January 10, 2020 at 8:04 am

Alumni | Bessey Enjoys Life Sciences Advising and Teaching

Sarah Bessey

Sarah Bessey ’14 is an Academic Advisor and Instructor in the Life Sciences First Year Program at North Carolina State University. This is a program for incoming first year students who are interested in Life Science majors. Students take a common curriculum of life science courses, which includes a one credit “Exploring Opportunities in the Life Sciences” course that Bessey teaches.

She explains that this class is similar to the learning community courses at Ohio University, but different in that her students are interested in a variety of life science majors – some even find their interests lie outside of those fields (i.e., education, engineering, social sciences). As instructor she is their assigned Academic Advisor until they declare a major.

Bessey graduated with her B.A. in Psychology and a minor in Sociology from the College of Arts and Sciences at Ohio University.

Circuitous Career Path

Her career path was more circuitous than she had anticipated when graduating in December 2014. At the time, she knew she wanted to work in higher education and hoped to find a position at a university that could help her explore more opportunities within the field. However, she had more difficulty in the job search process and worked a few odd jobs until the next fall, when she somewhat fell into a role in healthcare administration.

She learned a lot, both personally and professionally, from that position and it ultimately helped her make the decision to go back to school for a masters degree in higher education. She was living in Virginia, so UVA’s accelerated one-year program with required internship was an easy fit. Through that year, she took FULL advantage of every opportunity to build her professional knowledge, skills, and network, whether in the classroom, in her internship, or outside of those. Upon graduation, she built on her experience in healthcare administration and student services to work at the university full-time as a Pre-Health and Law Advisor.

“It was an incredible opportunity, but my personal life led me to leave that position, which is how I ended up at NC State,” she explains. “My current role works with a similar population of students as my role at UVA, but I have the opportunity to now teach and develop longer-term relationships with each of my students.

“I really love the teaching component as it’s allowed me to flex some of my creativity muscles that I didn’t really know existed,” Bessey says.

She creates course plans that engage students in their own personal, academic, and professional development. She also appreciates that in her dual role she can develop longer-term and more intentional relationships with her students/advisees than she would otherwise.

Her FirstGen OHIO Experience

“My experience at OHIO wholly influenced my path until this point!”

It wasn’t until after graduation that she realized how many resources she had underutilized at the university.

As a first-generation college student, she explains that she didn’t realize the value of out-of-class experiences and the abundance of connections she could be forming because she was so focused on the mindset that “having a college degree will get me a good job.”

She now sees that perhaps the most significant value she gained was from her engagement level – not just participating in the activity by itself.

This realization is what prompted her to pursue a career in education, to help individuals search for and find value and genuine meaning-making in their day-to-day activities and experiences.

Career Center and Relationship Building

Based on her experience in the job search process, she wishes she had utilized the Career and Leadership Development Center earlier in her academic career, rather than waiting until her last semester. At UVA, she was in a smaller team within the University’s Career Center and they (like OHIO) offer SO many more resources and support beyond material review that she never utilized.

“In college, I’d never thought about how intentionally I could use each experience to grow personally and professionally but just viewed everything as a “resume builder,” without recognizing how I could actually translate those experiences beyond lines on a resume,” Bessey explains. “Further, I had a very narrow mindset of what career paths were “right” for me and connecting with the Center could have helped me more actively and thoughtfully explore the vast opportunities available.”

Finally, she didn’t recognize the value of relationship building while at OHIO. The relationships she built at UVA were instrumental in opening new opportunities for her both at the university and beyond. Though she feels now that every step in her path has led me to where she is “supposed” to be, “I can only imagine how much I could have gained had I sought out those same sorts of connections from the OHIO community.”

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