Meet the Experts in Social Justice

The panelists below will share more about how they got interested in social justice and provide advice and insight to UNL students looking to break into these roles.

Jessica Vandivort de Montiel  (she/her)
Recruiter, Peace Corps

What sparked your interest in this field?
My undergraduate degree is in Sociology/Anthropology and I have always enjoyed learning what makes cultures and societies click. After a few years in the private sector following graduation, I knew the Peace Corps was a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with those interests and serve my country at the same time.

How did you gain experience when you were a student completing your undergraduate degree?
Some of the hands on experience I gained while in college, and shortly after college that helped me carve my path include: new member educator for my sorority, bioarcheology field school/study abroad in Peru, tutor at-risk youth in science and volunteer for the Women’s Employment Network, where I helped women who had been out of the workforce prepare for interviews and edit resumes.

Who is someone that influenced your career and professional development?
While working as Peach Corps’ Program and Training Specialist in Guatemala, following my volunteer service, I had a colleague, Helmuth, an esteemed public health professional from Honduras. Helmuth had a long, successful career in Public Health and Youth Development programming, who helped me really understand the phrase ‘Si Dios Quiere’ or ‘God Willing’. Some may take it as a religious reference, but he helped me understand it in the context of ‘do your best,  ve kind, involve others – and let things fall where they may.’

What is one important skill you’ve had to acquire and hone as you’ve grown in your career?
I have had to learn to pivot whether planning an event or the next step in my career. As much as we try to map out a path for where we want to go, opportunities arise, or doors close. Most careers are not linear, so it is important to build a tool box of skills that will prepare you for where you are at, and possibly the next thing. Take an inventory of what skills you will be able to strengthen with every opportunity that presents itself.

 

Erin Pixley (she/her/hers)
Program Assistant – Nebraska Appleseed

What sparked your interest in this field?
I interned for a few social justice organizations during my senior year of college and found the work rewarding and impactful on my professional direction. After college, I accepted a position as an AmeriCorps member doing outreach for a direct service organization. I enjoyed the work I did but realized that I wanted to work more on a systemic level and change systems. The direct service was wonderful and I was able to see first-hand the amazing impact the organization had for people, but no matter how hard we worked, we were still working within systems that were broken or outdated. I knew then that I wanted to work at on organization that focused on that systems-level change.

How did you gain experience when you were a student completing your undergraduate degree? I When I was a student completing my undergraduate degree, I unfortunately didn’t gain a lot of experience in the filed I’m in now until I was a senior through two internships at social justice-type organizations. The years prior I was changing my major quite a bit so I was unsure of what exactly I was passionate about and I also was working on campus so that I could pay for my living expenses and school. I knew that I wanted to work in the nonprofit field because I wanted to work towards change, but that was it. All this to say, I think it’s okay if you feel like you aren’t gaining the “right” experiences during college or you need to focus on providing for yourselves/others. You should continue to seek them out if you can, but know that it’s never too late to start getting involved with nonprofit work.

Who is someone that influenced your career and professional development?
The Administration Sr. Director at Appleseed, Kristine Hull, has impacted my professional development in a huge way he has given me opportunities to grow and explore new areas of work, while being there as a support. She keeps equity at the front of her mind when thinking of new ideas and models what a great leader and manager should be.

What is one important skill you’ve had to acquire and hone as you’ve grown in your career?
I’ve learned that communicating well, whether written or verbal, is extremely important. It wasn’t until I was an AmeriCorps member having to rely on my communication with other members to get my job done just how important it is. Clear, confident communication is key to expressing your ideas and making sure that what you’re saying will be understood by others. Communication is a two-way street, as well, so being open and receptive to what others are saying is just as important. I’ve experienced it too many times where I haven’t communicated what I wanted to with confidence or as effectively as I wanted and it left me and others confused after the conversation.

 

Carly Wacker (she/her/her)
High School Program Manager – College Possible

What sparked your interest in this field?
My position has allowed me to combine my passion for education equity and working to close the degree divide with my experience in non-profit management. I enjoy working in a collaborative environment that’s mission driven.

How did you gain experience when you were a student completing your undergraduate degree?
Some of my most valuable experience came from working directly with professors in my position with our on-campus bookstore. I connected with them on ordering their course books, and in the process learned more about each department and their support and expectations of students. I also worked part-time at the Muscular Dystrophy Association which solidified my desire to work in non-profit.

Who is someone that influenced your career and professional development?
I was lucky to have built strong relationship with professors that have continued over the years. Those relationships have ultimately led me to find my true passion and connect me to my current job. My boss is someone I now consider my biggest advocate and she continually encourages my development, both personally and professionally.

What is one important skill you’ve had to acquire and hone as you’ve grown in your career?
Technical skills that I’ve acquired over the years are my knowledge of excel and our CRM database, Salesforce. Non-technical skills I’ve gained and continually improve upon are strong communication and organizational skills. I believe that direct and detailed communication alongside being highly organized has made me more effective.

 

Human Services, Nonprofits, Nonprofits-Government, Social Justice Meet Up

Wednesday, March 31, 2021, 5:30 PM

Register for this event on Handshake   

To access the program go to this link

*Check out the outstanding panel of professionals below who will share about how they got started 

Human Services

Nonprofits

    Nonprofits-Government