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Administrative Support program builds confidence, skills

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Multi-tasker, detail-oriented, tech-savvy. These are all traits employers look for when hiring administrative support. Minnesota State College Southeast students Elisabeth Golat and Tarah Sandven know first-hand that they are also qualities at the core of the college’s Administrative Support program. With online and on-campus flexibility, day and evening classes, internship opportunities and career development support, the college's Administrative Support program offered what both students were looking for: a solid path to employment.

Read Elisabeth's story | Read Tarah's story

“I’m not a number here.”

Elisabeth GolatAfter graduating with her bachelor’s degree in marketing communications from a four-year school in 2009, Elisabeth Golat hit the pavement hard in search of her first post-college job. At the height of the recession, the job outlook was dim, and Elisabeth has a box of rejection letters to prove it. Desperate for a paycheck, Elisabeth applied to McDonald’s and a staffing agency. Both called back within days offering positions, and Elisabeth started working full-time through the staffing agency and part-time at McDonald’s.

When Elisabeth was offered a management position at McDonald’s, she knew she needed to make a tough decision: take the promotion and commit to that career path, or go back to school and beef up her résumé with new skills. Choosing the latter, Elisabeth met with a MSC Southeast admissions advisor to explore her options.

“The admissions advisor really helped me through the process and decide what I want to do,” Elisabeth says. “I decided on Administrative Support because I felt it enhanced my four-year degree.”

Going back to school immediately opened new doors for Elisabeth. Because the Administrative Support program includes an internship experience, she gained real-world job experience that has strengthened her skills.

“I work at the Family & Children’s Center in Winona doing administrative assistant work and I love it,” Elisabeth says, noticeably beaming as she talks about her internship experience. “I’m in Microsoft Excel and Access classes right now, and at the Family & Children’s Center I use them all the time. Knowing more than the basics has been very helpful and my supervisor liked that I came to work and knew how to do everything. She didn’t have to do a lot of training.”

As a non-traditional student, Elisabeth instantly noticed a different atmosphere at MSC Southeast than at other schools. “Honestly, I chose MSC Southeast because I’m not a number here. I felt like people at MSC Southeast were more accommodating to non-traditional students, and Ramona Coron, my instructor and advisor, has been an absolute help. I feel like I couldn’t have asked for a better advisor, because she helped me find my internship.”

Looking back on her decision to enroll in MSC Southeast’s Administrative Support program, Elisabeth has a positive outlook on her future. “I really feel like I’ve gotten something out of every class here. I’m really glad I did this.”

Elisabeth’s positive attitude and hard work are starting to pay off. After participating in this interview, she was offered full-time employment as a receptionist for Sport & Spine Physical Therapy of Winona. With the help of online classes, Elisabeth will complete her degree this fall semester.

“They made it feel like home.”

Tarah SandvenTarah Sandven, a recent graduate of MSC Southeast's Administrative Support program, has two reasons to be proud: a new job and a new baby.

Tarah wrapped up her A.A.S. degree this past fall semester by taking classes online while she awaited the arrival of her first son. At the same time, she participated in an internship with La Crescent Middle School.

“The internship made it a reality: this is going to be my career,” Tarah notes. “I just realized how much I liked it and that I made the right choice.”

Making the initial choice to attend MSC Southeast meant Tarah had to do a little course-correction, but she’s happy she changed lanes when she did. “I went to a different school to study in their dental assistant program and realized it wasn’t for me. One of my friends went to Minnesota State College Southeast, and I thought maybe I’ll check it out. I really liked the size of the school and the size of the classes, and every instructor that I talked to or asked for advice or help was super nice. It was a way different environment than the school I came from. They made it feel like home.”

The connections Tarah made at MSC Southeast started working in her favor before she even graduated. At the end of this past fall semester, Tarah’s advisor and Administrative Support instructor Ramona Coron emailed her a new job post for an administrative assistant position at the Winona Area Chamber of Commerce. By Christmas, Tarah was hired.

“I maintain the conference room, do mailings and the e-newsletter, and help create other materials,” Tarah explains. “I help plan events for the Chamber and make PowerPoint presentations, brochures and other things.”

Equipped with formal training in the software programs she uses every day, Tarah is also noticing that the skills she gained through the Administrative Support program are giving her an edge in the workplace. “Having those full-semester classes on PowerPoint and Excel really helped, because now I know what I’m doing. They made me more confident,” Tarah adds, “Same with the classes on how to act professionally in your job and have a strong work ethic. The classes also made me way more detail-oriented, almost borderline perfectionist.”

With a new job and family, Tarah is glad she chose a program that plays up her strengths. “I really think the Administrative Support program suited me well,” Tarah says. “I really like to help people and do that work for them.”

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