Sophia Robinson ’22 reflects on the impact of the SPDC and CREDE in joining a purpose-driven company

Sophia Robinson left her hometown in North Carolina to begin her year in the Dominican Republic as a fellow at Yspaniola, working to provide high-quality education programs to local children.

Sophia Robinson ’22, an international & global studies graduate with a Spanish minor from Charlotte, North Carolina, is moving to the Dominican Republic to work in the international development industry for Yspaniola.

Robinson gives credit to Elon’s Student Professional Development Center’s (SPDC) staff for their support throughout the job search and hiring process that helped her land her role as an Yspaniola Fellow.

As a Yspaniola Fellow, Robinson is working to further the organization’s mission of providing marginalized communities with access to high-quality education. Robinson is helping to provide long-term solutions to deeper rooted issues.

Robinson recently answered some questions from the SPDC about her experience landing this prestigious position.

How did your interest in working for Yspaniola develop?

I have always had an interest in traveling and working in the international development industry. I was unable to complete my study abroad experience due to COVID-19, which made me even more motivated to search for a job or learning opportunity abroad. I was searching for job opportunities in the non-profit sector and came across Yspaniola, an organization that works with furthering children’s education and literacy in a very low-income area as well as documentation issues for Haitian-Dominicans. I was so excited because the fellowship seemed to be everything that I was looking for in terms of it being an international experience and a non-profit organization in the international development field. I saw that it was in the Dominican Republic, which was also very exciting for me since I am a native Spanish speaker and my minor is in Spanish, which has furthered my academic fluency. I knew that this would be a great opportunity and learning experience for me!

When you met with the SPDC staff, what were you trying to accomplish?

When I met with the SPDC, I was seeking help with the job search process, as it can be quite overwhelming. Specifically, I needed help finding websites and areas to search that would lead me to jobs in the field I am interested in. Once I found a job I was interested in applying for, I wanted to receive help with making sure my application and interview were up to par so that I would be hired.

Who did you work with, and what did you learn from your experience with the SPDC?

Rachael Rysz, my career advisor, gave me very helpful networking tips and advice on reaching out to the employers I was interested in ahead of the application process to learn more about the opportunity and show initiative. I also participated in career sessions provided by Paul Hvozdovic from the SPDC, who partnered with the Center for Race, Ethnicity, & Diversity Education (CREDE) ‘s SMART mentoring program. Through my interactions with the SPDC, I learned how to utilize LinkedIn, the SPDC website and various job-searching sites.

What was your experience in landing this opportunity at Yspaniola?

I did a lot of research on the organization before applying. Once I realized how excited I was about this opportunity, I reached out to Rachel Rysz, who had been working with me to find the next right step. She recommended that I email one of the current fellows through LinkedIn to learn more about their experience and set up a meeting. The meeting went very well and I was certain that this was my next step post-Elon. I wrote a cover letter and received help from staff members in both the CREDE and SPDC to revise it and prepare for my interviews. I went through two interviews and had to prepare a project plan, including how I would implement it from start to finish if I were to be hired. I received an email a couple weeks later letting me know that I received the position.

What specific things about the company culture made an impression on you?

The workplace environment seemed to be very friendly and positive. For example, one of the qualifications on the job listing that stuck out to me was a “good sense of humor,” which I believed to be a positive indicator that the workplace was friendly and open-minded.

What did you learn about the people, culture and work you will perform that made you want to pursue a career with Yspaniola?

Yspaniola seemed to tick all of my boxes in terms of people, culture and work. I wanted to be part of an organization that helps people to better support and help themselves, rather than providing short term solutions to deeper rooted issues and then leaving. Yspaniola’s mission statement specifically made an impact on me, “We believe in an inclusive Dominican Republic that provides access to high-quality education and promotes the human rights of all people.” This is something that aligns with both my personal and professional goals and made me want to further pursue my fellowship with Yspaniola.

Did you work with other staff or faculty members to prepare for the application process?

I received help from various staff members who work for the CREDE, specifically Sylvia Munoz and MJ Larrazabal, who really helped me prepare for my interviews and reviewed my cover letter. They were of tremendous help to me and I very much appreciate their unwavering support.

What recommendations would you share with other students about the SPDC?

I would recommend that students go to the SPDC with any questions or advice they may be seeking, even if it seems trivial. There are a lot of tools, resources and great advice that is available to and created for students’ benefit, take advantage of them!

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