AMU APU Online Learning Original

Alumni Stories: A Passion for Student and Alumni Affairs

By John Robert Morton, Student and Alumni Affairs Liaison, and Amy Everson, APU Graduate and Director, Student and Alumni Affairs

Amy Everson is used to working hard and balancing multiple responsibilities. Like many of our graduates, she achieves a balance between her work as the University’s Director of Student and Alumni Affairs, her family responsibilities and studying for a degree.

Amy recently earned her Master of Education: Student Affairs in Higher Education. For her outstanding academic work, she is also one of the 10 recipients of this year’s Academic Scholar Awards.    

Volunteering Early in Life

Amy Everson grew up in rural West Virginia. Her dad worked at a factory that produced Styrofoam products – everything from building supplies to paper plates. Her mom worked at the local Veteran Affairs (VA) hospital in the Voluntary Services Office.

Amy started volunteering at the VA hospital when she was 13 and continued volunteering for several years. She assisted patients who were going to their appointments, helped in the records room and took on any other tasks that needed doing.

By the time Amy was ready to enter college, she had more than 1,000 hours of volunteering. Amy credits her volunteer experience with building her passion for helping other people. She says, “Working at the VA gave me an appreciation for those who have served our country and the health challenges many people face as a result.”

In addition to her volunteer work for the VA hospital, Amy participated in different school activities. One of her favorite activities was helping with theatrical productions. Amy notes, “I had a lot of friends who did theatre, but I didn’t want to be on stage. So I worked behind the scenes as a stage manager or helped with props.”

Additionally, Amy was active in the National Future Farmers of America (FFA). She served in several officer roles with her high school chapter and served as Regional Secretary. As a member of the FFA chapter, she was also on the land judging team and won the regional extemporaneous speaking competition as a junior.

Developing an Interest in Helping Students

Amy attended West Virginia University (WVU), earning a bachelor’s degree in agribusiness management and rural development with a minor in environmental economics. Amy chose that program due to her grandparents owned a cattle farm, and her grandfather had a strong focus on conservation. Amy wanted to help farmers like him with small family farms.

At WVU is where Amy got her first taste of working with students. She says, “WVU is where I first got bitten by the student affairs bug, but I didn’t realize it then!” Amy worked as a Resident Assistant (RA) for two years, helping on-campus residents with their transition to the college experience. 

Amy loved her time as an RA and helping students. That transition can be harder on some college students than others. Amy says, “If I’d understood at the time that there was a whole career in student affairs, I might have taken a different path early on.”

Providing support for students in college, no matter what their age, is essential to their academic journey. Amy enjoyed helping new students find their passion, connect with their peers and explore opportunities that force them to move outside their comfort zones.

Serving the Needs of the University Community

Amy’s current role as the Director of the Student and Alumni Affairs Department requires her to wear a lot of hats. She leads a team that oversees the over 70 student organizations for current University students, alumni, faculty and University staff. These organizations are typically aligned with members’ programs, fields of study or personal interests.

These organizations are led by students and alumni. Amy’s department also helps the leaders of those student organizations to build their leadership skills in a virtual environment and provides support to them as they create programs for members.

Related link: Student Affairs in Online Education: Creating Opportunities for Interaction

Through the University Directory and the ClearPath Mentoring program, members of the University community can connect with and learn from their peers who share the same interests and career aspirations. Having a ClearPath mentor is also a beneficial way to get guidance from more experienced people who are invested in your success.

Of her work in the Student and Alumni Affairs Department, Amy notes, “I’ve been able to connect with students and alumni in a way I never imagined.” She finds it fulfilling to see campus leaders complete their degrees and take the skills they’ve acquired in student organizations out into the world.

One of Amy’s favorite parts of her job is the awards and recognition process. The University community is filled with incredible people, and she gets to learn about and spotlight their achievements through the annual awards process. She also looks forward to meeting those award winners each year at Commencement.

Pushing Her Education Forward

Now that Amy has finished her second master’s degree, she says, “I couldn’t be happier with the experience either time!” Her first master’s degree was in environmental policy and management.

The faculty in the Student Affairs program is invested in the success of their students. Amy is still in contact with each of the instructors she had in this program and has found they are valuable mentors in her growth and development.

Amy mentions that some professors had a huge impact on the path through her education. Amy says, “Dr. Dotson, Dr. Ferreira, and Dr. Athanasiou are truly assets to the University and the pillars of Student Affairs.”

Celebrating Commencement

Amy notes, “Commencement weekend is my favorite event of the year!” Our students balance so much during their programs – careers, families, studies, and the challenges of living life. Celebrating and recognizing the sacrifices of our graduates and their families on their academic journeys is an unforgettable experience. Commencement is truly a life-altering event for Amy and her team.

Amy attended her first Commencement in 2010 and has participated in every in-person and virtual ceremony we’ve held since then. She has held many roles over the years and seeing how Commencement has grown is impressive.

From the Grad Fest on the Friday of Commencement weekend to the Saturday graduation ceremonies each year, Amy is in awe of how it all comes together. Amy adds, “Our University Events team is incredible, and so many staff volunteer their time to make the weekend special for everyone.”

Helping West Virginia Communities

Amy says that her best professional achievement was being chosen to participate in the Leadership West Virginia Class of 2022. Leadership West Virginia is a program that mobilizes leaders to help move West Virginia forward in prosperity and progress. Her classmates are incredibly inspiring and have a strong desire to build their communities. 

Maintaining a Work-Life Balance

“Work-life balance is not something you achieve; it is something you create,” says Amy. She advises, “Set your boundaries and continually work towards honoring and creating that balance. The more you work at creating that balance, the better the impact on your life.”

Amy enjoys anything that allows her to be creative, such as digital art, graphic design and baking.  You can frequently find her experimenting in the kitchen.

Amy has more plans for the future. She would like to complete the certification to become a Student Affairs Educator in both student activities and conduct. Also, Amy wants to earn her Ed.D. in higher education administration or student affairs leadership. 

Advice to Future Higher Education Students

Amy emphasizes that you should not be afraid to be inspired by something else and to change your academic path. Amy notes, “It’s hard to step out of the lane you’re in and change paths, but it’s so worth the work!”

She observes, “Look for and surround yourself with people who want and ask for the best of you. They are a gift!”

John Robert Morton is a Student and Alumni Affairs Liaison and has been with the University for 12 years. His bachelor’s degree in European history is from Troy University in Troy, Alabama. He also completed master’s degrees in political science and sports management from American Military University. As a liaison, John Robert enjoys helping students and alumni to achieve their personal and professional goals.

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