Thursday, February 10, 2011

Member Spotlight: Sarah Kitten

2010-2011 ACA Treasurer

Hometown: San Antonio, TX

College(s) Attended: UT-Austin

Degree(s) Earned: BA (Major: Hispanic Linguistics) 2002, MEd (Higher Ed. Admin) 2005

Title: Academic Advising Coordinator- Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics

What are your hobbies? Gardening, Feng Shui, Sudoku

What was your favorite childhood toy? Kickball

What is your current position at UT? Briefly explain:  Academic Advising Coordinator—I am the Undergraduate Coordinator for the Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics (ASE).  In addition to regular advising, I handle the course schedule, curriculum changes, department scholarships, study abroad, FIG mentorship, prospective student visits, and on and on.  I supervise one full-time staff and two part-time staff to help me with advising the 600 undergrads we have in our department while I am working on administrative duties.
Have you had any jobs prior to your current job at UT?  If so, what were they? I had the standard high school jobs since I turned 16—telemarketer (summer), movie theater (summer), Blockbuster video (summer/early college).  When I was a sophomore at UT, I started working for the College of Liberal Arts as a Peer Advisor.  I had this job until I graduated at which point I was hired as a full-time Academic Advisor for the College of Liberal Arts Dean’s Office.  I worked in the Dean’s Office until 2006 when I started at my current job in ASE.

What is the most challenging aspect of your current job?  I’d say the most challenging aspect is working with faculty.  At least in Engineering, they are a completely different mind-track than what I would consider to be ‘normal’.  Not that it’s a ‘bad’ thing, but they are definitely out of my realm of intelligence. 

Tell us about one of your success stories that happened in your current position (regarding a student, a co-worker, a project, etc.). In our department, we have several student organizations and projects throughout the year.  Up until 2008, there was no coherent way of communicating to all of the groups together or consolidating information/volunteer efforts between them.  Therefore, I started the LUNAR (Leadership, Undergraduate Networking And Recruitment) Council in 2008.  I established a group of 9 students that represented all of our organizations and projects as well as the general student body.  For two years, we worked to organize and establish the council, got approval of the Department Chair and we now have a solid group of 13 representatives that meet every other week.  This group acts as a group of intermediaries collecting info/input from fellow students about department issues and concerns; we discuss them as a group and offer proposed solutions/suggestions to correct the issues to the affected parties and/or faculty.  In addition, the Council has been very active in our latest recruitment efforts to bring more female students to the department (we’re currently at a paltry 12%).  Overall, it has been a great success and I can see great leadership potential in all of the students involved!

Why do you feel it is important to get involved in ACA or other professional organizations? I think networking is a very valuable tool as a professional—especially at a workplace the size of UT.  Not only do you get time with peers who are going through the same problems and issues as you, but you also have the chance to learn about the immensely wide variety of services the University has to offer—both for us and for our students.  I don’t know how I’d be able to do my job without knowing what I have learned and gained from being involved in ACA!

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