 1,000 clinical hours in multiple specialties throughout our community and state. This allowed me to experience many different areas in the hospital setting and outpatient setting first hand, allowing me to have a good idea of which areas of nursing I am interested in after graduation. Also, the small class sizes at CMU made it easy to get one-on-one help with my instructors, be able to ask questions and make lifelong friendships with my classmates.

What was your transition like from being a student to your current career position?

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My transition from being a nursing student to a registered nurse was fairly flawless. CMU’s nursing program works with Kaplan test preparation to prepare us for the state board exam at the end of the program. It was very helpful to teach us tricks for the test. I was hired right after graduation and able to work as a graduate nurse until I passed the state board exam, NCLEX. I had a preceptor on day shift for six weeks and then a preceptor on night shift for two weeks before I was working with patients on my own. My team in the Cardiac Unit is very helpful, too. I can ask as many questions as I need at anytime and everyone is willing to help each other. We have an amazing team that works together and I never feel like I am alone caring for my patients. This has helped make the transition smooth.

What do you think set you apart from the other applicants for your current position?

What set me apart from other applicants during the job search was that I came to work, school and clinical with a smile and a “can do” attitude. Also, I had done 12-24 hours of clinical on the floors that I applied to at St. Mary’s Hospital. I also had 144 hours of “Senior Specialty” in the Intensive Care Unit, which allowed me to meet more of my current co- workers and managers. At CMU we are given the opportunity to choose where we want to perform our 144 hours of “Senior Specialty” clinical and our Leadership hours so we can make connections and become a familiar face to our future employers.

What advice would you give incoming college students?  

A few words of encouragement and advice I would give to incoming nursing students:

  • The most important tip is to take care of yourself!
  • When you have an opportunity to do something out of your comfort zone, do it!
  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Meal prep on the weekends so you have quick meals while you are studying or going to clinical.
  • Stay positive & have fun.
  • Do not be overwhelmed with the amount of work, make a list and complete one item at a time.
  • Find a good study environment to study in.
  • Enjoy the college life- meet new people, join clubs & organizations, and support the mavericks.

Connect with Emilia on LinkedIn

Published 1/10/2018

Meet Jimmy Pritchard, '12

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Director of Strength & Conditioning, Ski & Snowboard Club Vail 
BS, Exercise Science, Certificate of Personal training

What do you do on a day-to-day basis?

I work with athletes aged ~13-28 on a daily basis who ski and snowboard competitively in events around the world. Some of these athletes, partake in the Olympics and others aspire to compete collegiately. My staff and I program/implement daily workouts for all groups, as well as providing training to the community. We are a unique training facility, in that we serve Olympic level athletes, but meet the demands of anyone that walks through our door. 

How did your experience at CMU prepare you for your career?

My experience taught me how to work with people and demonstrate leadership through work ethic. Numerous mentors (Dr. Heumann, Mark Ryan, Ryan Swope, Dan Linsacum and many more) helped peak my interest and push me to grow in human performance. 

What was your transition like from being a student to your current career position?

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Upon graduating, I worked as a full-time personal trainer and shortly thereafter took a position as an assistant strength coach for SSCV. After hard work and fortunate circumstances, I was blessed enough to be promoted to the Director of Strength & Conditioning.   

What do you think set you apart from the other applicants for your current position?

I believe what set me apart (and continues to) from other applicants is my drive to continuously learn and a genuine care for the success of my clients. Even after accepting my current position I began a Master’s program to further my knowledge, as well as attend as many conferences/seminars as my schedule will allow.

What advice would you give incoming college students?  

My advice to incoming college students is to surround yourself with successful and passionate people. No matter what endeavors you aim to pursue, these people will teach you habits that will aid your personal growth, as well as ensure you never get complacent.

Connect with Jimmy on LinkedIn

Published 12/05/2018

Meet Lucille Benoit, '17

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Teach for America, Little Wound BIA School 
BA, Political Science

What do you do on a day-to-day basis?

Being a 3rd grade teacher your day-to-day routine is always in flux. Every morning I wake up at about 6 am, crank up the pot of coffee, listen to a podcast and get ready for school. I live about a five minute walk from my school.

When my students come into the classroom, the first thing they sit down to is a “morning journal” prompt. This was actually an assignment given to me as a student in Dr. Miller’s Philosophy class The Examined Life. While it was intended to promote mindfulness, I find that it really helps kids get into the school mode and reset from whatever is happening at home.

Besides the daily curriculum of reading, writing, math and science I try to promote our three class values: advocacy, empowerment and inquiry. My students are only about eight- or nine-years-old but all of them know what it looks like to be an advocate, to empower one another and to inquire - and they do it every day. While delivering the content and trying to meet common core standards I am also charged with incorporating Lakota values, language and culture into their content. One way I do this is by burning sage every morning, to cleanse the room. We also discuss what it looks like to be a Lakota leader everyday and why that is important to their community.

