My First Year Out (So Far) – Olivia Peña ’17

Today we have another edition of My First Year Out, featuring your classmate Olivia Peña. From graduate school at UVM to travels in Kenya and interning in Senator Patrick Leahy’s office, she’s been up to quite a bit since graduation. Take some time to read her great story below.

Describe your first year out:

After a busy, action-packed senior year, I wanted to take some time to decompress before starting graduate school. When not traveling, I decided to spend most of my summer in Burlington and working. Prior to graduating in the spring, I was hired from as a research assistant by the Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Systems group at the Gund Institute on campus. I held a similar position during senior year as an intern for CCAFS, and was able to continue the research of food waste and climate change over the summer. It was a great opportunity to learn more about the environmental impacts of agriculture and food systems while also gaining a firsthand understanding of the research process for a project funded by USAID. The research position was also flexible enough to enjoy the Vermont summer. Spending the summer here was a great time to hike through the beautiful Green Mountains, explore swimming holes, go to local breweries, and watch Lake Monsters games without the constraints of homework or classes.

What was your biggest challenge, and how did you overcome it?

Through the accelerated Food Systems masters program, I was able to begin my graduate work during my senior year. Fall 2017 was my first semester fully in the graduate program, and it’s been a challenging yet rewarding journey thus far. Specifically, I think the level of analysis associated with the graduate work has been totally mind-bending. My professors have introduced new ways of thinking and knowing (this is called epistemologies) and various concepts from different subjects of which I was not previously familiar. However, through this challenge, I have learned the importance of reaching out and asking for additional help. Even though graduate school is a higher level of learning than in undergraduate, professors are still very willing to help you understand and talk through different concepts.

I had a unique opportunity during the fall to intern in Senator Patrick Leahy’s office. This comprehensive position entailed interacting with community members through phone calls and letters, assisting staff members, and conducting research on various topics and policies. I was also fortunate to be able to attend different outreach events with staffers ranging from agricultural hearings to naturalization ceremonies. It was hard work, but definitely confirmed that I would like to work in a policy or public administration position one day.

What are you doing now?

2018 was off to an interesting start as I spent the first two weeks in Kenya on a service-learning trip. Through the Nutrition and Community Development departments, we prepared three different projects for our community partners centering on public health, entrepreneurship, and food systems. It was a great opportunity to take my skills gained the classroom in food systems and community development and apply them to a real life situation. This trip was also a cultural exchange in a way, as we stayed in authentic Kenyan hotels near the communities with whom we worked and ate indigenous foods. Sukuma wiki means kale in Swahili, and I’m happy to say that it is a delicious staple in their diet. I would be in remiss if I did not say that a highlight of the trip was the safari in the Masai Mara Reserve. Seeing wild elephants up close was incredible, until they trumpeted at our safari van as if to say, “okay now, back off!”

I’m currently on my last semester of courses for my master’s degree. In conjunction, I am also working on my research for my final project. This is a highly self-directed process, meaning that there is a lot of planning and personal motivation required to create, shape, and carry out your project plan. My research is focused on understanding the current state of community and stakeholder involvement in Vermont during the Farm Bill policy development process, and the ways by which stakeholders go about communicating their needs to policymakers and representatives. I’m hoping that the outcome of my project will be a guidebook that can be used as a tool for all Vermonters interested in getting involved and communicating their needs from food and agricultural policy.

Any advice to classmates?

My advice for my fellow classmates and future UVM graduates is to not be afraid to reach out and ask others for help. Whether from your parents, friends, peers, previous professors, new bosses, or even various departments throughout UVM, they are always willing to offer guidance to help you continue to succeed. I have found that the support didn’t end at graduation when it comes to my undergraduate professors. Your friends and family know you best, and have been there every step of the way through the college journey and likely want to continue to support your journey. I am privileged that I have my family and friends (thanks Goonsquad!) by my side as I continue on this next phase.

 

Know someone like who is doing something really cool in their first year out?

We’re Calling You Next Week (To Catch Up)

Hi all,

After months of emails, it’s time to for us to chat…like for real! We personally wish we could speak with all of you individually, but we have employed the Chatty Cats to do it for us.

Don’t worry, this is not some secret ploy to ask you for money.  Yes, the Chatty Cats typically fundraise for UVM, but not this time — they are just calling to check-in, ask a few questions, and get your feedback.

We will try to call your cell phone number — if we have it — and our number will show up as 802-656-9999.

To make sure we reach you, you can update your phone number using this form.

