My First Year Out: Sarah Weiss ’16

This week, we’re back to connecting with other young alumni, and hearing about their experiences in our series My First Year Out.

Sarah Weiss, a 2016 graduate, has been exploring the depths of the ocean, from Massachusetts to the Bahamas!

Describe your first year out:

My first year out of UVM has been quite the whirlwind experience and by far the fastest year of my life.  Despite living in VT for the past 15 years, I’ve decided to get my feet wet and pursue the world of marine biology.

After traveling abroad with my family right after graduation, I moved to Plymouth, MA to delve into the world of whales.  I interned with the non-profit organization, Whale and Dolphin Conservation.

This proved to be an incredible experience and only further confirmed my love of whales and mola molas (google it). In this opportunity, I was a field researcher and naturalist working on whale watching boats around Cape Cod, collecting  photo-ID and population-monitoring research primarily on the  population of humpback whales in the Gulf of Maine. I was incredibly fortunate to go on 62 whale watches last summer, seeing whales (and sharks, and dolphins, oh my!) on every trip.

Let me tell you, dreams do come true.

After the internship with WDC, I moved to Woods Hole, MA (the bottom tip of Cape Cod) to intern at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center doing whale acoustic research.

After a few months of analyzing the singing behavior of sei whales, I packed up and moved to the island of Eleuthera in the Bahamas to do shark, ray, and deep sea research with the Cape Eleuthera Institute.

This was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience as I got to be out in the field everyday working with so many diverse species in their natural habitats. The sharks of course were incredibly exciting, especially the days we caught  a 10.5 ft tiger shark and and an 11 ft great hammerhead shark!  The picture above is me being completely dwarfed by the dorsal fin of that Great Hammerhead.

The deep sea research in particular really blew my mind as well, as there is so little known about this huge environment that covers such a large percentage of the planet.

[Fun fact: 72% of the planet is covered by water.  Of that 72% of water, 98% is considered to be the deep sea (anything below 200m). Yet only 5% of the deep sea has ever been explored!]

In this sense, our deep sea research essentially aimed to figure out what exists down there, and where exactly we can find it.

5 months, thousands of giant isopods, and 14 stitches later (life wasn’t always a beach), I finally came home from the Bahamas, only to quickly take off once again to travel to Hawaii and Israel, visiting friends and taking advantage of international rugby opportunities.

Though I was heartbroken to leave the ocean and the Israeli hummus behind, I was ecstatic to have the chance to return home to VT for a few weeks to (ideally) catch my breath and relax before taking off on my next adventure.

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

One of my biggest challenges so far has been dealing with transitions. 

I am horrible with change and as you can probably tell, my life since graduation has been filled with nothing but transitions. From new places, new jobs, and constantly changing casts of characters to interact with, change has become a constant and flexibility a necessity in my life.

While I have not completely overcome this challenge by any means, I aim my focus on taking life one day at a time.

What are you doing now?

I just recently moved back to Woods Hole, MA where I have returned to working with NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center and the Passive Acoustic Research group. My current project focuses on North Atlantic right whales and using passive acoustic monitoring devices to study their migratory corridors.

Essentially, I am slowly learning how to speak whale day by day.  

I’m excited to see what else I can be exposed to while I’m here, as I continue to test the waters and see if the world of marine biology is right for me.


Thanks for sharing with us, Sarah, and we hope you can report back once you’ve learned how to speak fluent whale, and let us know what they have to say.


Checkin’ in with some Cool Catamounts

Hey Gang!

Remember back in June when we shared the audio compilation of all the hopes and fears of the graduating class of 2017? (See the original post here).

We wanted to check back in with a few of them, and see how things are going.

So, we’ve embedded their original answers, and then followed up with their updated responses. Check out how Emma and Rozy are doing!


Emma Oyomba:

So, I have stuck with the plan I gave you and I am currently in living in London doing my masters program in Advertising & PR.

I am starting my third week of classes and love it. I am currently looking for an internship while I am in school.

Moving back to London was what I was most excited about and it has not disappointed me yet!