After school I usually stay and prep for the following day for another hour or so. If there is a football game, basketball game or volleyball game I usually stay to watch. If not I finish up work and head home

How did your experience at CMU prepare you for your career?

Attending a small college like CMU gave me the ability and access to build relationships with faculty, staff and advisors. These relationships allowed me to have access to an opportunity like Teach for America and be able to thrive in the education world. I didn’t study education in school, I actually got a political science degree, but it was my interest in tribal politics, educational equity and sociology that got me involved in the opportunity to move to Pine Ridge.

CMU’s professors also gave me the one-on-one time to develop my social skills, fine tune my academic viewpoint and expand my understanding of social issues. This connection to my professors and the ability to witness first-hand, their love and passion for the work really ignited the fire in me to fight for educational equity. Being molded by my professor’s ability to teach and do so in an entertaining and effective way inspires me to inspire my kids everyday.

The atmosphere at CMU also gave way for my success in this unique situation. It was my time out of the classroom, just as much as my time in the classroom that prepared me. I was fortunate enough to receive a scholarship to the Colorado Capital Conference where I heard Senator Cory Booker talk about the importance of education in low-income and disadvantaged communities like the one he lived in during his first campaign. It was these snippets that encouraged me and guided me into the position that I am in today and CMU opened up nearly all of those doors for me.

What was your transition like from being a student to your current career position?

Transitioning from student life to being in the professional world can be a bit chaotic. The common myth that working is easier because the work ends when you go home is completely false. I am working 24/7 trying my best to do home-visits, student and family outreach, and be as prepared as possible.

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What do you think set you apart from the other applicants for your current position?

My experience 100% set me apart from other applicants. I am in a very competitive program that only accepts about 14% of its applicants. My experience was a result of the care of my professors to write amazing references, my boss JoAnna Gillespie who cared so much and advocated for me to be hired at such an amazing program in the Office of Student Success and the leadership of my peers who elected me to the position of student Trustee, at-large senator and treasurer.

What advice would you give to incoming college students?

My advice to incoming college students is to be whoever you want to be. College success is absolutely possible no matter what. I graduated high school with a 2.7 GPA and a 21 on my ACT. I had also failed two or three classes. I chose to be successful in college and Mesa was the perfect place to do that. Their resources and professors will make sure you are successful if you reach out and ask.

Also, seize every single opportunity. Be a leader; take a class that you are scared of; study abroad (which I wish I did); reach out to professors; start a club, interest group or organization; explore the wonders of the western slope and Utah - do EVERYTHING!

Published 4/4/2018

Meet Mary Bowles, '11

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Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, Certified Clinical Neuropsychotherapist, Rapid Resolution Therapist at MindWise Institute
BA, Psychology with a concentration in Counseling: Colorado Mesa University
MA, Marriage & Family Therapy: Touro University
PSYD, California Southern University (pending)

What do you do on a day-to-day basis?

Most of my days are filled with meetings with clients (couples, families, children and individuals) to help them understand and improve their relationship problems. Other days I am teaching suicide prevention, Co-parenting Through Divorce, 1-2-3 Magic Parenting and how to make relationships brain-wise. I am also preparing for my presentation on Brain-Based Applications Toward Rapid Memory Reconsolidation at the 2nd International Conference on Neuropsychotherapy in Australia next May. On my days off, some of the things I enjoy include spending time vacationing with my husband, spending time with family and reading about neuroscience and its connection to relationships and psychotherapy. Yes, I’m a full-on neuroscience junkie!

How did your experience at CMU prepare you for your career?

I had such great experiences at CMU! CMU helped me prepare for my career in many ways, but first and foremost, by instigating my love of learning. CMU is where I started developing my early interests in memory, learning and relationships. Dr. Ford’s Pysch of Learning course still sticks with me today. It was a hard course, but invaluable for my current and future learning and work. I’ve continually applied knowledge acquired in Dr. Becker’s Counseling Psych and Dr. Bishop’s Interviewing courses. Dr. Parry’s Social Psychology course was a great foundation for the Social Psychology course I taught at Colorado Mountain College. My anthropology classes were equally valuable in teaching me that every other person is normal within the context of their own lives. I better stop there or I’ll get choked up. I’m just a sap like that!

Beyond academics, I met some great friends at CMU! I met people with similar interests in, both, personal and professional capacities. Both made learning fun and I am in touch with many of them still today, personally and professionally. I genuinely have such great memories at CMU!

What was your transition like from being a student to your current position?

