Students and Alumni reflect on community impact ahead of human services, nonprofit and social justice niche event

On March 8, University Career Services will host their third niche event, “Exploring: Human Services, Nonprofit & Social Justice Pathways”. The event will bring together industry professionals, Husker alumni and students to make meaningful connections while having insightful conversations. 

Niche events are low-stakes, informal career events designed to help students gain clarity and insight. The next event focuses on human services, nonprofit & social justice pathways and will feature a panel with four industry professionals, discussion rounds and a freestyle session where students can speak freely with employers and ask any questions they may have. 

Ashly Felipe-Espino graduated with a degree in criminology and criminal justice last December and now has firsthand experience about what it’s like to enter the human services field. Felipe-Espino started her new position as a child and family services specialist with the Department of Health and Human Services the Monday after graduation. She said the hardest part was adjusting to life without the structure of education.  

“It was just the fear of the unknown,” Felipe-Espino. “It’s a little less structured and I’m very organized in the fact that I knew what I was doing almost every moment of the day when I was in college. Not having that moving into the workforce was kind of scary to me, but I’ve adjusted pretty well.” 

If she were still a student, Felipe-Espino said she would’ve definitely attended a niche event like the one being hosted on Wednesday. She said it is an easy way for students to get the information they need before entering full-time roles after college. 

Ashly Felipe-Espino in front of the door of the Dept. of Health and Human Services.

“I love my job, but I didn’t know what to expect coming in,” Felipe-Espino said. “I’ve never really done any case management ever. But I really enjoy the personal experiences that it gives me, being able to help people and interact with people every day. I’m very much a people person so it’s very gratifying, to say the least.” 

Tien Dang is a senior psychology major, and a community learning center intern with Lincoln Housing authority. Currently, she is located at Arnold Elementary where she helps to run after school programs at the CLC. She too said that the pleasure she gets from helping others is what makes her job worthwhile.  

“I like having short interactions with the kids for like five minutes and then the next time the kid sees me, they have a smile on their face,” Dang said. “You never know if that’s what the kid needed that day, you know, and I’m happy to be in the position where I have those long or short interactions with kids. And it’s amazing to see the kids grow too, from the beginning to the end of club sessions.” 

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, however, according to Felipe-Espino. She said that her job can be challenging, especially with the stigma attached to the position.  

“I feel like we have this negative connotation as an office and division,” Felipe-Espino said. “But in reality, what we do is much more geared towards helping. We don’t want to ever be in a position where we’re making a family’s life harder, in any way, shape or form. Deep down, I know that what we’re doing is helping a lot of people. I’ve yet to run into someone who’s told me that they don’t want to do what we do anymore. Because it’s a hard job, but like I said, it’s extremely gratifying.” 

Dang also said that leaving a positive mark with the work she does is what drives her career passion in the human services field. After graduation, she said she hopes to continue with the work she is doing now.  

“I think what this position has helped me recognize is that like, when you work, it’s not just about you,” Dang said. “It’s also the people that you’re working around and the impact that you could create within the community. I’d like to continue to be around kids and families. I kind of want to be a director or coordinator in the role I’m in right now, I love the interactions with kids and families, and I hope to do more for the community, too.” 

Having some experience under her belt, Dang recommends other students interested in similar career fields to take advantage of all the options available to them. She encourages others to put themselves out there and learn more about what they may want in their future. 

“Do your research and be open to the opportunities out there for you,” Dang said. “I know academics is my top priority, but experiences are important too. And don’t be afraid to just be yourself and kind of figure out what you want. I know it can be hard sometimes, but that’s when the experiences come in handy.” 

Students interested in human services, nonprofit and social justice pathways can learn more about these industries and what opportunities they may have by attending the niche event on Wednesday. To learn more about the event and the professionals attending, visit the event landing page.  

By Bailey Herrera
Bailey Herrera