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Meet Alex Johnson.
Hailing from mountainous Utah, Alex is an LSA senior preparing to graduate this May with a Communication & Media degree, supported by minors in Political Science and Community Action & Social Change. For the last four years, he has lived the full arc of the LSA student experience and has emerged on the other side ready to provide shared wisdom and advice to other students.
The learnings Alex offers aren’t confined to the classroom. Nearly as long as he’s been at UofM, Alex has worked with the LSA Opportunity Hub as a part of the student intern team. The Hub’s student interns play an essential role in executing the Hub’s mission, from supporting our day-to-day operations to planning and implementing ambitious projects, like the launch of LSA Connect. What’s in it for LSA students? Interns develop their professional skills and nurture their leadership potential—such as effective communication, research, and project management—and receive coaching and support throughout the process.
To explore recently posted intern positions for the Fall 2020 / Winter 2021 academic year, click here.
Now, as one of the Hub’s most experienced interns, Alex offers keen insight on everything from on-campus jobs to navigating identity in the workplace, drawing upon his personal experiences and the numerous challenges he’s faced (and overcome) along the way.
To hear more about Alex’s experience, keep reading and dive into his recent conversation with the Hub’s Employer Engagement Coordinator Ashley Parker.
Ashley Parker (AP): Hi Alex! How are you?
Alex Johnson (AJ): I’m good thanks. How are you doing?
AP: Good! And glad to hear it. Why don’t we go ahead and jump in—can you tell me the story of how you found your position with the Hub?
AJ: Yeah, so at the end of my first year on campus, I had already had one job, but it was pretty low commitment. I was interested in doing something a bit more involved and longer term with the university when I came across the Hub intern position on the student government website. Going through the interview process, I did not feel like I was a very strong candidate throughout it. There was real shock when we got to the end of it.
AP: Considering both your experiences and challenges along your student journey, what do you see as the value of on-campus jobs?
AJ: Having a campus job is a great way to reflect on how you can actually apply your major and what the real-world value of your education is. By being at the Hub, I can actually share what the university is doing outside of the classroom setting that has had an impact on students.
AJ: It’s also very fortunate that the Hub has a great network of alums. So I've gotten to hear stories of their own trajectories, and been able to learn from them and their journeys. Overall, working with the Hub has really enhanced how I think about LSA and how I think about my degree.
AP: Absolutely. For students considering a position at the Hub, what advice do you have for them?
AJ: The Hub understands you’re a student first, so don’t be afraid to speak up and ask questions, before and during your interview, if allotted. One thing I wish I had done differently when I started at the Hub, is to work more collaboratively with the professionals in the office. The office encourages collaboration, it’s a friendly place to be and it's worth getting to know people here. Take some time when you're meeting people and ask, “what is it that you do here, how can I be involved in it, and how can we celebrate that?"
AP: Definitely, speaking as a Hub professional, great advice. Reflecting back on your time with the Hub, was there a particular project you feel impacted you?
AJ: Yeah, I was really fortunate to be given a communications campaign where I was given a lot of leverage to run with my ideas. We interviewed students to talk about their experience applying to internships including how many internships they applied to, and whether or not the process of getting rejected affected their recruiting. It was a piece that showcased the tenacity of LSA students and the ethos of the Hub. I wrote the article in my first year and it still exists and is often recycled for students candidates to read and understand the type of work the Hub does. It was my project from start to finish: I pitched it, I ran with it, I published it, and it's something that I'll definitely carry like a little piece of my pocket, even when I leave.
AP: That’s incredible. Throughout your time at the Hub, and in your experiences in other positions, how has your identity shaped your experience in the workplace?
AJ: The reason that I was looking for a campus job in the first place is because I identify as a low-income student and Michigan is very expensive, even with the generous financial aid they give. Never has that been an issue at the Hub—they have been overwhelmingly welcoming to student employees of all different backgrounds. Outside of that, being a student who is LGBTQ+, I understand the importance of the tranings we've done on how to use accommodating language in the workplace for queer identities.
AJ: Sometimes you want to be in a workplace where it’s like, ‘wow I don't even have to think about my identity because like it's so not an issue.’ But I don't really think that's the idea. I want to carry my identity with me and not feel ashamed or have to hide it, and the Hub is a workplace where people get to live with their identities in their work. I don't have to shove it in a closet for eight hours and then like, bring it back out after. This is a place where you can essentially be yourself. It’s amazing.
AP: Thank you for sharing that Alex, and thank you for all your insight today.
Here’s just a few ways Alex approached his professional development:
Making the most of your degree:
- Focus. With so many paths an LSA degree can take you on, prioritize exploring the ones that are most interesting to you.
- Collaborate. Recognize the value of engaging with people and programs outside of your major who also embrace the agile learning style of a liberal arts education.
- Network. Being able to connect with LSA alums who can provide their insight on how to utilize your LSA degree (whether that be in the internship or job search).
- Utilize your resources. Courses such as Comm 439, Education 218, and Comm 306 allowed Alex to explore his varied interests across politics, marketing, and social justice.
Benefiting from collaborative work:
- Value your student peers. Student staff add just as much value to an organization as full-time staff, and you can learn just as much from your peers as you do from your supervisors.
- Consider connecting. Engaging with the work of other teams not only introduces you to the office, but also fosters connections with your coworkers.
Impact of campus jobs:
- You are your university. Campus jobs can ground students during their formative college years and allow them to build skills that are applicable to internships and jobs.
- Find unique opportunities. Offices such as Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs (MESA), The Program on Intergroup Relations (IGR), and Rec Sports all offer impactful opportunities for students to work during the school year.