Paying It Forward as a Social Change Agent

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This blog story is the first in a series we will be featuring on social change agents.

Taiquan is a Master in Public Administration (MPA) student with specializations in Nonprofit Management & Leadership and Homeland Security Policy & Coordination. He is a mentor and youth leader with a relentless commitment to underserved communities. Mentors made a difference in Taiquan’s life as a teenager.  They exposed him to the importance of higher education, time management, and leadership skills. In the same spirit, Taiquan became committed to mentoring, supporting, and leading youth in his community.

While pursuing his bachelor’s degree in political science at North Carolina Central University, Taiquan assumed multiple leadership roles as an empowerment coach, mentor, and peer counselor.  After enrolling in the MPA program at Walden, he embarked on a new job search to continue building his expertise in the nonprofit sector.  He researched and applied for nonprofit and government positions, and he was selected for an interview with AmeriCorps, a government agency committed to preparing youth for the workforce.

How did Taiquan stand out during the interview?

Prior to the interview:  Taiquan used his networking connections to conduct an informational meeting with an AmeriCorps employee. He researched the organization and position to gain a better understanding of potential leadership opportunities. They communicated through email and phone, and Taiquan gained insider knowledge of the organization, their needs, and expectations.  He then used the many resources and techniques he learned during career advising to gear up for his formal interview and build his confidence.

During the interview:  Taiquan asked in-depth questions, engaged the interviewer in conversation, and provided specific examples of his prior successes.  He shared accomplishments from his summer internship with the Children’s Defense Fund where he volunteers as a servant leader and facilitates groups for third and fourth graders through a six-week enrichment program. Taiquan’s interviewer commented that his was “one of the best interviews they ever had.”  Taiquan was offered a position with AmeriCorp where he continues to help students build academic skills, improve self-esteem, and overcome socio-economic barriers.

Taiquan’s long-term goal is to start his own nonprofit providing at-risk teenage males living in urban communities the opportunity to travel overseas.  Training youth to become servant leaders and encouraging them to embrace global perspectives uphold Walden University’s social change mission.  To bring his dream to fruition, Taiquan continues to build his experience and develop his brand as a social change agent.  We are confident that he will make a difference in many lives going forward.

Interested in starting a nonprofit?  Watch the webinar, Building Blocks of Starting a Nonprofit Organization

Targeting nonprofit or government positions?  Browse resources by sector

Seeking to make an impact in your community?  Watch the webinar, Developing Social Entrepreneurs

Written by Dina Bergren, Associate Director of Career Services

Book Review: Moving the Needle: Get Clear, Get Free, and Get Going in Your Career, Business and Life by Joe Sweeney

You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you‘re going because you might not get there.  – Yogi Berra

It is an old story: you feel stuck in your life, and you know that you need to make a change but are unsure where to begin. In fact, you are not even sure you know exactly what you want. Sound familiar?  Joe Sweeney, author of the celebrated business book Networking Is a Contact Sport, addresses all of these issues in his latest book, Moving the Needle. Sweeney breaks the book into three parts: getting clear about what it is that you want, taking responsibility for the things that happen in your life, and taking measurable steps toward your aspirations. Using this framework, Sweeney acts as a coach, driving the reader toward success.

According to Sweeney, “If you can create a big enough why, the how will take care of itself.” A large portion of the book is dedicated to “getting clear.” In order to do this, Sweeney provides tools for everything from finding your purpose in life to mapping your ideal day, month, year and life. He promotes a series of self-reflection tools to get clear on what change we want and need in our lives. One of these tools, his “Life Decision Wheel” challenges you to write specific actions steps for various areas of your life. The spokes of the wheel include:

  • Career & Job
  • Financial
  • Relationships
  • Health and Fitness
  • Contribution to Community
  • Personal Growth
  • Spiritual Growth
  • Recreation

Taking time for this activity will determine where to devote your energy and efforts.

