Meet Alyssa Voigt
Alyssa Voigt is a University of Guelph alumni who graduated in 2018 with a Bachelor of Arts and Sciences (BAS), specializing in Molecular Biology and Genetics, and Ethics for the Life Sciences. During her time as a student, Alyssa was very involved, especially with the Office of the Associate Vice-President, where she worked as an Undergraduate Research Assistant for two summers, and also completed Independent Studies. As she approached graduation, Alyssa decided she was dedicated to continuing to work in higher education. She secured a job as a Quality Assurance Coordinator at the University of Waterloo, where she currently works. Alyssa sees her experiences with the University of Guelph and the University of Waterloo as being “full-circle”, and accredits her work at the University of Guelph to helping her discover her interests, allowing her to continue to build her career portfolio with the University of Waterloo.
What was your favourite thing about the University of Guelph?
“My favourite thing about the University of Guelph was definitely the sense of community. The first time I visited the campus, in March for Campus Day, I immediately felt at home. I come from a small town, so the community feel of the University of Guelph was a big draw for me. This is a special place, where people hold doors for each other, and you can always find someone you know while walking around campus. The city of Guelph is also a wonderful place to live – it has the amenities of a city, with the community of a smaller town. Even now that I am no longer a student, I still run into people I know around the city.”
Can you describe the jobs that you completed as a University of Guelph student?
“I started my first on-campus job in my first semester at U of G. I started working with Desk Services in Student Housing Services. I continued with this team throughout my four years at U of G, working at all the residences across campus. Also in first year, I became involved in the University of Guelph Ambassador program, being a Residence Ambassador and showing my residence room to prospective students. This opportunity led me to my second job on campus, as a University of Guelph tour guide. Being a tour guide taught me a lot about the University – its programs, its history, its people – and allowed me to share my story and help people fall in love with Guelph as much as I had. I continued as a Campus Tour Guide through the remainder of my University career.”
”Finally, my third job was as an Undergraduate Research Assistant in the Office of the Associate Vice-President Academic. I started this role in the summer after my second year, and continued to be involved as a Work Study student, working part-time during my studies. This job is ultimately what taught me about academic quality assurance and put me in the career position that I am in today. I worked on projects related to experiential learning, course offerings, and continuous improvement of quality assurance activities/processes. I helped facilitate teaching and learning focus groups, sat on an experiential learning task force, attended conferences on improving teaching and learning, surveyed QA teams at other universities, and ran a community of practice for students working in support units. This opportunity taught me so much about how the university works, and allowed me to establish networking connections with Associate Deans, faculty, provincial QA representatives, and QA representatives from other Universities. After this role opened my eyes to some of the work that goes on behind the scenes, I was more thoughtful about how the various aspects of my program fit together. I was appreciative of my professors, who sought continuous feedback on how to improve their course and their teaching. This experience changed so much about how I engaged and viewed my academic program. I was no longer just a student going through the motions and completing course by course; I was both a piece of the puzzle and helping build a better puzzle for future students.”
Did you take part in an experiential learning course or activity that has helped you learn a new skill?
“Yes! Throughout my 2 years as an Undergraduate Research Assistant, I completed 3 Independent Study projects. These allowed me to translate the work that I was doing (and was interested in) and tie it in with my academics. I hadn’t originally realized that these opportunities existed, so was very thankful for my supervisors for suggesting and challenging me to complete them.”
What has been the most challenging obstacle in your university career, and how did you overcome it?
“Time management was a challenge considering all the different things I was involved in throughout my four years. I kept a very detailed and colour-coded calendar, and made sure to schedule everything, including time with family and friends. I also kept open and honest communication with all of my supervisors to make sure they knew where I was at and how I was managing. There were weeks when I simply was swamped with school work and the great thing about working for the University is that school comes first, and my supervisors were very understanding and accommodating of that.”
Did your career aspirations change as you progressed through your U of G career/ or work terms? What are your future plans as of now?
“Prior to my roles with the University of Guelph and the University of Waterloo, I had wanted to do many different things with my life, such as working in reproductive fertility. These roles have opened up my eyes to a new field, one that I am truly passionate about. Ending up in higher education seemed like a true fit that had never crossed my mind. I think one of the challenges in career preparation during post-secondary is that we tend to get so caught up thinking about career options, that career options at universities rarely get brought up. Yet, so many University employees are alumni of that institution or another local institution.”
What advice would you give to current students?
“I would stress the importance of reading your emails. I got the majority of my jobs by reading emails, exploring the University website, etc. These jobs not only taught me a lot and helped me end up where I am now, but also allowed me to make money to pay for my education. I would also advise them to talk to their professors. Establishing a relationship with them, asking how you can be involved, and thanking them, can go a long way.”