MS in Higher Education Students Bring Diverse Experiences, Goals

MS in Higher Education Students Bring Diverse Experiences, Goals

Preparing people to lead in the higher education field is the specialty of the SESP Higher Education Administration and Policy master’s program. Students say they’re enriched by the diverse backgrounds and goals of their fellow students, who are usually career changers or career advancers. 

Howard Kantoff

Career changers, advancers, launchers
One example of a career changer is Howard Kantoff, who is making a switch from theater to higher education. For 13 years Kantoff traveled the world as a drummer with the Blue Man Group ensemble. Now he’s interested in community colleges and nontraditional students and has been interning at Oakton Community College and Truman College.

“The program has done a remarkable job of familiarizing me with a wide variety of professional avenues in higher education. As a career changer who didn't know exactly what my options were, this aspect of the program has been extremely important for me,” says Kantoff. “The internship aspect has also been crucial — my internship at Oakton Community College has been instrumental in my transition to becoming a professional academic advisor. It's been a ‘hands-on’ experience that no textbook could ever provide!”

Laura West, a former high school science teacher who is already working in higher education at Northeastern Illinois University, is an example of a career advancer. After working for several years in higher education recruitment, she wanted to broaden her knowledge in order to expand her ability to move into other areas or advance. The SESP program appealed to her because of its courses on wide-ranging topics and the opportunity to explore topics of interest through course assignments and the master's project.

“The program is helping to meet my professional goals by strengthening my skills and knowledge in the field of higher education,” she says. “I have learned a great deal from instructors, guest speakers, fellow classmates and alumni who are currently working in higher education, and the program has allowed me to develop a network of people within the field.”

Kimberly Struglinski

Real-world immersion learning
Career launcher Kimberly Struglinski came to Northwestern as a full-time student after a fellowship in the president's office at Wake Forest, her alma mater. This year she is interning at Northwestern in New Student and Family Programs. The biggest pluses of the program for her have been the real-world learning through her internship and a faculty of knowledgeable University professionals.

“The total immersion in the higher education environment, being surrounded by people who are educating and helping me grow as a professional, has been transformative. Our classes are taught by faculty who are running the university on a daily basis and can give us a true insight into what it takes to work in higher education in a variety of different positions. Through my internship I’ve had the opportunity to engage with administrators across campus and hear them talk about how they encounter the very topics I’m learning about in class. I’ve also been able to put the things I’ve learned about in class into practice right away,” she says.

Top faculty and curriculum
Jacob Schmidt came to the program as a fifth-year Northwestern football player. After his internship, he worked for the Athletics Department at Northwestern and now holds the position of director of player development. His master’s project helped him to prepare for this role by researching alumni mentoring in football.

The top-notch faculty and curriculum were the big draw of the SESP program for Schmidt. “Having always aspired to work in higher education and, in particular, college athletics, I thought the course work would afford me an opportunity to really learn about and develop an understanding of the academic side of an institution. Coupling this with the chance to interact with some of the most experienced and respected faculty members at Northwestern made it an easy decision for me,” he says.

Reaching career goals
Erin O’Keefe’s experience exemplifies the Higher Education program’s strength in career development. After teaching English in Spain, O’Keefe came to the SESP Higher Education program. She interned in Career Services at Northwestern last year, and then landed a full-time job at the University of Chicago as manager of employer programs and events for Career Services at Booth School of Business.

“The SESP Higher Ed program is helping me reach my professional goals in three ways. First, the foundation of strong course content has enabled me to stay abreast of both academic theory and trending topics in a wide range of higher education fields. Second, my career services internship and MSHE assistantship gave me 'real-world' professional experience, which led to my full-time job. Third, I am constantly learning from the MSHE network of fellow students and alumni. I plan to stay connected with this group as I continue my professional development.”

Xiao Chen

Exploring varied interests
Students pursue their interests through a long-term master’s research project, as well as through internships. For example, Xiao Chen is an international student from China with varied interests who will intern in the International Office. He appreciates learning about conducting research, theories of student development and higher education issues.

A collaborative community allows students with diverse backgrounds and interests to learn from each other. “Through collaboration in group tasks, I have benefited from different viewpoints from my cohort members from highly diverse backgrounds. Beyond the course work, the Higher Education program actively provides workshops to help its students to build up resumes and alumni network, and encourages its participants to seek experiences in different internships,” Chen notes.

“The Higher Education program has given me pertinent knowledge, reflective skills, exposure to diverse perspectives, and career guidance,” he says.

By Marilyn Sherman
Last Modified: 3/27/14