I am nervous about not being able to get a job here after my visa is over. It is pretty hard for non UK & EU citizens to come and work here, especially with the uncertainty of Brexit.

I miss Burlington and just the student life. I miss having a bunch of friends that live within a block or two of me. I miss campus, especially when we had beautiful weather!


Rozy Isquith:

I’m still working as a scenic painting apprentice at Goodspeed Musicals. I am currently painting Rags–a revised musical dealing with themes of America immigration—and will soon begin painting for A Connecticut Christmas Carol. After December, I am working as the scenic designer for Goldilocks and Sleeping Beauty for the Bridgeport Cabaret Children’s Theatre.

I am excited to continue painting, learning new techniques, and meeting other artists in the world of scenic art and design. Meeting other people who have succeeded in making this niche career work—hearing how they paint at different theaters all across the country, and what unique projects they have worked through– has been a really important, encouraging, and exciting part of post-grad life. I can’t wait to continue.

I am mainly nervous about two things: 1) working as a freelance artist—continuing to coordinate jobs on a weekly basis following this steady apprenticeship 2) making the decision to, or not to enroll in an MFA program.

I definitely miss Burlington as a city—everything from its location between the lake and  mountains, art events (art hop, live music, free dress rehearsals at the Flynn Space), and abundance of good coffee!

Specific to UVM– I miss the theatre department (spending lots of time in the drafting room), taking a wide variety of classes and finding several surprisingly good gen ed lectures, the Cyber Café, and walking through such a beautiful campus every day (especially in the late summer early fall)!

Domino’s, Dining Halls, and Dives: Episode 3

Hey gang, we’re back at it again, eating our way through the sights of Burlington.

This time, we’re joined by 2017 Grad Kat Dooman!

Kat graduated last May, and has been living and working in Burlington! We caught up with her to grab a bite to eat and chat about how things are going.

Our original plan was to go to Farmhouse Tap and Grille (fancy, right?) but unfortunately they were closed doing renovations that day! So we turned back to Church Street, and grabbed the next best place:

Ken’s Pizza!

This Burlington Classic has been an institution on Church Street for as long as anyone can remember, and always seems to be busy. We grabbed a table and ordered some classics on this beautiful late summer day.

So Kat, what makes Ken’s such a Burlington favorite?

“Ken’s has always been a favorite for my friends and I. It has great outdoor seating so you can people watch during the summer. No matter how dead Church Street might be, it seems like Ken’s is always busy and full of people having a good time. In the winter when it’s freezing and you’re walking down the street, it’s really hard to resist the smell of pizza. It’s also a great place to go if you’re on a tight budget – the prices are really reasonable and the portions are usually enough to last me for at least two meals. It’s a go-to spot when my coworkers and I want a quick bite after work, or when my roommates and I are too tired to cook. ”

What did we all order?

Chicken Parm Sandwich

Eggplant & Roasted Red Pepper Sandwich

The Pub Club

Now, back to Kat’s story:

How has your first summer out of college been so far?

It’s definitely been an adventure! I did a bit of traveling – I went to Barcelona right before graduation, and tried to take advantage of the beautiful, albeit rainy, summer. I also spent a lot of my free time applying for some full time jobs while still working as a Gallery Assistant at Frog Hollow, but nothing seemed like quite the right fit. My patience paid off, though, because I was recently promoted to Operations Manager. I’m thrilled to have this opportunity to take on more responsibility and to continue to work with so many talented artists from all over Vermont.

What has been your biggest challenge?

I think my biggest challenge so far has been trying to figure out what exactly I’m going to do now that I’ve graduated. I always knew I wanted to work in the art world, but getting my foot in the door was challenging.

How are you working on overcoming it?

I ultimately decided to stay in Burlington for another year, taking some time to really figure out what path I wanted to take. I was looking at potentially going to grad school, applying for volunteer positions, and just trying to stay involved in the artistic community however I could. I got really lucky with my new position at Frog Hollow, and I’m happy to say I plan on sticking around Burlington for the foreseeable future.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far?

I have come to realize that the effort you put into things (whether it’s work, friendships, or relationships) doesn’t go unnoticed. If you’re consistent and motivated, then you can absolutely accomplish anything you set your mind too.

