Spotlight on: Sarah Williamson

Sarah Williamson
Sarah Williamson is a first-year lecturer at UVM this semester

Sarah Williamson is a first-year lecturer at UVM this semester in CDAE department of CALS. She lectures in design fundamentals and applications, as well as data visualization and storytelling through different mediums. 

Can you describe your education and career journey thus far? What were the major milestones?

I am a born and raised Vermonter, so I wanted to get out of the state as soon as I turned 18. I studied at Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida but before that I decided to travel abroad and lived in South Africa and volunteered at a children’s home outside of Cape Town. Looking back, I realize that “volunteer-tourism” at the children’s home has some critical ethical issues in terms of child development and attachment. But despite the ethical dilemma the trip opened my world and informed my future career focus, so it was valuable for me.

When I got back, I had this international experience fresh in my mind. I double majored in journalism and sociology.

I started working for a photographer shooting weddings. I worked through college, and it became my main source of income. I wanted to become a photojournalist since I loved traveling the world and telling stories, but the wedding photography took me in a different direction, and I ended up starting my own business shooting weddings. I realized I could work for myself and make money, while also having time for personal projects.

One of my major career milestones was opening a studio called Studio C. It was here that I met my mentor, Sarah Simmons, when I was 22. I ended up becoming involved with her nonprofit, Future Coalition, which works in India specifically with Muslim women and women who’ve been previously trafficked or who live in areas that do not have access to education. I created a workshop on healing and photography working with survivors of trafficking, which was amazing. I became kind of a seasonal entrepreneur, spending my time in Florida and then 3-4 months abroad.

I decided I wanted to go to graduate school because despite being on the ground working with disadvantaged international communities, I didn’t really have a grasp as to why it was that way. I studied International Affairs with a focus on gender violence and labor at the New School in New York. I looked at the crossover between human trafficking and garment labor. At the New School I worked with amazing people and resituated myself in who I am as a scholar, an entrepreneur and storyteller. I realized I wanted to teach and share, which led me to teaching at UVM. Today I’m still working on projects with a few non-profits which is a little overwhelming, but I’m so excited to share my knowledge and work with students. 

What is one piece of advice you would give to yourself as an undergrad? 

Explore outside of your major, especially in your experiences. In my undergraduate degree, I was deeply invested in print journalism and sociology and wrote a ton of papers. I loved every moment of it. But I never took a photography class or a business class and would have never imagined I would end up being a business owner. I realized that I could combine the storytelling of journalism and photography with the business side of things. It’s important to have a mindset of learning by doing and combining disciplines, especially in today’s world where unless you’re in a certain field like medicine or engineering, your jobs are probably going to change as you develop your career and interests. Its valuable to have a variety of skills, like finance, that can be applied to a lot of different roles and positions. With them, you’ll be able to work with a lot of different people and you’ll learn how to navigate the job world. Another thing I would say is to find a mentor, like I did with Sarah. I met her by chance when I was photographing a holiday event for a women’s group, and it ended up changing my entire life trajectory. I learned the skills that have helped me build my career.

What is your dream career? 

I think I’m working towards my dream career right now. It would be leading students in study abroad programs and focusing on how to do that in a respectful and responsible way. I think it could even be outside of academia, I want to think about the idea of a “student” and extend it to people in the community as well. I like leading, organizing, traveling, meeting with partners, so I want to make that a part of my service as a professor. 

What excites you about your field or your work? 

What excites me is that I’m able to talk to so many different people every day. Right now, I’m working one day a week for a global health nonprofit looking specifically at cervical cancer prevention in communities where women have no access to gynecology. The organizer was the first ever nurse practitioner in the state of Vermont to do any types of abortions as a nurse practitioner! I talk to her every day as her communications person for the organization, 

but I never would be in that space without being this multifaceted communication person who understands global health from my work in grad school. I get to apply my own lens of how to tell the stories and what the issues mean for vast audiences. And after that, I go and meet with this coffee company who’s working with their coffee producer communities. As they’re telling me about Q Grade coffee I’m thinking, “This is all connected to my job right now!” And the next day, I’m talking to someone in India, and the next day I’m in the classroom at UVM. All the roles are different but have similar goals, they’re all just working in different fields in different ways. 