Networking and interpersonal communication are clearly Sweeney’s strengths. His philosophy of “touch before technology” is highlighted in the “get going” section of the book. Moving the Needle is filled with ideas of how to build a personal support system to support your efforts and keep you accountable. While some of his techniques may seem old-fashioned in the age of digital marketing, it is hard to deny the personal touch, effectiveness and “wow factor” of his communication strategies. For example, Sweeney’s 5/10/15 is an especially effective tool for job seekers. The rule breaks down as follows:

  • Sweeney states that if you have at least 5 meetings and personal encounters per day, it will bring you closer to your goal. These could be job interviews, informational meetings or even speaking to recruiters at a job fair.
  • In addition to meetings, you should strive to send out 10 letters or emails each day. It may include resumes as well as thank you notes and emails to check in with members of your network.
  • Finally, it is optimal to make at least 15 phone calls per day. In the age of online job seeking, people often forget the importance of voice-to-voice contact. Following up job applications with a phone call and reaching out to people in your network are important parts of being a successful networker. According to Sweeney, the most effective thing to say at the end of a phone call is to ask whether there is anything that you can do for the other person.

Moving the Needle is compact and organized into succinct chapters filled with graphs, tools and examples. Joe Sweeney has built his reputation as a specialist in business with a passion for sports. The anecdotes and quotes that are featured in the book highlight wisdom from figureheads in both of these areas. However, Moving the Needle is not just a business book. Sweeney emphasizes the need to view your life holistically – toting the importance of family and health as a key component to overall success. If you are looking to make a change and would like an encouraging book which is easy to read, I highly suggest that you pick it up.

Additional Resources: Explore your strengths, skills, interests, values, and personality using the  “self-knowledge” tools  on the Career Services website.

Written by Senior Career Advisor Angie Lira

Overcoming Barriers to Emerge as a Special Education Teacher

Legrand is a Walden Master of Arts in Teaching alumnus and PhD Education─ Special Education student who sought a full-time position as a special education teacher.  For years, Legrand worked as a substitute teacher at several schools.  Despite his proven success record and experience, he struggled to find full-time employment.  Legrand believed that his physical disability impeded his career success.

When Legrand met with Career Services at the National Harbor Residency, he was directed to specialized career resources to help him address misperceptions of his disability and jump-start his job search.  After the residency, he watched multiple career webinars and videos including Disabilities to Abilities and Interview Strategies.  He scheduled career advising appointments and received individualized coaching on how to communicate his many strengths and abilities to potential employers.

Legrand also prepared for an upcoming K-12 career fair by improving his resume, utilizing program-specific resources on the Career Services Center website, and practicing interviewing skills using OptimalResume’s Interview Prep.  His diligence led to two interviews for full-time special education positions and a job offer!   The following factors contributed to his success:

  • Prior to the interview, Legrand designed sample lesson plans and hosted them on YouTube. During the interview, he launched the video to share samples of his work on the spot and impressed the interviewer.
  • When the interviewer asked Legrand how he would “get up the stairs” since the school did not have an elevator, he briefly addressed the challenge and redirected the conversation back to how he can add value to the school. He stayed positive and focused on his many strengths and commitment to students in special education.
  • He spent substantial time researching the district, school, staff, and student population to formulate in-depth questions for the interview. By asking meaningful questions, he engaged the interviewer and showcased his extensive knowledge of special education.

Legrand stood out from other applicants due to his preparation, knowledge and positive attitude.  He said, “I struggled for three years to find a job.  I watched the [Career Services] webinars over and over again and practiced my skills.  I had determination, and I never gave up.”  He now has a great teaching position one block away from his home and is looking forward to new opportunities ahead.

Written by Dina Bergren, Associate Director of Career Services

Landing a Dream Job with the Center for Disease Control

Recently at the Atlanta residency, we met Dania Thomas, a passionate PhD in Public Health – Epidemiology student and a busy single mother of children ages 1 (son) and 5 (daughter). She has an Associate’s Degree in Chemistry and Sociology and a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology.  She is currently 1.5 years into her doctoral program.

