Alumna Thriving In New Position At University of Chicago

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After graduating from the University of Chicago with a Master of Arts degree in Social Sciences, Monica Barry '20 decided to adjust her career path by becoming Assistant Director of  Graduate Employer Relations for the UChicagoGRAD office using skills she gained from her experience at Dominican University of California.

“This job is a perfect fit for me. At Dominican, I worked for the Office of Admissions as a student ambassador for my four years of study. I learned about recruitment, and what it takes to interact with prospective families and advocate for a university,” says Monica, who was named Dominican’s Outstanding Student in 2020.

“Although I am not working in admissions, I still find my recruiting skills developed at Dominican to be incredibly useful, and a skill that surely assisted me in my job search. After graduating with my Master's degree, I found myself in a vast job market with no clear direction. After meeting with a career counselor, I realized there are many opportunities for my skill set. I am incredibly thankful for career offices, and wanted to help others find career placements as well.”

Monica is as happy as she can be. This spring she collaborated with colleagues to present in this year's Graduate Career Consortium Conference at the University of Chicago where she shared her experiences in higher education. When she was a double major in English and History at Dominican, she was selected to attend Oxford University as a recipient of the Thomas and Joanne Peterson Endowed Scholarship for Dominican Scholars at Oxford and admittedly cried tears of joy.

“I feel so fortunate. I can’t even put into words how much it means to have this opportunity. Oxford is a dream school,” Monica said then. “I’m so thankful to the donors and Dominican. It really solidifies how happy I am here.”

A graduate of Eagle Rock High School near Pasadena, Monica's ultimate goal at Dominican was to pursue a PhD in History, as she would someday like to teach history at the college level so she can both teach and conduct historical research.

“She is the most complete representation of the Dominican Ideals that I have ever had the pleasure of interacting with on campus,” said Dr. Jordan Lieser, history professor.

While Monica’s end goal is still to pursue a PhD in History, she is comfortable with her journey for the time being.

“I’ve learned that the path does not have to be linear. I believe that gaining work experience in higher education will assist in making me the best candidate for a PhD when the time is right,” she says “After COVID, a lot of PhD programs are harder to enter, with undetermined career outcomes. It will always be an option for me to pursue, and I’m excited to enter a career field where I feel comfortable and confident. I think it’s important for students to know that it is okay to explore different goals, and not have `tunnel vision' on one path after graduation. You learn the most about yourself and your goals through experience. Trust your intellect, and do what makes you happy and fulfilled after graduation.”

Monica came to Dominican as an English major, but Dr. Lieser suggested that she look into history as a minor or second major. With the additional help of professors Perry Guevara and Judy Halebsky in the School of Liberal Arts and Education, Monica decided to become a double major and soon after assumed leadership roles in Dominican’s History Club.

“My advisers sat down with me and came up with a plan,” Monica recalls. “They showed me that they cared and that Dominican cared.”

Monica cared about Dominican as well. She became a student ambassador and participated in the “Shakespeare and Social Justice” arts-in-correction program in San Quentin State Prison through Dominican’s partnership with the Marin Shakespeare Company. She presented at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) at the University of Central Oklahoma in 2018 and at Kennesaw State University in Georgia in 2019 and was scheduled to give an oral presentation – “More, Pope, Swift: the Progression of English Satire and Intellectual History” – at NCUR at Montana State University in 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic cancelled the event.

Prior to that, Monica authored the story “How To Prepare For PhD As An Undergraduate” for Colleges of Distinction. She also added a visual studies minor and last semester participated in a “Renaissances in the Global World” course that produced a della Robbia website for Dominican.

Going to Oxford, however, was never in Monica’s plans.

“I was so shocked. It was Oxford. How do you not go?” Monica said. “Coming into Dominican my freshman year I had no intention of studying abroad. At the time it was hard enough to leave L.A. and move a six-hour drive away from home. I couldn’t have imagined leaving the country.”

Monica left for Oxford inspired by her mother, who had passed during her sophomore year at Dominican.

“It is my opinion that Monica turned what was a crushing sadness into an inspiration, pursuing everything Dominican has to offer and, decidedly, giving everything she has to Dominican,” Dr. Lieser says.

While preparing for her fall in Oxford, Monica sought the advice of Sophia Stetson ’19 who, along with Jake Quast ’19, were Dominican Scholars at Oxford in 2017. In 2019, Jake was named Outstanding Student at Commencement.

“My experience says a lot about small schools,” Monica said. “A lot of times when people look at the big picture and at bigger schools they think they are going to get more opportunities and greater internships, but it is small schools like Dominican that have so much to offer. It’s so much more personal.”

Monica is bringing that personal touch to her new job in the UChicagoGRAD office, which she said was incredibly helpful during her studies at the University of Chicago. She works with employers to ensure job security for graduate students upon completion of their degrees. She also helps find internships, externships, and fellowships during their studies.

Monica is the contact person for employers seeking UChicago graduates, along with doing recruiting work advocating for its students. UChicagoGRAD is an office that was developed specifically for PhD and Master's students in every department. It helps with career guidance, interview prep, resume writing, and general support for students.

To Monica, it’s a perfect opportunity.


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