Here’s why the call is important: It helps us understand how you are doing so far in your first year out, AND you will have the opportunity to tell us how you would like to stay involved with UVM. It’s your opportunity to give feedback – positive or negative – and make your voice heard.

Talk to you soon!

Eat UVM, a Vermont Themed Giveaway!

So, in case you guys didn’t know, here at Afterword, we are very food motivated.

And we wanted to share some of our favorite local snacks and treats, with our favorite readers – you all! It turns out a lot of the local Vermont products are also directly connected to UVM alums! Our alumni are a productive bunch, and we wanted to highlight a few of the things that they’re crafting for us to eat (or drink).

To make this week even more special, we’re doing a giveaway just for you! Everything in the picture above is produced in Vermont, and most of them are UVM Alumni owned companies! So, read on for more about these products, and enter to win a Vermont Care Package!

So, lets learn about some awesome alumni made products first:

SAP!:

Do you watch Shark Tank? If you do, you might have seen SAP! on the most recent episode. They’re an alumni owned maple soda company – and they also make Maple Seltzer, as well as Birch Seltzer!

Bove’s:

We were all sad to say goodbye to the one and only Bove’s restaurant, home of the most amazing lasagna this side of the Green Mountains, but their amazing sauce is still being produced, and their family business is still going strong!

Have you heard of Dakin Farms?

We love their products, and they’re another UVM Alumni run business! Some favorites include the Summer Sausage, Strawberry Jam, Maple Syrup (of course) and, Maple Popcorn!

All of those Dakin Farm products are included in the giveaway care package!

Polar:

Feelin’ parched? Another UVM Alumni product is here to help. That’s right, your favorite seltzer, Polar, is one of ours too! (Ryan recommends the Cranberry Clementine).

My Little Cupcake:

We love when Alumni decide to grow their businesses right here in Burlington, and we especially love dropping in to My Little Cupcake for a treat every now and then.

Wilcox Ice Cream:

Speaking of sweet treats, did you know that Wilcox Ice Cream is an Alumni Product? They have all your favorite flavors, including Black Raspberry, Rum Raisin, and Rocky Road!

Jasper Hill Farm:

We couldn’t get through this post without mentioning some Vermont Cheese. Even though we won’t be able to ship it to you, we wanted to mention Jasper Hill Farms Moses Sleeper – an amazing soft cheese, just one of the many more they produce in Greensboro Bend VT!

Lake Champlain Chocolates:

Lake Champlain Chocolates is another favorite, especially their hot chocolate on a cold day down on Church Street!

Did you know that all of the products we’ve mentioned so far are crafted by UVM Alumni? But wait, there are a few more that are simply made in Vermont, that we just had to share, because we like our local stuff.

Here are a few more Vermont products that will be included in the giveaway!

 

Butterfly Bakery Of Vermont:

Butterfly Bakery of Vermont makes lots of things: cookies, mustard, granola, and hot sauces! They use all locally grown peppers, and partner directly with farmers near them! We selected the Maple Sugar Shack Sriracha, but they also have a Heady Topper Hot Sauce!

Nutty Steph’s:

Have you heard of Nutty Steph’s? They make amazing granola (including a gluten free option), chocolate confections, trail mix, and baking products! They’ve been one of Kathryn’s personal favorites, and are a Vermont based company.

Want to win some of these amazing snacks? Click through to enter the giveaway, and two lucky winners will receive a Vermont Care Package, directly from us!

(Only products pictured in the top image will be sent in the care package- we’re not wizards, we can’t ship you ice cream, cheese, or cake pops – but if you want some, come back and visit Vermont!)

Checking in With Your Classmates

This week we’re doing our first round of check ins!

We reached out to Darla Quijada, Meghan Egan, and Kelton Bogasky to see what they have been up to since graduation. We also asked them a few fun “this or that” questions to see what Burlington experiences they prefer.

We are always looking to hear from more of you, so click the button at the bottom of this post to refer a friend (or yourself)!

Enjoy!

What are you up to in your first year out of UVM?

I am currently working as Research Technician for the Center for Virology and Vaccines at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston MA (it is a mouthful to say let me tell you!). I am part of Dr. Kathryn Stephenson’s lab that focuses on interventions to prevent and treat HIV and emerging infectious diseases like Zika virus. Most of the research technicians are in the same situation as me where we all more education in the near future. I graduated studying Animal and Veterinary Sciences, but the work I do overlaps with the many prerequisite classes and lab experience. In my spare time, I take pottery classes and attend/teach Zumba classes!

What are you looking forward to in the next year? What do you think will be your biggest challenge? 

