Great Places to Study on PUC’s Campus

When I was in college here at PUC, my favorite place to study was at the Campus Center coffee shop, The Grind. I enjoyed having background sound and people milling around. (For more about how much I love the college’s Campus Center, read my blog post “PUC’s Campus Center Will Be There For You”!) But not everyone is like me, which is what is so great about being at PUC. The campus offers a variety of study spaces for both group and solo studying. From the library to individual department study spaces, you’ll never have far to go to find a great spot to crack open your books.

Below are photos of just a few places here on campus that are ideal for studying. There are also plenty of other spaces available to students, including lounges in the departments of music, English, and visual arts.

The student lounge for the department of history in Irwin Hall.

The student lounge for the department of world languages & cultures in Irwin Hall.

The library has a lot of study spaces for students.

More study spaces in the library.

Outside the library is a great place to hang out too!

The Campus Center is always packed full of students studying or enjoying a coffee break.

It’s a good idea to bring your headphones to the Campus Center if you’re trying to study!

There are plenty of places in Fisher Hall, home to the department of visual arts, for students to study, including the art studios, shown here.

Department of Visual Arts Senior Thesis Projects

By Celeste Wong

We are extremely proud of our seniors and their thesis projects. Congrats!

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This year’s Senior Thesis Exhibition for visual arts students was held on Thursday, May 19th, in the Rasmussen Art Gallery, located between the Nelson Memorial Library and Paulin Hall.  The exhibition included the theses of 12 graduating visual arts majors ranging from fine art, graphic design, and photography.

For the film and television majors, they premiered their thesis films at the annual Diogenes Film Festival at the Cameo Cinema in St. Helena on Thursday, May 31. Three graduating film and television majors premiered their thesis films, along with other short films by other film students.

#pucart #pucfilm #diogenesfilmfestival #inspiringcreativecommunity

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These graduating seniors began their year-long project starting at the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year. At the beginning of the year, they have had to pitch their thesis ideas to the entire department of visual arts faculty for approval and have consistently worked from then until now. Students who are BFA students are expected to work on their projects for at least a whopping 300 hours, to give some perspective.

Fine Art

Sierra Driver
Graphic novel

Lexi Haylock
Found objects installation

“My thesis is titled ‘Homegrown.’ I wanted to capture my most intimate and cherished memories of growing up in the beautiful nature of Angwin. I was inspired by changes that will be occurring in my life as I graduate from PUC and move away from my childhood town. I’ve always been fascinated by the connection between emotion and memory. This project is my attempt at visually showing how the most prominent memories of my home have changed as I continue to grow.”

Chanel Lee
Diptych of large-scale watercolor paintings

Drew Macomber
Series of watercolor paintings

Laurel Williams
Assemblage installation

“My project is about technology, social media, and information, how these things are connected to education and about some of their negative effects on the development of children and youth today. I was inspired to do this because I’ve noticed there are higher levels of anxiety, depression, and stress amongst successive generations in America and I wondered if there might possibly be a common factor. It looks like that factor is how we tie the gathering of information or even education to success and put pressure on our students to ‘be successful.’ Increasingly over the decades, it has led to something called ‘play deprivation’ which can inhibit the development of youth in ways that counteract their preparation for a successful life. Hopefully, those who see my project will be inspired to rethink what success means to them and make better choices for themselves and their futures.”

Celeste Wong
Ceramics installation

“My project confronts and brings insight into what it means to be biracial or multiracial. I myself am multiracial and usually identify as just ‘American;’ however, this response is an answer that people find too vague. By blood I am half Filipino, quarter Chinese, and quarter Euro-American mix, to put it simply. Do I relate to any of these cultures? No, I do not; my parents were born and raised in America just like me. I started to open up about my frustration of finding my own ‘identity’ and in return, I found many bi/multiracial students on campus whom I’ve shared stories with. Included in my installation, I have quotes from more than 15 PUC students, sharing both the positive and negatives of being bi/multiracial, accompanied by expressive ceramic vessels.”