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For me, transitioning from a student to a therapist was easy, but only because I had a plan when I started my degree. I modified my plan as I went along, based on new knowledge and new experiences. While in college I saw myself as more than a student. I had to be a worker! School was my career at the time…and considering I am in school again, it must be a life-long career, but one I enjoy! My job in school is to learn. In my career, learning is equally necessary. Using primitive medical practices doesn’t help a patient any more than using primitive therapies. Fortunately, learning about brain-based therapies comes easy to me. Math…math does not. That took work, but it was equally important. So, to answer a common question…yes, I do still use stats, almost daily while I am reading current research.

What do you think set you apart from the other applicants for your current position?

While I work for myself in private practice, I still interact with others in my field. What sets me apart, currently, is that I am one of less than a handful of certified clinical neuropsychotherapists in the United States. I traveled to Australia to complete my certification because it wasn’t offered in the U.S. at the time (Oct 2017 was the first U.S.-based training). At present, Neuropsychotherapy is flourishing in Australia and will soon be inundating the field of psychotherapy in the U.S. Knowledge of brain-based techniques for treating stress and trauma are critical to be effective today.

What advice would you give to incoming college students?

My best advice for incoming college students is to get involved, meet people, follow YOUR dreams, listen to advice (but don’t require yourself to take it) and because every time you access a memory it changes, challenge yourself and everything you’ve ever been taught or think you know. Lastly, always remember, you’re a genius. “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” ~Albert Einstein

Connect with Mary on LinkedIn

 Published 12/13/2017

Meet Shyanne Halalilo, '17

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Case Manager and Director, She Has A Name House
BSW, Social Work

What do you do on a day-to-day basis?

Anyone who has ever been to Africa will understand there is a saying, “This is Africa.” My interpretation of this would be that you never really know what you’re going to get that day. You may have plans to begin a counseling session at 10:00, which actually won’t even start until 11:30. You just have to go with the flow of things. With that being said, the bulk of my day consists of mentoring the girls through academics, spirituality development and basic life skills such as developing healthy relationships, obtaining high self-esteem and various other topics depending on their needs. My job description varies from being a house mother, to counselor, to tutor, to mentor, to friend. I do this by organizing multiple volunteer opportunities for us, teaching bible studies and having both group and one-on-one sessions with each of the girls.

How did your experience at CMU prepare you for your career? 

Playing basketball at CMU prepared me in the sense that even in a third world country, the aspect of hard work is always affiliated with success. The social work program at CMU also equipped me with some of the best professors that truly prepared me for the organizational, counseling and case management skills needed for this job.

What was your transition like from being a student to your current career position?

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As a college student we tend to be in our own world. We go to class, hang out with friends, go to work, do homework, maybe hit the gym and then do it all over again the next day. Working over here in Kenya you never know what you’re going to get that day. The idea of having a set routine that revolves around you and your success isn’t the number one thing in your life. It is a lot less self-focused and a lot more focused on success of others. 

What do you think set you apart from the other applicants for your current position?

Something that set me apart was that I wasn’t looking to get paid lots of money. I think college students often want to jump into working right after they graduate so they can make some decent money and stop being a “typical broke college student.” That wasn’t the case for me, I’m ok with being broke. I consider the experience, stories and great relationships I’ve made to be equivalent to a paycheck.

What advice would you give to incoming college students?

Never underestimate the opportunities college can bring you in life. Not only am I proud of the degree I earned, but I am also so blessed to have the experiences and opportunities to have met some of the greatest people I will ever meet in my life. There will never be anything like your time spent in college, so go for it!

 Published 3/7/2018

Meet Scott & Kumiko Barks, '14 & '15

*Scott and Kumiko met at a 'Meet the Freshman' event, attended the same church and both found a home within the sociology department. They got married in July 2015 and have been happily married two years now. 

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Scott: Forensic Interviewer & Family Advocate, The Western Slope Center for Children
BA Sociology
Kumiko: Care Manager, Hilltop- The Commons Assisted Living Community
BA, Sociology with a minor in Social Work

What do you do on a day-to-day basis?

Scott: I work with both families and children who have been in situations of abuse and neglect.

Kumiko: I work with families to provide the best level of care for their loved ones within our Assisted Living Community. In addition, I oversee the care specialists that assist our residents in their care and Activities of Daily Living (ADL's).

How did your experience at CMU prepare you for your career?

Kumiko & Scott: Being a sociology major, many people often asked us first off what it was, why that major and how could we ever have a successful career with this type of degree. Our response would be that sociology is probably the best critical thinking degree that anyone could ever gain. Within both the sociology and social work program, we gained not only the opportunity to think outside the box but to see and understand people within their cultural context and social norms. Overall, CMU prepared us to challenge the status quo, wear different hats and love our community even more.

What was your transition like from being a student to your current career position?

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Scott: I went from working full-time jobs while attending college and volunteering my time, to focusing in my attention and abilities on something I am passionate about. The transition was simple enough — it’s about finding what you were meant to do.