In this upcoming year, I hope to visit places where I can potentially see myself living and studying. This could be a great opportunity to figure out what kind of programs and schools I want to apply for. Location is very important to me for I want there to be diversity, affordable living expenses, and food culture! My biggest challenge will be to make sure I keep my mind open about each place and not stress about the little things!

What are you up to in your first year out of UVM?

Since graduation, I’ve spent a month taking a cooking course in Paris (I planned this in about a week and is probably the most spontaneous thing I’ve ever done). And since September I’ve been working at Guidepoint as a Healthcare Research Analyst in New York City.

What are you looking forward to in the next year? What do you think will be your biggest challenge? 

I’m looking forward to continue growing and learning in my current position and just take everything day by day. Being able to come home without having to worry about assignments and tests is a pretty great feeling!

My biggest challenge this year will likely be studying for the LSATs. Other than that, I’m just taking everything day by day and seeing what life throws my way.

What are you most proud of since you graduated?

I don’t think I’m particularly proud of anything in particular. I’m proud of how I’ve been handling the post-grad life—I’ve been able to do some exploring and start working in my favorite city. I’m proud of myself for being proactive and satisfied about the choices I’ve made thus far.

What are you up to in your first year out of UVM?

I began working for Pi Kappa Alpha International Fraternity and have had the opportunity to visit over 28 schools in Florida, Georgia, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Illinois, Tennessee, Texas, and Louisiana. This upcoming semester I am heading down to the University of Miami for two months to recolonize our chapter. I have had the opportunity to travel all across the United States and experience all different cultures

What are you looking forward to in the next year? What do you think will be your biggest challenge? 

I am looking forward to starting a new PIKE chapter at the University of Miami. I think that my biggest challenge will be deciding what I will do next. I am from Boston so I will have to decide if I want to move up with PIKE and continue living in Tennessee or move on to a new job.

What are you most proud of since you graduated?

I am proud of the PIKE guys at Vermont because they keep on doing incredible things. This past semester the chapter fund-raised enough money to send brothers to help rebuild homes in Haiti. I also love seeing their continued efforts to End Alz. It is always great seeing something that played a huge part in your college career continue to succeed. Also, this past summer Vermont PIKE was recognized with the Smythe Award by the International Fraternity which is the highest honor a PIKE chapter can receive.

My First Year Out – Joseph Thomas ’08

Hey everyone, we hope you are settling in nicely to the new year. Remember a few months back when we featured class of 2016 graduate Sarah Weiss? She shared a bit about what she was up to in her her first year out of school. You can read her story here.

This week, and in the months to come, we will continue to feature young alumni and their first year experiences. Feel inspired to share yours? Check out the end of this post to see how you can.

Joseph Thomas is a 2008 graduate and current UVM Foundation Fellow who has spent time in numerous locations around the country working in politics and has recently landed back in his hometown of New York City. Check out his story below.

Describe your first year out:

My first year out I lived in Washington D.C. I worked as a Staff Assistant on the Senate Judiciary Committee, with Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, who was then Chairman of the committee. it was right at the beginning of the Obama Administration, we worked on the first expansion of federal hate crimes legislation, and the first to include any type of protections for LGBT individuals on a federal level, and the confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, for me it was a great time to be in D.C.

What was your biggest challenge, and how did you overcome it?

Trying to balance having so much free time and no homework to do. I never had things like expendable income, free time and a new city to discover. Friends and coworkers helped me out, friends were coming down to DC and I was able to discover new parts of the city I had not been able to see.

What did you learn from this experience?

I learned from this experience that the first year out of college after so much time in school can be scary, and challenging, but manageable. College helps you discover a lot about who you are, but learning and growing doesn’t stop when college does. For me this was my first time really being on my own without the college safety net to help me and I learned a great deal about my own ability to be independent.   

What are you doing now?

I am a lawyer and I am getting ready to start working with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Office as a Liaison on Community Affairs.  Just before this new role I came off of working on the de Blasio Campaign working in my hometown of The Bronx, and before that working on the Clinton Campaign, doing Voter Protection Work in Wisconsin.  

Any advice?

Challenge yourself, your first year out. There is so much you can learn about yourself. Take the time to try out things you’ve never done. Within my first year I tried yoga (wasn’t a fan) Skydiving (I was a fan) went to plays, musicals, museums, and I traveled to different cities, all things I never gave myself time to do in college and wish that I had. It was a rewarding experience because of how much I discovered about my likes and dislikes and all the cool things any city, no matter where you are has amazing things to offer.

Want to share your first year out so far? Email us at afterword@uvm.edu