Today’s guest blogger, Appalachian State University alumnus Elliott Kimball, shares his post-graduation journey and reminds students that it’s not just inside the classroom where growth and development occurs!
Tell us a bit about your experience at Appalachian State? What is your major? When did you graduate? How were you involved on campus?
Appalachian was the greatest four-year whirlwind of my life; chaotic and ever-changing more due to my outside involvement than my academic pursuits. I still remember sitting down with my Academic Advisor during Summer Orientation and saying, “I love marketing but math makes me violently ill,” and together we found Communication and Advertising. My faculty were engaged, attentive and accomplished, with just as many academic credentials as experiential. For those hands-on fields like advertising, having someone at the front of the room both able to articulate the theoretical approaches but also an “in-the-trenches” know-how from the agency perspective is invaluable.
What are you doing today?
Advertising, actually. Just kidding. Not there’s anything wrong with advertising, but I wish I knew as an undergraduate that it was advantageous to consider post-graduate opportunities outside of my field of study. Today, after a rather circuitous path, I’m back on a college campus. Currently I serve as the Assistant Director for Student Engagement: Greek Life & Off-Campus Student Programs at the University of North Carolina at Asheville, within the office of Student Activities, Involvement & Leadership. If you feel the need to pause for a moment to remember the poor soul that had to fit that on to a nametag and business card, please do so now.
What experiences have best prepared you for your current professional role?
Because I now coordinate student activities, programming, involvement, and leadership opportunities on a daily basis, obviously a large part of what prepared me to do this work were my own endeavors outside of the classroom. I didn’t arrive on day one, unloading these lofty aspirations into my shoebox of a residence hall room proclaiming, “I will soon be the most overly involved student on this campus.” I went to the Club Expo, knew I wanted to meet new people and find new circles, and may have accidentally signed my name and email to every interest sheet in the room. Well, all those not pertaining to physical activity, the outdoors, or contact with wild animals – merely personal preference. All that interest eventually dwindled to membership in nine student organizations my first year, which dwindled to more like six mid-level responsibilities come sophomore year, which dwindled to those three most important and impactful for me by the latter half of my collegiate tenure. I think students should be reminded that this often unruly process of elimination is also acceptable, if not encouraged. College is not the time to know, it’s the time to try. I closed my time at Appalachian as Student Director of Orientation and president of my fraternity, Phi Gamma Delta. I also did a year-long sprint through Student Government, as well as served on the Vice-Chancellor’s Leadership Cabinet; both experiences I wouldn’t trade for anything. Ultimately, this led me to the understanding that fostering these experiences for other collegians, which I ultimately view as educating ‘the whole student,’ was what I wanted to dedicate my life to.
Can you tell us about your first job?
I began as a corporate copywriting intern for a major, multi-campus marketing giant in Charlotte. It took me six months in a cubicle to remember what I valued most about my college life, which was the engaging community and opportunities I had to be challenged and to grow through leadership and involvement. This led me to start my Master’s Degree in Education the following fall, working in tandem with Fraternity & Sorority Housing at the University of South Alabama and developing a foundation for a career in higher education.
What is next for you?
Similar to your undergraduate majors, those in various higher education career tracks also have natural paths to terminal positions carved out for them. I used to say, ‘I think one day I want to be a Vice Chancellor for Student Development,’ but that was half because recent history told me so and half because Cindy Wallace, Vice Chancellor for Student Development at Appalachian, left her careful and personal touch on the greater part of my final two years on the mountaintop. I do know that I love to learn, and realize even more sitting so close to the academy on a college campus that you’ll never know it all, but try until you can’t. With this, I expect my next professional stop will find me still in student engagement, but working toward a doctoral degree in education. After that I’d like to think I’ll climb a rather traditional ladder into administration, but I’m not too proud to say I have many more trials to navigate before I’m certain.
What advice do you have for current students?
As cliché as it sounds – get involved! Not because you might want to one day work in student affairs, but because clubs and organizations can provide entirely separate arenas in which to find yourself. Also, consciously refrain from comparing your beginning to someone else’s middle or end. And second to last, talk to anyone that will listen. If you think you may want to seek a particular opportunity after college, find as many people that do it and keep asking questions until you’re sure, starting early and often. Conversation is free. Think of every thing you do, both academic and otherwise in college, as an opportunity to realize your potential. And lastly, again more cliché than the first: be you. I promise that no warmer place awaits the bravest version of yourself than Appalachian State University. #ForeverAMountaineer