Traveling, volunteering, managing a career, and navigating graduate school – it sounds easy, right? Not really, but Alex Cottingham makes it look that way.
Alex recently turned her graduate internship experience into a full-time job, but it wasn’t her academic performance alone that afforded her that position. Instead, she’s been making the most of her experiences and the network she’s built during school to best prepare for this season of professional life.
Her position at The Harbor Entrepreneur Center began as an internship that she received through an alumna who was still in contact with Dr. Ruth-McSwain. Initially, Alex sent out the first email about the position, but after a few exchanges, the conversation between them went cold. Instead of accepting that as defeat, she took initiative and followed up again with the alum to schedule her interview. This is an important lesson that everyone should take note of: sometimes people get busy and need a reminder, and sending a follow-up isn’t necessarily being pushy.
As a result of that communication Alex was offered an internship position at The Harbor. After one short month of working as an intern the director offered Alex a full-time position. He told her that everything she had been learning in her internship was essentially an extended job interview. Obviously she demonstrated her fit for the position, because now she has a job that makes us all green with envy!
Alex handles all of the public relations, communication, and event planning for the Charleston-area Entrepreneur Center, but her professional responsibilities don’t end there. Currently, Alex is a second-year graduate student in the M.A. in Communication program at the University of Charleston, S.C. Like many students, she didn’t exactly have a traditional undergraduate experience. After transferring to the College of Charleston in 2013, it took her a total of five years to complete her B.A. As you can imagine, after five years of school, she wasn’t sure if she was ready to take on an additional two years immediately following graduation. But she decided it was a great opportunity that she couldn’t pass up, and jumped in feet first. Last year, Alex served as Treasurer, and is now President for the Master of Arts in Communication Student Association. As an undergraduate, she interned with One Love Foundation and has since helped establish One Love as an undergraduate student organization on campus. Additionally, she works with the Graduate Student Association and the Graduate Diversity and Inclusion Council. On this topic, Alex shared a thought about how her academic experience influences her professional choices:
“My academic experiences at the College have always been challenging and stimulating. This is something I look for in my professional life as well because I’ve had enough jobs that haven’t required as much critical thinking or effort in the day-to-day. At the College, my classes and my involvement with on-campus groups is so dynamic that there is rarely any sense of monotony. I’m always learning something or doing something and I’m fortunate to have found a position at The Harbor that provides these opportunities as well.”
The most influential part of Alex’s college career happened last summer. Alex had the opportunity to do something that many graduate students don’t: study abroad. Though she didn’t have the opportunity to do so during her undergraduate studies, she was given another chance to as a graduate student. She describes it as the “best and most influential part of [her] educational career.” This past summer, she traveled to Greece, Morocco, Spain, and Portugal with Dr. Ferrara and Professor Wright’s abroad experience. While she spent her summer traveling Europe, Alex used it as a chance to complete an independent study for credit. She researched popular topics in each country of travel. Her research quickly manifested through a volunteer opportunity to work with the refugee crisis in Greece. Alex shared the following story:
“One of the articles I read discussed volunteers who brought hand warmers to one camp and the refugees, unfamiliar and unaware of the little warmers, poured them in their tea and started drinking it! Good intentions do not always have the anticipated outcome. I saw this when we were volunteering in the warehouse [for donated items]. People from all over the world sent in clothes, shoes, toys, etc., but Greece didn’t have the infrastructure to handle it, so the warehouse was stacked to the ceiling with donated items.”
The study abroad experience inspired Alex to do more, though we’re not convinced she needed it since she’s already managing her work, school, and extracurricular life like a pro. This busy girl is on track to graduate in Spring 2018 after two very productive and rewarding years at the University of Charleston, S.C.
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Until next time,