In April 2016, two College of Arts & Sciences alumni returned to the UM-Flint campus to discuss their careers and share what they've learned since graduation. Attending students were treated to a great conversation, lunch, and raffle prizes.
Life After Graduation
Dawn Demps, 2008 alumna of Political Science and Africana Studies, and Henderson Allen, a 2011 alumnus of the MPA program, sat with Alumni Relations' Brent Nickola on the third floor of the UCEN for the informal chat with gathered students. They took turns answering questions like "What is life like after graduation?" "What do you wish you would have known as a student?" and "How do you turn passion into success?"
Demps, who is currently running a non-profit focused on community advocacy, spoke first.
After talking about some of the the specific work she's been doing in the community she noted, "you have to have a passion for the area you go into. You really have to believe." She also mentioned the importance of flexibility within your job, adding that in her case, her job is "never a 9 to 5 thing."
Demps also spoke about the skills she felt were most important to her career: the ability to prioritize, being able to communicate effectively with "people on so many levels," having cultural competency, being open to learning and collaboration, and "putting your pride aside, because someone always knows more than you."
She noted all of these skills are vital to being successful, and that it's also important to be clear about your goals, because "passion without any sort of a plan is chaos."
Henderson Allen came to UM-Flint for his Masters in Public Administration after earning an undergraduate degree in criminal justice from Ferris State University. He currently works with a diverse group of detained youth, ages 12 to 21.
Allen agreed with Demps on the skills needed out in the world, noting "communication is number one." He also added that one should "be open to new methods; see what's changing in your industry."
When asked what he wished he would have known as a student, Allen answered, "take advantage of every opportunity presented to you. Go to seminars, gain knowledge. Network—don't be afraid to reach out and introduce yourself, be proactive!" He added that students should enjoy the time they have in school and appreciate it for what it is, "have patience; be in the moment."
In their careers, both Allen and Demps have had a chance to implement what they gained at UM-Flint, but they've also been learning new lessons.
When asked about what's been especially rewarding, Allen said, "Seeing your work and being part of at team; interacting and being effective." He noted that as a state employee he has excellent benefits, but "there is more than just pay" and that students should be prepared to "put [their] time in."
Demps added that she enjoys "working with young people, parents, and the community; seeing the change as you build trust and relationships… having your expertise recognized." She noted an especially rewarding moment came when a group of young men she'd been working with reached graduation. She's especially passionate about her ongoing work in the Flint school system focused on "unpacking the prison pipeline."
Demps emphasized to the audience that work in non-profits is important to the community, stating, "non-profit work is needed. A lot of times what lies between what the state provides and what people need is non-profits."
Questions from the Audience
Audience members were given a chance to ask Demps and Allen questions.
One student wanted to know their biggest initial challenges after graduation.
Allen noted the challenge of companies wanting new employees to come with experience, and of new employees needing jobs to get experience. He reassured the students that the skills they learn at UM-Flint will play a part in answering that issue. He added that often volunteer work or an internship is "just as good as work experience in that particular field."
Demps seconded the value of volunteering, noting, "I created opportunities for myself to build up my portfolio. If there wasn't something for me, I created it."
Advice for Students
In closing, the alums were asked for one piece of advice to give to current students.
Said Allen, "The main thing is never lose contact with your UM-Flint instructors. They are resources, vital, and connected to your field. Check in. Say hello." Demps agreed, noting "your professors today are your letters of recommendation tomorrow."
She closed by saying, "Never be afraid."
For more information on the alumni of the University of Michigan-Flint, visit umflint.edu/alumni.
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