student Spotlight

February Student Spotlight with Melanie Pagán, MSEd '18

feb 18 student spotlight

For many Higher Education Administration students, working in the world of higher education isn’t just dedicated to a handful of years – it’s a long-term commitment that reflects their drive and passion. MSEd student, Melanie Pagán offers career advancement advice, talks about her experience in higher education, and more.

How did you get into the field of Higher Education?
I feel as if I was always working towards a career in higher education, especially student affairs, but not fully aware of it until after college. I was really involved as an undergraduate student at Bradley University. I was an admissions tour guide, worked at the art gallery, served as a Resident Assistant (RA) and the president of the Latino Student Association. At that time, I didn’t understand that I was preparing for my career outside of the classroom, as much as within. With the endless support of my mentor at the multicultural center, I attended leadership conferences in Chicago, developed a collegiate leadership program in my last year, which resulted in a deeper understanding and appreciate of higher education and a great relationship with my university president. After graduation, I moved to the east coast for a job in higher education and, about 8 years later, I serve as the Associate Director of Student Services at Yale University’s School of Nursing.

What is the most important lesson you have learned in your 8 years in higher education?
You have to build relationships with everyone, from the custodial workers to the dean. We really underestimate the importance of genuine relationships with our peers and colleagues. I wouldn’t be able to do the work that I do if it wasn’t for the relationships I created with dozens of people in different departments at my institution, and colleagues at other institutions.

What do you believe one can do inside/outside of the classroom to advance their career?
Similar to my thoughts about building relationships, you should get to know your professors and the administrators at your institution. Pick their brains, learn about their trajectory, how they’ve dealt with difficult situations and their recommendations. Outside of the classroom, you have to get involved (even after college). Whether it’s a student organization, alumni group, professional association, or committee at your job. These volunteer based organizations help you learn how to motivate others for a common goal (especially when there isn’t a momentary gain). It’s also a great way to network and gain exposure.

You’re a part of numerous organizations. What drives you?
The relationships with the amazing individuals in these organizations is what drives me. I’ve been presenting at ACPA’s National Conference for the last three years and it was really due to the seasoned leaders around me that motivated and mentored me through the process. I’ve meet colleagues over the years are always so willing to share best practices and they are all just a phone call away. And have worked with alumni from my alma mater who are just as motivated to support the generation of students that came after us. They make being involved worthwhile.