Alumni Spotlight: Lauren Coury, Higher Ed M.Ed.
After graduating from UVA with her M.Ed. in Higher Education, Lauren Coury landed a job as a career advisor at the Duke University Career Center. Here, she shares her experience in the program and her advice for anyone considering a career in higher education.
Q: What first made you interested in pursuing a career in higher education?
After initially pursuing law, I wanted to explore other career options and began speaking to alumni at my alma mater, Furman University, about their experiences in industry, including higher education. I resonated with their desire to help others and how they utilized strategic planning and creative thinking in their roles. I was drawn to higher education because of the opportunities for collaboration, assessment, and learning within a social-centered environment. Particularly, I knew I wanted to go into an advising capacity because I was interested in a helping profession where I could focus on building relationships and supporting students.
Q: Why did you choose to enroll in the M.Ed. program at UVA?
As I was researching master’s programs, I knew that I wanted a program that had a student affairs specialization and offered a built-in network via a cohort model. It was clear through conversations with students and faculty that the UVA M.Ed. program provides a welcoming community where students are challenged and supported in their knowledge of higher education through course curricula and practical experience in assistantships. I enjoyed interacting with university staff during the interview days for assistantship opportunities and this further instilled my choice to enroll in the UVA M.Ed. program. Further, I found the one-year program length to align with my priority of entering industry.
Q: If you had to choose one thing that had the greatest impact on you during your time at UVA, what would that be?
During my time in the UVA program, Dr. Alan Leffers had the greatest impact on me. Dr. Leffers taught several of my courses in the program, including Organization and Management, Financial Management, Professional Development Seminar, Legal Aspects, and Capstone. Dr. Leffers brings excitement, personality, and innumerable advice based on his valuable experiences and roles within higher education. It was a joy being a part of his classroom discussion and activities and conversing with him during office hours. He is whole-heartedly there for his students and strives to help them grow academically and professionally. Even now, I still often ask myself, ‘What would Alan think about the intention and effort that I put forth in this project?”
Q: How did you find your current position, and what is your day-to-day work like?
I first found out about my current role as a career advisor at the Duke University Career Center through HigherEdJobs. My graduate assistantship supervisor at the UVA Career Center recommended that I join the job platform. In my current role, my day-to-day varies based on where we are in the academic year. Typically, I meet with students in one-one-on appointments and drop-ins to discuss topics such as career exploration, application materials, job search strategies, and networking with alumni. I also create industry-specific content and programming for my career community, the Data, Technology, and Engineering Career Community. Further, I collaborate with Career Center colleagues and campus partners to pursue projects and programming dedicated to the Duke University Career Center’s guiding principles of relevancy, visibility, and inclusivity.
Q: How did your experience in the M.Ed. program help prepare you for your role?
The M.Ed. program helped prepare me for my role in numerous ways. I developed in-depth knowledge about the structure and environment of higher education and student affairs that helps inform my communication and work with colleagues. Through courses on student and career development, I expanded my familiarity with student/client experiences described in theoretical frameworks that I translate into appointments with students, referencing developmental models as way to provide further context to student experiences. Both my assistantship at the UVA Career Center and counseling-based courses involved practical experiences that enabled me to begin to hone my advising style and understand how to structure and prepare for student interactions.
Q: What do you love most about your job?
Career advising allows me to build intentional relationships, create innovative and relevant programming/content, and work with qualitative data, which are all things that motivate me as a higher education professional. When reflecting on my role as a career advisor, I love connecting with colleagues and students on a day-to-day basis. I am motivated by working with others towards a common goal, whether it be a department mission or a student’s career goal. I love the process of reflecting on developmental models and assessment data to inform and strive to deliver support, content, and programming that is relevant to students and campus partners.
Q: What advice would you give to someone considering a career in higher education?
When considering a career in higher education, I would recommend identifying what you value and what motivates you within a career. Many professionals enter higher education because they have a service mindset or a passion for making a larger impact on society. Along with identifying your personal motivations and career goals, I would recommend engaging with higher education professionals in your departments of interest. Learning about someone else’s experience in the field can be very helpful. The wonderful thing about higher education is that many career options exist within the field in terms of role and location; it is up to you to decide what type of institution and career align with your interests, values, and priorities.
Finally, be intentional with your time in a master’s program. You have a great built-in network of faculty, staff, peers, and alumni who want to support you!
Higher Education M.Ed.
Learn more about UVA EHD's one-year Master of Education in Higher Education program.