This week we want to give a shoutout to Sindy Vela, our former Program Manager, for her hard work and dedication to the MSEM program. Sindy has recently taken a new role as Assistant Director in the Office of Graduate Admissions. While we’re sad she won’t be in our program directly, we are so happy she continues to be a part of the USF community. So from all of us in the MSEM program, we want to say a big thank you for everything you have done, and congratulations on your well-deserved promotion!
We got the chance to have a Q&A with Sindy to hear all about her favorite aspects of MSEM and what learnings she will take into her new role.
What has been the most rewarding part of working within the MSEM program?
The most rewarding part about working with the MSEM program has been working with its graduate students and faculty. Witnessing their passion and dedication to the environmental field always encouraged me to see the world with optimism and believe that each of us has something to contribute to create a more sustainable world.
What is something interesting you have learned from the students in the program?
Students often reflected and wished they had enjoyed their graduate journey better. Reflections included taking a lighter load or courses outside of their expertise, to having more time to prep for their Master’s Project. I was always excited to hear from the graduating cohorts and bring wisdom to the incoming cohorts to help them channel their time and energy in the program.
Who or what has inspired and motivated you while working within the MSEM program?
Representing the program at fairs and information sessions was super important to me – it motivated me in many ways. Talking for the first time with a recent undergraduate student or someone returning to school after many years was very rewarding. Having the opportunity to help prospective students jump on their graduate journey with the tools and information they needed was always my goal.
I learned much of what I know about program management from Prof. John Callaway and other close colleagues who are now pursuing other exciting professional opportunities. The way in which John connected with prospects and current students motivated me to engage more openly about the program and each student’s academic and professional journey. Learning about their past and future professional goals was always inspiring.
What do you hope to bring from your work and time with MSEM into your new role in the Office of Graduate Admissions?
I hope to bring my many years of experience in program management to better understand the full student cycle from recruitment through graduation and help make more informed decisions about admissions and recruitment strategies and processes. My experience in system development and management will allow me to collaborate with my team in the Office of Graduate Admissions in new ways.
Do you have any parting thoughts or wisdom that you would like to share with potential future hires of this position?
Yes, prioritize the student and prospect experience. Learn to adapt and embrace the vision and mission of the program as you move through different spaces and seasons in this role. Always remember that you can learn from others; humility is the best sign of a strong leader.
Sindy, we will remember your wise recommendations, and we are glad to still work with you in the Office of Graduate Admissions. MSEM is now in the process of hiring a new Program Manager. (See the job description for more details)