When asked about her current career status, Dania was excited to report she just landed a dream fellowship at the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta!  She persisted through a long process in which she submitted at least 50 applications for positions with the CDC over the span of 3 years.  So she was so pleased when she was contacted for a phone interview with two CDC scientists for a position to do microbiology testing for sexually transmitted diseases.  One was the head scientist for the position and the other was a colleague (another head scientist) helping to choose the best candidate.

The lead scientist asked her questions about her qualifications and experience for the position.  Before  ending the interview, out of curiosity, the second interviewer asked about Dania’s doctoral program at Walden and her main research interests.  Dania gave an overview of Walden and how it offers a global perspective. In addition, she briefly shared her passion for public health and how conducting HIV/AIDS research will allow her to understand and address different health disparities in certain populations. She is originally from Jamaica where AIDS is a huge public health problem and as a result, she developed a keen interest in the issue.

The second interviewer stated he was impressed with her knowledge and passion for public health and the statistics she shared. Dania attributes such knowledge and education to the many scholarly papers and books she has written and read over the 1.5 years since starting the program at Walden University.

Unfortunately, Dania received an email that she was not selected for the STD microbiology testing position.  Following the rejection, the head scientist stressed how impressed they were with the way Dania answered the public health questions and the passion she portrayed while interviewing.  A month later, the head scientist who initially interviewed Dania, contacted her to offer her a fellowship requiring epidemiology data analysis for STDs. Dania stated along with getting the offer, another exciting part of the hiring process was filling out many forms given during the hiring process, and noticing the colleague (the second head scientist) who was just helping the head scientist, is the one who personally requested her to work alongside them. Dania is excited to start her new fellowship this month and is very grateful for the opportunity!

Dania’s advice: “Always put your best foot forward regardless of the situation and NEVER EVER give up – what is for you is for you!”

Thanks to Dania for sharing her story with us and we wish her the best of luck in her new role with the CDC!

Written by Lisa Cook, Senior Director of Career Services

Guest Blog Post: How to Clean Out Your Email In-Box

Recently we posted an article on our Career Services Center LinkedIn group on how to empty out your email in-box.  Fred Sahakian, a Walden doctoral student in Public Policy and Administration, commented that he does this on a regular basis.  I asked him to share his tips and he was open to our posting it on our blog.

Fred Sahakian suggested cleaning out your email in-box as follows:

So first, make this a project that needs to get done with a deadline. It can take weeks to get control of your inbox again, at least from my experience.

1. Go through your email and really delete what you don’t need, this is time consuming but well worth it at the end.

2. As you are cleaning up, start to notice the categories you might want to make for your emails. I have several including Dissertation, ImportantKeep, Read Later, Recipes, Receipts, etc.

3. As you delete, you can start putting things in your different categories. Each email program is different, so whatever you do, test out your program to make sure you can search through all your email later easily. Also, really consider unsubscribing from groups/newsletters that you don’t need.

4. Start to auto filter your email. I send my newsletters to a Newsletter folder, my forums (like LinkedIn and Facebook) to another folder. These keep my inbox super clean.

5. I used to keep email, just because I could, I now just delete it right away. I try not to use my email as a To Do List reminder, this can be tough to do, I use ToodleDo ( ) as at To Do List, there are free and paid versions.

6. Once you have “tamed” your inbox, it gets easier.

7. Now, this sort of feels like cheating, but, as email comes in, it should be from people and issues that require your immediate attention, you can filter everything else, maybe call the folder “Needs Reply Soon”. The idea is to focus on the present and most important. You “park” the other items so they don’t nag you or are on your mind. Just make sure to set aside time each day to get to these “Parked” emails.

After a while, it will get annoying when your inbox gets full, and you just spend the time to clean it up, but at least you’ve been sorting things already and deleting things you don’t need. It’s like cleaning off the coffee table in your house instead of having to clean the entire house!

Thanks to Fred for sharing his tips with us!

Written by Lisa Cook, Senior Career Services Director

Double Transitions: From Dentistry in India to Public Health in the U.S.

Parveen is a Master in Public Health student who contacted Career Services for assistance with a practicum search.  For seven years, she served as an Associate Dentist in India where she performed dental procedures and educated children and families on hygiene.  Moving to the U.S. prompted her to transition into a new public health career.   How did Parveen engage in a proactive practicum search and generate interest in her skills?