What inspires you? 

What inspires me is talking to others with similar interests and just being able to learn. Right now, I get inspired from working and learning from students. I’m a younger professor so I feel I can connect with students easily, but there’s still enough of a generational gap where I learn about things I didn’t know or hadn’t thought of before. The students now grew up in a very different era than when I did. I’m inspired by how much mental health is talked about now too, because my generation was behind in all that in the 90s. I love that I’m able to be around students every day that talk about those things and how it connects to what they’re studying and the work they’re doing. Students seem to have just a stronger sense of empathy towards human experience. Even though people speak negatively about Gen Z, like how connected or disconnected they are, there is strong positive change because that generation has been able to see so much and empathize more about how other people are living and being. I am inspired to be a part of that and work with and learn from these passionate students as their professor.

Fall Recess Career Prep

3 things to consider to make the most of your down-time

By Peter Koerella
UVM Career Center

Fall Recess is just around the corner, and a few days of rest are nearly here! Whether you’re planning on relaxing at home or somewhere else, it’s a perfect time to get a head-start on exploring career opportunities! Here’s a few ways to make the most of your time away:

• Reach out to an Alum on UVM Connect: Search through the Directory and make a new connection. You can also look under the “Members” tab in your Interest Groups. Make sure to look for alums with a “Willing to Help” banner above their profile picture. You can also use the Mentoring – Offering Help filters to find alums who are open to discussing career paths, offering job and internship opportunities or networking in the industry. A simple message can go a long way!

• Prep for a Job Shadow during Winter Break: Want to explore an industry or a possible career path? Consider a job shadow! These hands-on experiences are low-risk, highly rewarding chances to get outside the classroom and into a field, to meet folks in the industry, and to see if a career might be right for you! Think about what company or industry you might want to explore and reach out to contacts on UVM Connect to set up a job shadow! Check out the Career Center’s Job Shadow Resources for help finding a job shadow, messaging examples, questions to ask during a job shadow, and how to follow-up.

• Start thinking about summer internship opportunities: Internships engage your strengths, interests, and values, while building your professional network. Interns build reciprocal relationships with community partners and deepen and apply your academic learning. Browse internship opportunities on HandshakeJobs on UVM Connect (type “Internship” in the search bar), and explore micro-internships with Parker Dewey.

Finding time to recharge your mind, body and spirit doesn’t come often during the school year. But a little preparation and investigation into what’s out there can make a big difference.

Going Home.

It’s hard to believe it is almost finals week and the end of the fall semester. The Thanksgiving break serves as a great chance to recharge, prepare and have fun before the end of a busy semester!

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when going home for Thanksgiving break:

  1. Take this time to review your schedule for next semester and see if any classes you are interested in have open spots! Choosing a class that will fulfill you rather than just fulfill a requirement can help soothe the soul.
  2. Connect with alums using UVM Connect! This resource will allow you to connect with UVM alumni who have similar career interests. Use the time this week to reach out to potential mentors who are happy to connect with you to learn more about a chosen field.
  3. Create or polish your resume! With the start of a new semester you probably have an interest to apply to opportunities for the summer and/or fall, so using this time is a great way to get ahead on preparing for that search. For assistance, check out the Career Center’s Resume Module at for further instruction on creating a strong resume.
  4. Take time to relax and take care of yourself- whatever that means for you. Whether that’s cozying up with your favorite Netflix show, grabbing brunch with some friends, traveling to see family, or maybe a combination of the three.

Thanksgiving break allows us to have a week off with no class obligations. So, if you can balance this time away by preparing yourself for the end of the semester, having fun, and taking time to rest you’ll return to UVM ready to close out 2022 feeling strong.

Your Major Does Not Define You

🔆Where will your degree take you? There are endless possibilities!🔆

Many students believe that their undergraduate studies will directly impact what employment opportunities they find. For some students, they may pursue a career related to their major. Others will find career opportunities unrelated to their major. This is normal!  

