Parker wants to help students discover ‘their truth’

Gateway begins the academic year with new position, career advisor

What is your truth? How can the events that lead you to be who you are right now help you in your career, your future life, and in your community?

These may seem like loaded questions, and they are meant to be. But this philosophical question of “what is your truth” happens to be one that has stayed with Autumn Parker, ’16, since her first few days as a Gator.

Parker is one of the newest employees in the Allegheny Gateway — she began her role of career advisor on Aug. 1, and said she is excited to help students translate their Allegheny experiences into career paths and apply for jobs. She also said she hopes students will head down to her office in the Gateway just to chat about coursework, or for any general advice. 

“Work with me and tell me your truth,” Parker said.

One of the many steps on Parker’s journey to becoming a career advisor at the Gateway was being an Allegheny student. Her father, an alumnus from the class of ’89, spoke of the college as being one that “looked at the whole person,” as opposed to treating its students like a number.

When a slightly unimpressed Parker came to tour Allegheny, she remembers immediately falling in love with the campus atmosphere.

“Yes, they ask the typical questions,” Parker said. “But they were asking me, ‘Do you feel a sense of belonging?’ And I had never heard another institution ask me that on a tour.”

Parker had toured several other schools before Allegheny, but none of them seemed to share Allegheny’s passion for students fitting in as community members. This feeling was amplified for Parker in Grounds for Change Coffee House one afternoon when someone had asked her, “What’s your truth?”

Parker said the student was relating “truth” to Parker’s personal story — the events that have led her to become who she is as a person. The student then asked, “How do you think your truth can contribute to our community?” 

“(The question) was coming from the sense of, ‘you are bringing all of yourself here, and we appreciate the differences (you bring to Allegheny), … but we also want to challenge you in formulating it in a more global manner,” Parker said.

It was this critical thinking sent Parker down the path of a communication arts major at Allegheny. But like many students, she did not know what she wanted to do right away.

“What I really appreciate about Allegheny is that it didn’t have this tone of, ‘you have to commit now to who you want to be for your entire life,’” Parker said.

She only began studying communication arts after switching her major twice. She settled on declaring as a communication arts major and a psychology and community justice double minor.

After graduation, Parker had the opportunity to work for a few different organizations centered around teaching and helping those who were less fortunate — she worked with Breakthrough Collaborative teaching seventh graders in Alabama, for example.

She then worked for City Year Cleveland Americorps, an experience, she recalls, that was tinged with sadness. She taught in an eighth grade math class and remembers it being “traumatizing” to watch the kids struggle to multiply double digits when she was supposed to be teaching them linear algebraic equations. The experience, she said, helped her to understand, “why it is school districts are grappling with these obstacles and providing basic resources for their students.”

Both of these positions had helped her figure out what she wanted her future job to be — a dean of students for higher education, which led her to the Baldwin Wallace leadership in higher education program.

Through her new role as career advisor, Parker hopes to utilize a peer-to-peer connection system with students. She served as a career peer advisor during her time as an Allegheny student, where she developed internships, job shadowing opportunities and educational programs to aid in students off-campus success.

“Peer-to-peer connections are so undervalued,” Parker said. “So many students have these passions to actually translate their academic work to a work-study position. We want our career peer advocates to advocate that these are the tools and resources that I have affirmed that are useful in both a personal and professional development.”

Jim Fitch, director of Career Education, shared his excitement about the development of the position of career advisor, and its effect on the students here.

“As a small, private liberal arts college, this position is important because the students complete their coursework and then they are unsure how to connect what they have learned into a job,” Fitch said.

He said he also believes that Parker is in the best position to help guide the students of Allegheny through the career process.

“Her passion for student development, whether it be personal or professional, makes her the person to go to,” Fitch said.