Kumiko: From the beginning of my time at CMU, I always had a heart to work with older adults, but then when I graduated it’s all a matter of what’s available at the moment. I began applying for various non-profit positions and eventually was blessed with the opportunity to be a life skills coach and direct service provider here in the Grand Valley working with both kids in foster care and individuals with developmental disabilities. After about a year, I ran into another friend of mine who was also a sociology major and she informed me of the open care manager position at The Commons.  

What do you think set you apart from the other applicants for your current position?

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Scott: My presentation in professionalism and my drive. First impressions matter but your employer needs to see what it is that motivates you.

Kumiko: All throughout high school and even throughout college, I did both volunteer work and had a part-time job at an assisted living back on the Front Range. This, along with my course work at CMU, is what I truly believe set me apart from other applicants. I had some basic experience, a background in geriatric studies and compassion to serve others. 

What advice would you give to incoming college students?

Scott: College will give you little if you’re there for the wrong reasons. If you want it to matter, then approach it like a job. If you can’t do that, then your convictions towards what it is you want to do are pointing you a different direction. Be willing to adapt and learn to operate under pressure so that you’ll be well-prepared for life — not just school.

Kumiko: Attend class, visit your professors frequently for assistance/advice and enjoy all the opportunities college has to offer! Take the opportunity to explore different clubs on campus, volunteer around the community and make connections with both your professors and peers. You never know, one of those connections could lead you to your next career path. 

Published 5/16/2018

Meet Spencer McAdoo, '11

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Brand Content Manager, Academy Sports + Outdoors
BBA - Marketing & Finance; BS - Sports Management

What do you do on a day-to-day basis?

Academy Sports + Outdoors is a 5-billion-dollar sporting goods retail chain with 240 stores in 17 states throughout the southeast. My role as a Brand Content Manager is to manage our brand content team and strategy which includes our digital video assets for our social platforms (i.e. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube), our TV broadcast assets for our relationship with the Southeast Conference (SEC), ESPN and our influencer relationships with professional athletes, TV Shows and ESPN analysts. A typical day for me is comprised mostly of film production, where I manage our strategy for each specific shoot we're on. This past year I filmed things like flounder gigging in knee-deep gator-infested swamps in Louisiana with Marty Smith from ESPN, large scale sporting events like the Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl and Holiday Gift Guide videos with pro athletes such as Houston Astro shortstop, Carlos Correa. There's never really a dull moment in the sports and outdoor space.

How did your experience at CMU prepare you for your career? 

My experience at CMU was really the foundation for the success I've had in my career, and my time as a student-athlete at CMU was monumental for my growth as a person. I had unbelievable coaches like Coach Ramunno, Robidoux and Stafford and many more along the way, that helped shape my character and attitude. No matter what, they taught me to always fight for my goals and aspirations even if they were too big for me. Those lessons truly prepared me for the workplace. I also had the opportunity to study business under amazing professors that truly invested in you like Dr. Bridge, Dr. Hatten, Dr. Fossett, Dr. Bell and Dr. Moorman. The list of great professors at CMU is obviously longer than this and I can say that all of the skills I learned from them I use today. Most importantly, my teammates were the best group of men I could ask to be around and it prepared me to make great connections throughout my career and build lasting relationships at my workplace.

What was your transition like from being a student to your career position? 

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 My first job right out of college I was working from 4 am-6 pm every day, it was exhausting. Something I learned is that you have to keep trying until a better opportunity presents itself. If you work hard, opportunities will come along, and you'll catch a break. Mine came when I was offered a position as an Associate Brand Manager for Cabela's Inc. at their headquarters in Sidney, Nebraska (a 2,000 person town in rural Nebraska). There I learned all about TV broadcast and social media strategy from some very bright people at both Cabela's and our ad agency, Ogilvy & Mather in New York City.

What do you think set you apart from the other applicants for your current position?

When it comes down to it, one thing that can set you apart from the rest of the pack is your work ethic. Whether it was 6 am running in zero degree temperatures, practices, homework or finals, I was prepared to take on whatever life threw at me because of CMU. For me, I moved to six different cities and three states over the past ten years for career opportunities or promotions. Sometimes it's just what you have to do to get ahead.

What advice would you give to incoming students?

This is really for any student at CMU. I've got no magic formula so take it for what it's worth, but here are a few tips that might help. Sign up for the 8 am classes, build good habits, study and go to class. Don't be afraid to get a tutor either. I wish I took that advice sooner. Do yourself a favor, get an internship! Trust me, I took the long road and could've made life a little easier on myself. That one internship could separate your application from the next college graduate. The last thing, have fun with your friends and enjoy the wonderful city of Grand Junction and all that it has to offer. It's truly a special place at CMU.

Connect with Spencer on LinkedIn

Published 3/13/2019