Graphic Design

Jenae Benson
Educational poster series, photographs, and handouts

“My thesis project is about raising awareness about the harms drugs have on a fetus of a pregnant mother. I was inspired by my mom because throughout her career as a school nurse she has told me heartbreaking stories about children who live a difficult life because they were drug exposed. My hope for this project is to make an impression on at least one person—that could be one baby’s life changed forever.”

Joshua Davis
Graphic novel

Giang Pham
Illustrated storybook

“My project is a storybook, loosely based on my own story revolving around the theme of relational struggles. I enjoy graphic novel, manga, and animation illustrations, so I wanted to make my own.”

Jackie Rivera
Hand-painted and designed signage installation

“As a letterer and designer, I’m really inspired by the letterforms and signage of the 20th century. For my thesis, I wanted to create a series of signs inspired by vintage signage I grew up seeing around small, historic Northern California towns. I wanted to learn about old sign making processes such as sign painting and woodworking. As a designer, learning about the history of graphic design is very important to me, and learning these old techniques has given me a much deeper appreciation and love for the career path I’ve chosen.”

Chad Smith
Series of digital paintings and parallax paintings

Photography

Alexis Howard
Photography series of vintage memorabilia

“My project is called ‘The Things She Left Behind’ and it is about photographing the things that belong to my great-grandmother. I was inspired by my great-grandmother and the impact she made in my life. So I wanted to do something to honor her.”

Film & Television

Rachel Ermshar

“My thesis is an exploration of growth, how we react and grow to different situations we end up in.”

Sarah Martinez

Gabriela Talevera

“My thesis is a documentary about the civil war in El Salvador. I was inspired by all the stories my mom would tell me about her childhood.”

After reading the highlights of some of the year-long projects these seniors have been working on, hopefully, you are inspired by these artists and filmmakers!

 

Half-Price Tuition and Housing: PUC Offers Summer Classes

By Becky St. Clair

Half-price tuition.

Half-price housing.

Over two dozen areas of study to choose from.

Hours and hours of NorCal sun.

If even one of those things sounds good, you need to register for summer classes at PUC, stat! Headed home for the summer? Good news–we’ve got 17 online courses for you to choose from, too. Of course, online means no “hours and hours of NorCal sun,” but no matter what floats your boat this summer, we’ve got you covered!

Summer classes last only 2-3 weeks, including full-year sequences for pre-med and pre-dent courses such as Biological Foundations and General Chemistry. Pre-nursing courses such as Human Anatomy and General Microbiology are also available during the summer.

PUC already offers smaller class sizes, even during the regular school year, but during the summer, those class sizes shrink even more, offering students even better access to their teachers and more room for open dialogue and class discussions.

“Rigorous” is definitely the name of the game in summer classes, but there are rewards to be had (besides getting course credits out of the way). Student Activities provides recreation options throughout the summer, such as weekly free food, Six Flags tickets, a San Francisco Giants game, and a pool party. Not to mention other local events such as the weekly farmer’s market in St. Helena, concerts in the park, sunrise fitness classes, Independence Day fireworks, the fair in Calistoga, artist and author meet-n-greets, the Flynn Creek Circus, Napa Porchfest, and more. Or, create your own adventure in the Back 40, San Francisco, the coast, or anywhere in-between.

Whether you choose to stay home or join us on campus, we look forward to spending our summer with you.

For details and to register, visit puc.edu/summer-classes or email enroll@puc.edu.

What Exactly is Allied Health? Professor Saunders Tells It All.

The single-handed most critical, yet annoying question any college student may be asked is the following: “What are you majoring in?” While many individuals may be fortunate enough to have this question figured out, others struggle to even wrap their minds around committing to one of the many majors Pacific Union College has to offer. Although PUC is especially known for its pre-med, pre-dent, and nursing programs, there are also plenty of options offered in allied health.

So, what careers do allied health studies lead to? Fear not, here are just a few occupations one can have with a background in allied health: physical therapy, occupational therapy, respiratory therapy, x-ray technician, radiology technician, nutrition/dietetics, speech-language pathology, and more, including a new program in diagnostic medical sonography. There are close to 20 different allied health options for students to choose from! See a full list of PUC’s majors, including all of the allied health programs, at puc.edu/admissions.