 Any advice for your classmates?

The best advice I can give is not to get too panicked about figuring out what you’re going to do with your life. There’s a lot of pressure on recent grads to have everything figured out, and I know it can get overwhelming at times, but I also think things have a way of working out if you put in the time and energy. Most of all, try not to stress out too much over the uncertainty of the future.

Well Kat, We certainly agree with that advice. And we’re so glad that your patience paid off!

Want to be the next person we take out to lunch? Know of a secret deli that has the best sandwiches? Recommend a place for us to eat!

Maybe we’ll see you next time, but until then, hope you’re happy as this pizza-pooch.

Get Off the Pile: Survey Results!

Remember two weeks ago when you took a survey about personal finance for us?

We’re here to report back on the results, and take a look at what topics within the world of personal finance you all would like to learn more about!

So, Let’s check it out.

tl;dr: You all are interested in hearing more about the important stuff, like retirement funds, investing, and budgeting – Awesome!

The more we looked at these results, the more realized your interests boiled down to two thematic categories: Personal budgeting and Employee benefits.

A lot of you had suggestions on other topics for us to cover, and we’ll weave those in as well. First, we’re going to tackle some of these bigger topics, and then circle back to some of your suggestions.

In the meantime, we’ve reached out to our personal finance experts to get their input, including a professor here at UVM and an alum who is a professional financial advisor

We’re also collecting top-notch and easy-to-use resources from across the internet, so you’ll have access to all the personal finance information you could ever want!

Remember, we’re not experts at this either. So, we’re looking forward to learning about these things as much as you are!

Thanks for following along,

Kathryn ’15 and Ryan ’10

Get Off the Pile: Cover Letters, 2017 Edition

Here at Afterword, we want to provide helpful advice to guide you through the real world of job searches, interviews, personal finance and much more. This series “Get Off the Pile” is where we focus on these topics.

Right now, a lot of you are job searching, or preparing for that process as the summer winds down, so, this week we ask “how can you get off the pile of endless applications with a stellar cover letter”?

Andrew Flewelling, our HR expert at the UVM Foundation has some helpful tips for how to write great cover letters. Andrew has a graduate degree from UVM and is the Senior Director of Human Resources here at the UVM Foundation. Today he’s going to discuss writing expert cover letters.

The Basics

When it comes to cover letters, the most common mistake I see is that the applicant merely restates what their resume says. I CAN read, so there is no need to make a sentence out of a bullet that is listed on the next page.

Instead, a good cover letter is one that does my work for me. It clearly articulates why the position is of interest; and illuminates the skills and abilities that make the applicant special.

It’s great to talk about a few (2-3 max) examples of success. Bonus points if the applicant can quantify the success (% increase, overall sales, maximized efficiency by x measure, etc…).

What Makes a Cover Letter Stand Out?

The letters that really stand out are the ones in which the applicant takes their experiences, skills, and successes, and synthesizes them for me, highlighting their direct and/or transferable nature for the position they seek. The best letters demonstrate that the writer knows enough about the position to be able to overlay their own skills on what we are looking for.

Tips for Writing a Stand-out Cover Letter

1. Keep it to one page. And be aware of the formatting — dense, long paragraphs in eight point type are not good practice.

2. State the important. In the opening paragraph, mention the position applied for and where the listing was posted. In the rest of the letter, discuss what the position requires (skills, characteristics, temperament, values, etc.) and demonstrate/prove that you possess those requirements.

3. Mix it up. Use a good mixture of short declarative statements and longer, multi clause sentences to make sure the letter flows.

4. Be Yourself. Don’t be afraid to inject a bit of personal passion. Depending on the position, it may be appropriate to articulate your understanding of the importance of the position to the company, industry, society overall. You should also be able to articulate why the position is important to you.

5. Read it out loud. Hearing yourself will help you catch mistakes, missed references or awkward phrasing. Have a friend do this with you too, it always helps to double check.

6. Proofread to perfection. Incorrect grammar, spelling, and punctuation are non-negotiable deal breakers.