Career of the Month: Another Alumni Profile

In a new recurring feature, we share information from graduates in different careers. This month we profile an alumna who started off on one career path and transitioned to another. Benefit from her experience by reading on!

1. What is your name? Nina McCormick

2. What was your major and minor at UW-Green Bay, and in what year did you graduate? Do you have a graduate degree (MS/PhD), and, if so, in what field? Major in Psychology, Minor in Human Development, and class of 2009. I attended graduate school at UW-Stout for a MS in Mental Health Counseling but I did not complete my degree. I’m debating going back to finish when my kids are older.

3. What is your current job and how would you briefly describe what you do? I am a Special Education Aide at Genesee Lake School, which is part of the Oconomowoc Developmental Training Center. I work one-on-one with children/adolescents in their ICARE classrooms, which stands for Innovative Care for Autism and Related Disorders. The students in my particular classroom would be considered “lower functioning”, and it is my job to help individuals not only with academics, but also with social skills, personal care, etc. For example, I might take a student to a doctor appointment, then come back to school and work on how to fold towels or how to communicate what day of the week it is using an iPad. I spend my entire day with the student, helping them eat lunch, taking them for walks outside when they need a break, and trying to focus on building a relationship with them. I also work on the units occasionally as a Residential Counselor, which I really enjoy, but the hours aren’t compatible with having young kids that you need to find child care for.

4. How do you use your human development and/or psychology education in your current job? If you do not, please explain. I use both my psychology and human development education in my job to some degree. At Genesee Lake School all our students have either a developmental disability or a mental illness that is too severe to allow them to do well in a regular public school environment. I would say the majority of our students have also witnessed significant trauma and abuse before they came to us. Having a background in Psychology and Human Development has definitely given me an advantage at my job.

5. Was this your first job upon graduation? If not, what was your first job? No, my first job was with Wisconsin Early Autism Project. I also worked in child care for several years.

6. What kinds of things did you do as a student (e.g., specific classes taken, independent studies, working with your advisor or career services, volunteer work, part-time jobs) that you believe made you successful in your job search and/or competitive as a job candidate? Is there anything you didn’t do that you wish you had done? I personally chose to do an internship at the Golden House working specifically with children there. I have always wanted to work with kids, and that’s a passion of mine that has never changed. This was not only good experience, but it definitely looks good on a resume.

I had two part-time jobs while I was in college, one of which was in child care, and the other was teaching yoga classes.

The only thing I wish I would have done more of is volunteer my time in the mental health field.

7. What advice would you give to current UW-Green Bay human development and/or psychology students with regard to making the most of their education and making themselves maximally competitive for employment post-graduation? Don’t get discouraged if you are not planning to go on to graduate school. The reality is that it can be difficult to find a job in social services/mental health without at least a master’s degree, but as wonderful as those programs are, they are not for everyone. All my life I wanted to be a therapist and once I was in graduate school and actually started doing supervised counseling, I decided it wasn’t for me at this time in my life. I love what I do now, but I had to work my way up to it. The great thing about my job is there is so much room to grow. Get as involved as you can, volunteer, study hard, and enjoy what you do. This may not be the highest paying field out there, but I think it can be one of the most rewarding.