Yet, many incoming college students are unaware of the boundless possibilities—aside from pre-med, pre-dent, and nursing—that healthcare has to offer. So, the question remains, how does one go about pursuing a career in allied health? In light of these questions, PUC’s very own allied health adviser, Vicki Saunders, offers insight on how to become an allied health professional.

What is your role at PUC?

I am an assistant professor of nutrition and I also coordinate the two-year health sciences degree program.

What is your favorite part about being an adviser?

My favorite part about being an adviser is the one-on-one conversations with students. What can I say? For the most part, it is very rewarding.

Can you explain what pre-professional programs are?

Pre-professional programs are tracks in undergraduate programs that prepare you to continue on to another institution to earn a professional degree after completing a series of prerequisite classes, which generally are 1-2 years (though a few programs now require a four-year degree). The term “pre-professional” is a bit confusing, as it applies to a much broader group than just pre-allied health programs; it can include pre-allied health programs as well as pre-medicine, pre-dentistry, etc. I specifically work with students who have chosen to study pre-allied health programs. (See a full list of PUC’s majors, including all of the allied health programs, at puc.edu/admissions.)

What is a piece of advice you can give to incoming students interested in pursuing a career in allied health?

Well, if they are not here yet, I suggest they start shadowing. If they are shadowing, they can get a form on Loma Linda University’s website (or other prospective schools) for tracking shadowing hours. Many schools now require individuals applying to allied health programs to complete a certain number of shadowing hours. For example, physical therapy requires 80 hours of shadowing versus occupational therapy requires only 40 hours. Some therapies don’t require a lot of hours, but it is good to shadow and observe what these professionals do to see if it’s a fit for you. Different personalities click with different professions. Some professions are behind the scenes, while others require contact with people regularly.

Given how competitive some pre-professional and allied health programs are, what are some tips on how to succeed?

One tip is to take all the sciences you can in high school to give yourself a foundation. It’s probably not a good idea to try to skip chemistry and physics in high school if you want to get into a physical therapy program in college. There are some schools that are really academically challenging, but a large number of schools are not as rigorous. However, incoming students can’t doodle around their freshman year—they may miss out on what they want to get into. One of the biggest errors students make is looking at a schedule of 16 class credits plotted on their calendars and say, “look at all that free time!” Sixteen hours represents approximately a 40-hour week. They need to consider more than just time in classes; there’s studying, prepping for class and projects, writing research papers, etc. College students end up knowing how to balance time usually around their second year, although freshmen sometimes have a harder time doing that.

How do PUC’s pre-professional programs set themselves apart from programs offered by other schools?

It depends on which school one is looking at. Not all schools offer the A.S. degree in health sciences that we do. This is a way for students who are just attending college to complete prerequisites to also leave with a diploma. PUC is known for its high academic standards. When I was at LLU for an advisers’ conference, there were some PUC alumni who mentioned they had found that some of their college courses were more difficult at PUC than what they had found at LLU. Although we have not transitioned to a being a university, we are a very established college.

Interested in learning more about PUC’s degree in health sciences, or another allied health program? Talk with one of our enrollment counselors today! They can give you more information about each program’s requirements and advise you on what classes you should take to be prepared for PUC. Email enroll@puc.edu or call (800) 862-7080, option 2 to talk with a counselor.

 

Business, Communication, and Visual Arts Alumni Share Their Wisdom

From left to right: Will Yoshimura, Amanda Granados, and Jackson Boren.

By Becky St. Clair

On Thursday, April 19, the departments of business, communication, and visual arts at Pacific Union College held a joint colloquium. It was a panel discussion on the topic of “Successful Alumni,” and each department had alumni representing.

Panelists were: Jackson Boren, 2008 graduate of the department of communication, currently the alumni director for the Loma Linda University School of Nursing; Amanda Granados, 2010 graduate of the department of business, owner of Granados | Hillman, an accounting firm; and Will Yoshimura, 2015 graduate of the department of visual arts, currently employed as a graphic designer at Facebook.

