Friday, June 12, 2015

Alumni Spotlight: Amanda Reis

By Amanda Reis, class of 2010, English major

I listen for my AU English professors every time I write. I can still see Dr. Russell Weaver in his tweed sports jacket and grey beard, sitting at the head of a long rectangular table, telling me to avoid comma splices and never start a sentence with ‘it’. “How can you make this sentence better?” he’d asked. On the contrary, I can hear Dr. Joe Mackall assuring me with his light hearted, personable demeanor that it’s okay to “just write” sometimes and worry about the spelling and grammar later. Skip the introduction and write the piece, he’d tell me, for how can you introduce something that hasn’t yet been written?

I carry the books I’ve read and the papers I’ve written into the conversations and interactions I have both personally and professionally: Jane Eyre, Mrs. Dalloway, Trainspotting, The Canterbury Tales. Papers with specifications to start with only one word and expand on that word over eight pages. Round table discussions and living room sessions trying to understand the meaning of human nature in literature. It is without question that these exercises cultivated a certain level of inquisitiveness, and as a result, a strong desire to understand the world around me. I frequently hear my family or my friends tell me that I “make them tired” with my ceaseless need to fully comprehend a subject or a motivation for why things are done, but nurturing one’s curiosity and intellect is necessary to advance personally or in any profession.

The experiences I had at Ashland University as an English undergraduate student laid the foundation for success in my both professional and personal life. I served as a student reader on the editorial board for RiverTeeth: A Journal of Nonfiction Narrative and also interned as a catalog project coordinator at BookMasters Distribution Center in Ashland, OH. It was through these experiences, working with self-motivated authors outside of mainstream publishing, that I began to grasp and appreciate writers from across the globe who were talented and inspiring with a story to tell. I knew I wanted to advocate for them in my professional life.

At the University of the Arts, Philadelphia

After graduation I moved back to my hometown in Pittsburgh, PA and did just that. I worked as a Project Coordinator on the production team of a small vanity press in the Cultural District of downtown Pittsburgh. For a year and a half, I worked with authors from all over the world, discussing their goals for publication and their vision for their finished pieces. I developed relationships and was able to empathize with the basic humanitarianism in what they were doing— trying to make a difference, trying to heal a broken heart, trying to help someone in need. Connecting with my authors (our customers) in this way not only made me a valuable employee, but allowed me to see the importance of interpersonal communication at the professional level. The understanding of human nature and ability to communicate effectively that I practiced every day at Ashland (and continue to practice now) is a skill that is invaluable to employers, whether working directly with customers or with colleagues in the office.

I have since left the publishing industry and currently work at the University of Pittsburgh as an admissions counselor for one of the six health science schools on campus. My daily work is inundated with communication, both written and verbal. I communicate with students and their families, faculty and staff, and on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Communicating effectively is vital, and it is validating every time I finish sending a correspondence or talk with a student to have acquired and nurtured a skill that is so respected and coveted in the professional world. The feelings of confidence and competence I have in my abilities to communicate well have allowed me to complete many successful projects at work, enabling me to further demonstrate my value to my work community. Additionally, I am currently enrolled in a graduate program at the University of Pittsburgh studying health and wellness; it is my goal to combine my love of nutrition and fitness with my communication skills and work to help people achieve their goals.

To reflect and write a piece like this is insightful, and I am thankful for the opportunity to do so. Above all else, my time at AU assured in me that my abilities to connect with and understand the world around me would be highly developed. In that respect, no matter where my professional path takes me, I know I can be successful. And for that I am grateful.