She took the following steps to build her qualifications and land the right opportunity:

  • Contacted her Field Experience Coordinator who educated her on the Field Experience process and referred her to Career Services.
  • Worked with a Career Services Advisor to develop a skills-driven, professional resume that highlighted her transferable skills from Dentistry, emphasized her education and volunteer experience, and presented her greatest strengths.
  • Reviewed Field Experience resume samples through OptimalResume, watched Marketing Yourself for Public Health Practicum Opportunities, and gained interviewing skills through the Quick Start video, Interviewing Strategies.
  • Contacted five potential sites, including two sites she located through LinkedIn.
  • Volunteered at a domestic violence center to gain recent experience in the U.S.
  • Practiced interviewing skills with a Career Services Advisor to build confidence and communicate her brand.
  • Received offers from two competitive practicum sites: American Health Association (AHA) and Dental Health Education (DHE).   She decided to complete her practicum at AHA, but did not want to lose her connection with DHE.  She asked to volunteer at DHE a few hours a week outside of her practicum.

Parveen commented on her Walden experience:

“Before contacting Career Services, I was totally clueless [about how to begin] the process. Preparing a resume and writing a statement of purpose for each site was very stressful. Contacting Ms. Janine (Field Experience Coordinator) was a good initiative that I have taken as she referred me to Career Services. I learned great tips and strategies to build and improve my resume, and [boost] my confidence in reaching out to sites. I am 100% sure that I could not have done it without the help of Walden Career Services and their resources. Thanks for helping me and for following up with my progress.”

We wish Parveen the very best as she continues to build experience in the public health field, strengthen her connections with potential employers, and contribute to her community!

Written by Associate Director of Career Services, Dina Bergren

Book Review: 10% Happier by Dan Harris

It is a bit unorthodox for us to write book review about meditation.  But spring is in the air and we’re all ready to break out of our usual routines up here in Minnesota!  So here goes…

Dan Harris is an ABC newscaster who got his start under Peter Jennings and has had some very stressful reporting assignments including 9/11 and the war in Iraq.  He is a very smart, talented individual and newscasters are known for being very “just the facts,” data-driven people.  So I was intrigued to learn Dan Harris had written a book on the benefits of meditation.

The practice of meditation can still hold connotations of being “woo-woo,” as Dan puts it.  In fact, the reason he came up with the title “10% Happier” for his book is because he got tired of the quizzical looks people gave him when he started talking about meditation.  When he stated that he meditated because “it made him 10% happier,” he seemed to gain more credibility with his audience.

So how did Dan discover meditation?  Peter Jennings assigned him to cover the general topic of religion which led him to interview individuals like Eckhart Tolle and Deepak Chopra who advocated living in the present – mindfulness – rather than worrying about the past or future.  Dan’s wife recommended he meet a respected psychiatrist named Mark Epstein who used mindfulness in his work with clients.  Gradually Dan started to meditate on a daily basis and found that he became less reactive in emotionally charged stressful situations.  His path eventually led to a meditation retreat which was very transformational for him.

In winding down his book, Harris gives instructions on how to start a mindfulness meditation practice.  He discusses how medical research now supports meditation as helpful for a number of major health issues such as high blood pressure. CEO’s, scientists and a number of celebrities now meditate to increase their levels of calm, happiness and focus.   A recent Minneapolis Star Tribune article states General Mills is a pioneer in bringing “mindfulness,” or meditation, to the workplace.  Other large Minnesota companies including Target, the Mayo Clinic and Thrivent Financial for Lutherans have some sort of meditation offering for employees.

Additional Resources:

Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn is the Professor of Medicine Emeritus and creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.  Here is his brief YouTube video on the health benefits of meditation:

For free guided mindfulness meditations, check this website:

We know our students lead very busy lives filled with school and career demands.  Meditation can be a great stress-reduction strategy so I hope you find this information helpful.

Written by Senior Director of Career Services Lisa Cook