Michelle Rai, chair of the department of communication, moderated the panel discussion.

What are the top three skills you utilize every day in your work?

Jackson Boren: People skills are extremely important, in both large and small groups. Public speaking is also something I do often.

Amanda Granados: As an accountant, I clearly use my numbers skills regularly, but critical thinking and people skills are right up there, too. Which is something a lot of people don’t realize about accountants—we do actually need to know how to interact well with others.

Will Yoshimura: Well, obviously graphic design. But also critical thinking.

Name a class in which you wish you would have paid more attention.

JB: I wish there had been the project management class PUC offers now when I was in school, because that would have been extremely helpful.

AG: Real estate. It’s something that affects everyone, and I wish I would have put more effort into that class.

WY: Statistics, for sure. Also, I wish I would have taken a philosophy class. I honestly think it would benefit anyone in any field.

What would you tell your freshman self?

WY: Actually try at college. I didn’t take it seriously until the end of my sophomore year. I would tell myself to take classes I was interested in and see what fits; see what I want to do with my life.

What’s your secret to success? What gets you up in the morning and keeps you going?

JB: Honestly, it’s about identifying an internal need and finding the path to fulfill it. In my current job, my personal philosophy is that the foundation of alumni identity is their experience as a student. If I can connect them with the best part of that experience and build on it now that they’re alumni, I’m succeeding at what I do. That’s what keeps me going.

AG: Helping people. When I can help my clients see something they hadn’t noticed before, or save them from having to pay thousands of dollars somewhere down the road, it makes me feel good. It’s definitely awesome motivation to get out of bed and go to work in the morning!

WY: Being obsessed with what I do. I mean, not to a harmful degree, but if you’re really interested in the work you do, you’re going to work harder and learn more about it than those who aren’t so obsessed, and it gives you a leg up on others. You’ll get better and better and what you do won’t feel like work.

There’s a lot of talk these days about how Millennials are changing the workplace. What advice can you give to the students here as they prepare to be those Millennials?

JB: People don’t stay in one job for 30-40 years anymore. We change jobs a lot more. So take the experience you get from all of those jobs and apply the lessons to your current work. It’s a different workplace scenario than it was in past generations.

AG: Communicate what you need and want to those you work for and with. If you want to come in later in the morning, talk to your boss about it. They will likely be understanding and work with you within reason. But they won’t if they don’t know what you want.

WY: It depends on what field you’re in, but honestly, as long as you show up, work hard, and get the stuff done, you’ll be fine.

What’s one of the biggest challenges you face in your work?

JB: Sometimes you have to say no. And that’s hard and it doesn’t make people happy. One of the hardest things to learn is how to say no without actually saying it, even if that’s really what you’re saying.

AG: Admitting when I’m wrong. And yes, I’ve been wrong on someone’s taxes before. It’s so hard to admit failure, but it’s so important. Then I pick myself up, learn from it, and get right back to work.

WY: Being a politician. When you work with a lot of people, you have to be really diplomatic.

When things get tough, what do you do to stay on track?

JB: Someone once told me, “Don’t let the details destroy you.” Keeping a big picture perspective at all times helps in those moments, because I can take a step back and see where I am and where I need to be.

AG: Take a break and call a friend. Talking about the problem aloud really helps me work through it and often helps me find a solution.

WY: Take a walk.

What’s important to keep in mind when negotiating a salary?

JB: Definitely research industry standards. If you can get an internship before you graduate, take it seriously because it can translate into a job when you graduate. Don’t just think about salary and benefits, but also consider your quality of life. I once had a job where I was commuting quite a ways every day, and I negotiated with my employer to cover all of my tolls for the commute and incorporate that cost into my salary.

AG: When you get to negotiate it’s your one opportunity to make a difference in your compensation. Don’t miss the chance! Ask for what you want and the worst that will happen is that they will say no. Always ask.