Matt Wilkerson is the Co-Founder and CEO of Paragon One, a career advisory network. He explains that an undergraduate major provides a structure for how to develop career skills like communication and problem solving, which will serve you well in any career field you pursue. Matt’s advice? “Don’t fall prey to the idea that your major is a life or death decision.”  

What’s the takeaway? Take time to discover your interests and build upon the eight career competencies of critical thinking and problem solving, teamwork, professionalism, communication, leadership, technology skills, self-development, and equity and inclusion awareness. Any major you pursue will allow you to build and develop these skills.  

Looking to read more?

Article from Matt Wilkerson:

Your College Major Does Not Define Your Career:

Spotlight On: Lindsey Brown ’20 – Physician Assistant

Photo of UVM Alum Lindsey Brown '20
Outside of her PA program, Lindsey Brown encourages the importance of self-care. 

Lindsey Brown graduated from UVM in 2020 with a degree in Biochemistry and is now a second-year physician assistant student at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in Manchester, New Hampshire. During her undergraduate years, Brown gained meaningful exposure to a variety of medical environments, through shadowing and hands-on healthcare experience.

While at UVM, Brown contemplated her career options in medicine while participating in impactful experiential activities. She volunteered in Child Life at the UVM Medical Center, and valued the opportunity to play a positive role in the lives of hospitalized children. Brown also gained leadership experience through serving as an orientation leader, a WEventure leader, and participating in an 11-day medical mission trip to Chantilly, Jamaica. Her most intense health-related experiences were gained in her role as a caregiver for the elderly through Home Instead Senior Care. Her responsibilities ranged from bathing, providing palliative and hospice care, and providing companionship to clients. Shadowing various health care providers also gave her valuable insight. Lindsey believes all these experiences were meaningful, motivating, and further strengthened her passion to become a health care provider. After reflecting on her values and future goals, Lindsey concluded that becoming a PA would best allow her to dedicate her career to patients while maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

The first year of PA school, known as the didactic year, is “like trying to drink from a fire hose.” However, Brown recommends that you must “take as many sips” as possible.

Lindsey shared that her UVM pre-health advisor provided a piece of advice that made a large impact on her application process to PA school. The advisor encouraged her to keep a pre-health journal to write about each experience that had an impact on her pre-health journey, which turned out to be especially useful when writing her personal statement and in the interview process.

Following graduation from UVM and while applying to PA school, Brown continued to work in health care, improving her patient interaction skills, gaining a better understanding of the hospital environment, and learning about various medical conditions. She took a full month off directly before starting PA school in order to relax, get organized, and prepare to put her best foot forward as she embarked on her professional training.

 Soon after becoming a PA student, Lindsey recalls being told by a peer mentor that the first year of PA school, known as the didactic year, is “like trying to drink from a fire hose”. Lindsey’s own advice is to “take as many sips” as possible in order to retain a great amount of the information. She also shares how important it is to use the support systems available throughout PA school. She has found the connections she has made with her PA school peers to be extremely valuable. Now in the clinical phase of her training, she is busy rotating through multiple specialty areas. At the time of this interview, she was completing a 5-week pediatrics rotation in Manchester, NH. Although pediatrics is a field that has always intrigued her, she has also enjoyed other rotations in family medicine, dermatology, and OB/Gyn. She finds the clinical year highly rewarding, allowing her to learn about a wide variety of patient conditions, while directly applying her newfound knowledge, and seeing the impact of her care on others.

Outside of her studies, Lindsey pays attention to self-care. She does this by studying in a comfortable Outside of her studies, Lindsey pays attention to self-care. She does this by studying in a comfortable environment with light music and a candle, as well as getting a massage at the end of semesters to relieve tension and have something to look forward to. Brown enjoys boating, spending time on the water, hiking, and spending time with her new French Bulldog, Tito. Lindsey will be spending this summer, May-November in Northern Vermont for five clinical rotations, where she is looking forward to the Vermont summers.

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