WY: Like Jackson said, do your research. Glassdoor can be really helpful in this area. Also keep in mind that your total compensation includes equity in the company—stock. So think that through and ask for more if you want it. Statistics say that 90% of employers won’t rescind their job offer because you asked for more money or benefits, so just ask.

What advice would you give the scared seniors who have no idea how to get started after graduation?

JB: Find an internship where you want to work. It may not be paid, but you get face time with the company, you get experience working there, and you make connections. Also don’t overlook the line in the job description that reads, “Other duties as assigned.” Do those things well. It will show your character and work ethic, and might reveal skills you didn’t know you had. Become familiar with the process at the company where you’re working, and the different players you work with. Become familiar with their roles so you can respect and appreciate them, and that respect and appreciation will be reciprocated.

AG: Look for ways you can apply everything you’ve experienced and learned in college to the jobs you want and are applying for. You may think you’re starting with nothing, but everything in college can be a benefit to you in your career. So keep a positive attitude and stay confident.

WY: Apply to a bunch of places. You won’t hear back from a lot, and you’ll be rejected a lot, and you may want to just finish your homework and go to a dark place to cry, and that’s okay! But in all seriousness, stay positive and know that eventually, your hard work will pay off. And use LinkedIn! It’s how you get recruited.

Amanda, tell us about transitioning from the traditional “work for someone else” situation into owning your own business.

AG: It was a hard decision to make, to be honest. There’s usually some loyalty involved between you and your boss, and you wonder if leaving is the right thing to do. The clincher for me was stepping back to look at the big picture: What would my life look like if I were to make this change? It would eliminate my commute, making me more flexible, able to spend more time with my family, and take my office anywhere I want to. I also keep more of the money I make working for myself, which is a big deal! It takes confidence to do something like this, and that was my biggest obstacle. I had to convince myself that enough people believed in me, and I believed in me, and I could do it.

How do you maintain your creative side while doing what someone else wants you to?

WY: I’m not going to lie—at some point you’re likely going to be doing work you don’t like and don’t want to do. It’s a fact. So I recommend you keep doing side projects. Also, keep in mind that working with what other people want involves compromise. Keeping the balance between introducing your own vision and also accepting theirs. You walk through problems together as a team.

How did your experience at PUC impact your career?

JB: I’m a better communicator because of PUC. I saw the power of good communication in a professional setting and learned the value of recognizing and learning from my mistakes. I learned not to be afraid of failure, but to learn from it and allow it to direct me toward progress.

AG: The best things I took away from PUC were positive relationships and solidified ethics.

WY: PUC gave me the thing I love most now—design.

Student Art Show Opens Thursday

By Becky St. Clair

On Thursday, April 19, the department of visual arts will host an opening reception for the 2018 student art show in the Rasmussen Art Gallery, right here on campus. The reception begins at 7 p.m. and the show will run until May 9. The event is free and open to the public.

We spoke with a few of the students exhibiting their art to learn more about them and their work. Be sure to come check out their various media during the show.

Celeste Wong, senior fine art major
Emphasis: Ceramics
Home: Hercules, California
Media on Display: Ceramics, oil painting, monotype, stone/clay sculpture

Celeste Wong, senior, creates using her favorite medium, clay.

Why did you select these particular pieces for the show?
I made a collaborative ceramic series outside of class with a friend. We spent nearly 80 hours on this piece. I decided to show my oil painting I made in class because I have never worked with that medium before and I feel proud of how I improved throughout the quarter. As a whole, the works that I put in the show, I feel, are the best that I have created in the past year.

What do you enjoy most about ceramics?
The process. I enjoy it far more than any other medium I have tried. Clay is a very versatile medium that can be manipulated in many ways. There are many components to the process between production and the end result I am constantly learning. I also like the feeling of putting my entire body to work, rather than sitting at a desk drawing, or standing in one place while painting. Making ceramics on the potter’s wheel involves the motion and strength of your entire body. It makes me feel alive and I have truly put my whole effort in the piece I create.

Why did you choose to become a fine arts major?
In high school, I always created small projects and kept up hobbies that involved creating. My only creative outlet during my freshman year here was drawing and copying diagrams from my biology textbook, which my friends said was a waste of time. But I had an itch to create rather than spend my time memorizing facts. During spring quarter, I decided to take a ceramics class because I wanted to do something fun for myself and working on the potter’s wheel was always on my bucket list. By the end of the year, I realized I wasn’t a scientist, I was an artist.

What has surprised you about the fine arts program?
I am surprised at how my department has become like a family to me. Students and professors alike have supported me and my work throughout these years even when I wasn’t an art major to begin with.

Samuel Delaware, junior fine art major
Emphasis: Photography
Home: Durham, Maine
Media on Display: Triptych & case-bound maquette

Tell us about the pieces you have in the show.
The triptych is from an ongoing series I’ve created, entitled “Horizon.” It’s something I’ve been working on for the past year, along with the first edition maquette.

Sam Delaware, junior, proofs some of his art for printing.

What do you enjoy most about photography?
In his book, “Art Can Help,” photographer Robert Adams suggests, “The job of the photographer, in my view, is not to catalogue indisputable fact, but to try to be coherent about intuition and hope.” Similarly, I think what excites me most is trying to find a sense of coherence in my own work concerning whatever subject matter I’ve delved into. It’s a continuous process of attempting to capture a sense of truth and reality best I can with only two dimensions, which is deceptively difficult.

What has surprised you about the program?
The dedication of the faculty who are drastically underpaid for the amount of passion and commitment they pour into their teaching and mentorship.

Drew Macomber, senior fine art major
Emphasis: Painting
Home: Ohio, California
Media on Display: Monotypes, paintings

Tell us about the pieces you’ve selected for the show.
I have some monotypes, which are a form of printmaking, in the show, but mainly paintings. Most of them are expressive. I always say I paint emotions rather than realistic subject matter. I have two self-portraits in as well, and two collaborative works on which I worked with Chanel Lee, another PUC artist in the show. Those turned out pretty cool. I selected work I thought represented me as an artist this year. I tend to not want to follow rules as much, and that is apparent in some of the works.

What do you like most about painting?
I worked in watercolor, oil, and acrylic, and then some with watercolor, acrylic, and charcoal. I love being able to see bright and bold color instantly. Usually my painting is reacting to how I am feeling, kind of turning off the mind and just letting it go. I relate most with watercolor because of the fluidity of the medium. In fact, I did my thesis in watercolor, although I do not have any straight watercolors in the show.

Why did you choose this major?
Being a fine art major just clicked for me. School has never been something that I find great success at; it has always felt like a struggle. When I took a drawing class I realized, “This is what I have to do.” My mom is an artist, so I’ve grown up my whole life immersed in creating art. I never thought of it as something that I would pursue in school, but when I opened up to that idea, it made perfect sense.

What has surprised you about the program?
How challenging it is. That is partly because I believe you get out what you put in, and I tend to put lots of myself into all my art. Because of that, it can quite emotionally draining at times, but also extremely rewarding.

Laurel Williams, senior fine art major
Emphasis: Painting & Illustration
Home: Disneyland (just kidding; I’m from Corona and Riverside, California, so it’s almost the same thing)
Media on Display: Glass, watercolor, oil, acrylic

Why did you choose the pieces you did for the show?
Out of all my projects this year they have turned out closest to how I planned them to be. My opaque paintings and watercolors I knew I would submit to the show some time ago, but the glass piece was a surprise to me. Unfortunately, most of my glass light fixtures still have some finishing touches they need, but my little yellow embossed pineapple slab came out of the kiln right around the time of submission for the show, so I figured, why not?

Work by Laurel Williams, senior, some of which will be displayed in the student art show opening Thursday at 7 p.m.

What do you like the most about your chosen media?
I like doing glass pieces because I get to create a new object that exists in three-dimensional space. Using the power tools in the department studio is also pretty fun. Generally, I’m more interested in painting, though, and I really enjoy oil and watercolor because they are opposites of one another. In oil painting, you paint from dark to light and in watercolor it’s light to dark. It’s very challenging and I like things to be difficult. I also like taking things that are 3D and flattening them out on a canvas with the illusion of perspective or light and shadow. Paintings are also usually more effective for me at communicating strong emotions or thoughts/ideas. Typically, my three-dimensional works are only either whimsical or decorative.

Why did you choose this major?
I actually didn’t. My dad decided that for me, and thank goodness he did! I totally thought I was going to do something “practical” like business and agriculture or some sort of science degree so that I could become an astrophysicist. During the summer between high school and college my dad convinced me to switch to fine art and so here I am. Not many people’s’ parents encourage them to do art so I’m really lucky that mine do.

What’s something that surprised you about the fine arts program?
First, its well-roundedness. The previous schools I attended didn’t have as many sculpture and 3D courses to complement the 2D ones, so I really appreciate that about this department. Second, how much I love my classmates and professors. I thought I’d like them before coming here, of course, but we get along so well! Everyone is so supportive of each other’s work and we collaborate quite a bit. Critiques are actually the most fun because I think my classmates give great advice and we really want to see each other succeed. No one is super competitive—that’s not always something I’ve experienced before in artistic communities and it’s really refreshing.

Join the student artists and their professors for an opening reception on Thursday, April 19, at 7 p.m. in the Rasmussen Art Gallery. The show will run until May 9. The gallery is open 1-5 p.m. Thursday-Sunday.

Meet Sydney Johnson, PUC’s Career Counselor

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” “What are your plans after graduation?”

We hear these typical life questions focused on the future even from a very young age. The first, asked of young children, typically produces something predictable—firefighter, teacher, mommy, police officer, doctor. However, many times the second, asked of college students, produces anxiety, fear, trepidation, or hesitation. Or perhaps all of the above.

Being able to say with certainty what one’s plans are for the future is a gift few people are given as they enter their college years, despite it being one of life’s most important decisions. Or, perhaps, because of that.

Fortunately for PUC students, help is mere steps away. The college’s Career & Counseling Center provides an experienced career counselor, armed with training, career inventory assessments, personality tests, and plenty of brochures and information about potential employers and graduate schools. And in the thick of it all, happy to help students figure out their futures, is Sydney Johnston.

Name: Sydney Johnston
Title: Career counselor
Education: B.A. in liberal studies, California State University-San Bernardino; M.S. in counseling, Oregon State University
Certifications/Specializations: National certified counselor; California associate professional clinical counselor
Email: sjohnston@puc.edu
Employee since: 2013, but in the Career Center since 2016

What does a typical day look like for you?
I spend 75 percent of my time doing career counseling and the other 25 percent doing mental health counseling. As the only career counselor, I have a unique opportunity to ease students’ fears and answer the unknowns.

How did you get into this line of work?
During grad school, I completed an internship at two nonprofit organizations for women in transition who were going back to college or needed to find work to support their family after a divorce or coming out of a domestic abuse history. After grad school, I worked as career services director at Pioneer Pacific College in Portland, Ore. These experiences really showed me that helping people figure out their futures was a real joy for me.

When you’re not in this comfy office counseling students, where can we find you?
Oh boy, I’m out and about regularly, as I coordinate several major student events on campus throughout the year.  I’m in charge of the grad fair, the career fair, internship and job fair, and weekly workshops/clinics throughout the quarter.

Tell us about these events. They sound awesome!
They actually are pretty well-attended and we generally get positive feedback from students who participate. The grad school fair is pretty straight-forward: Various schools send representatives with information about their plethora of graduate programs.  

The career fair allows us to partner with department chairs to invite individuals who represent careers in every field we train for here at PUC. Many are alumni who want to share with current students their experience and success, and talk about how they got to where they are, to motivate the students. It helps students who are looking to explore other fields and are considering changing majors. For example, someone who’s not sure physical therapy is for them may discover during this event that occupational therapy makes more sense for them.

The internship and job fair brings recruiters from a variety of businesses to interview students. It opens doors that might not otherwise be apparent to students, and also gives them experience interviewing for jobs.  

The weekly workshops and clinics cover a myriad of topics, such as resume writing and editing, interview prep, how to begin and pursue a job search, how to create a LinkedIn account and how to use it, how to apply for federal jobs, and life after graduation. That last one is usually coordinated with the senior class and offers information on basic adult life skills not taught in college, such as employment, budgeting, credit, debt management, banking, housing, car leasing vs. buying, insurance, retirement accounts, and taxes. It’s geared toward students who are looking to move out on their own.

What do you love about your job?
Working with college students as they plan their future is fun, uplifting, and forward-focused. I love to help students relate personality and interests to possible careers, and I love walking students through this process of determining what it is they truly want, and what they’re willing to do to get it.

What’s the most challenging part of your work?
The hard part is when students come to me contemplating a change of major. They thought what they started doing was what they wanted but now they’re not sure. Sometimes students feel torn between what their parents want for them and what they’re realizing they want for themselves, and not doing what their parents want or expect can make them feel like a failure. I help students navigate all of this to figure out what it is they want to do and can do well. We look at where they can find jobs, how much more school, training, and time it will take to get there, and how much money they can make at that career. Those are the things that assure not only the student of which choice is the best one, but also reassures their parents.

So is what you do something that’s only helpful to college students?
Actually, no; I also use what I do as a recruiting tool. I sometimes go with enrollment to visit academies and do the Strong Interest Inventory assessment test with the high school students. I explain what it is and what to expect, then administer the assessment, then we talk about the results. I explain why certain fields come up a lot, and what traits the student might exhibit that gave them the results it did. Then they meet with one of our PUC recruiters, who talks about what PUC has to offer that can provide a path to those careers.

How do you keep up with everything that’s out there?
Something that gives me a unique benefit in this job is the three years I spent as the tutoring coordinator in the college’s Teaching & Learning Center. In that role, you know every professor, every program, every class. You know when classes are offered and know the catalog inside and out. It helps students with the projection of their future at PUC: How much time will it take if I change from A to B? Is it worth it? Do I want to be here another year?  

Also, during the grad fair I make it a point to connect with the program representatives and gather materials they bring for students, so I can at least know the basics of what’s out there and what will be expected in various areas of study.

Since we have a lot of students who continue on to Loma Linda University, it is helpful to attend their every-other-year training, where each LLU school presents on changes to their program.

What’s the most common question students ask you?
Probably the biggest one is “How do I find a job?” We help them begin that process and follow through on leads. Some students have resumes already but they need some additional work. That’s what we’re here for. I worked in business management for 15 years and I’ve hired and fired many people over that time. I know what employers look for and I know what they don’t want. I know what makes potential employees stand out, and I help the students who come to me learn those skills, too. Students need to know how to look professional when they apply for jobs. Cover letters, for example, are essential. Not everyone who writes a cover letter gets the job, but pretty much everyone who gets the job wrote a cover letter. Learning to be prepared for interviews and looking better on paper is what we do here.

If you could offer one piece of advice to college seniors, what would it be?
I know it feels like it, but you’re not the only one not getting a job. You’re not the only one getting rejection letters. It takes time, and it takes patience and it takes knowing what you’re doing. Knowing all the right stuff and doing all the right things doesn’t always lead to a job, but it does make it much more likely to happen. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

So, what are some fields students can focus on that have a higher likelihood of available positions?
Anything with the word healthcare, medical, computer, and engineering in the title or job description.

What about students who want to start working after an associate’s or bachelor’s degree instead of going on to a master’s or doctoral program? What kinds of careers should they look for?
We sometimes believe to be successful in certain careers and professions, that a person needs to get a master’s or a doctorate degree. This simply isn’t true. Maybe your strength is hands-on. Maybe your passion is doing the physical work, rather than analyzing and reporting it. There are plenty of jobs out there in a variety of fields such as, healthcare, medicine, communication, business, fine art, design, and so many others. The pay is good, and graduates can make a living wage. We need those people.