Gatepost Interview: Michelle Yestrepsky, Coordinator of Student Support Initiatives

Courtesy of framingham.edu

What is your professional/educational background?

I have a bachelor’s in psychology and my master’s is in social work. I was originally from the Midwest in Michigan. That is where I got my bachelor’s and my master’s. My husband is a medicinal chemist and a lot of the industry is in San Francisco or out in Boston, so we moved here in June of 2015. I have always worked in education ever since I got my master’s, so I was looking for a job in higher education. This job really appealed to me because it was a new position, and I was able to work closely with students and able to support them with any issues with food and housing. I was hired here in August of 2015. I graduated with my master’s in 2010 and started out in the University of Michigan. I was an intern in their alcohol and drug program. My first real job, a year after I graduated, was starting an alcohol screening program in their health center. 

What was your biggest challenge on your career path?

When I entered grad school, I was not thinking about higher education necessarily. A really cool part of the program I was in was we had to take two internships. My second internship was working with fraternity members. The University of Michigan has a lot of fraternities on campus. I did alcohol education training with fraternity members. I was in a sorority in undergrad, so I knew of the Greek life world, which is part of the reason I was hired. Every year at FSU, I definitely learned more, so I guess you could say, coming from the Midwest, there are cultural differences, just working at a slightly different capacity here than I did at the University of Michigan. I was working in the health center, and my role was more kind of as a clinician. Now, I am in an administrative world and also just adjusting to this role and basically just learning how the culture at FSU works – what is most helpful to the students, and even just learning about the resources on campus.

What is your biggest accomplishment?

I would think definitely the Rams Resource Center that just opened. Being able to be a part of the effort has been incredibly rewarding and something I am really proud of. It has been a great team effort, so it’s been exciting working with all the people involved – faculty, staff and students. That has been great.

Why is the Rams Resource Center important to this campus? 

I think it is really important that all campuses address food and housing insecurity, so the Rams Resource Center is a way for us to provide critical supplies to our whole community. Basically, it’s to offer people more resources whether it is on a one-time basis or long-term, to help our community thrive. The issue of food and housing insecurity on campuses is … becoming more prevalent, especially with all our recent studies. … You need to do all that you can to make sure you are fighting for it. 

What would you say to students who are hesitant about visiting the center?

We have trained all of our volunteers to provide a welcoming and inclusive environment. So, it is very important to us that everyone feels comfortable using the center and also, they should know that it is confidential. Volunteers at the center have signed a confidentiality agreement that they are not going to share information about who is at the center. The data that we are collecting at the center is collected to keep track of how many people use the center and how many times people use the center, but we will not track individuals. We will potentially contact people via email if they have used the center just to give information about special programs. For example, if we have different hours over exam week – we have been talking about that, thinking what the final exam schedule will be like and how we might adjust our hours there. Or, if we are offering any special products, we want to let people know. I am happy people are coming forward and comfortable using the center. Even the first day, we had people at the center. You can follow our Facebook page. Another thing we are doing is offering surveys to people who use it, to see what days work best for them and what food they would like to see. 

What was your favorite undergraduate experience?

I was a mentor at an after-school program for students who were basically K through 12 for two years. I think that experience really put me on the path to social work and made me realize I wanted to help people and especially young people. I think that even though I didn’t know I was going to work in higher education, that experience really shaped my future path.

What is one thing you would do over?

As an undergrad, I would have loved to study abroad. I have thought about this. I would not know where I would go, but somewhere outside of the U.S. for at least a semester. That is something I wish I would have done, and I advise students to. I think it really broadens your perspective and it can be more challenging the older you get to take the opportunity to study or work in another country. So, it is important to take those opportunities while you can. I think an opportunity like that can really open doors in terms of a career you never would consider, or even just the opportunity to learn about a different culture – I think that is really important. You never know where an experience like that might lead you. 

What advice would you give to FSU students?

As advice to students, I would tell them to participate in extracurriculars, mentoring programs, volunteer opportunities, internships, take advantage of that because you really don’t know what is going to impact you. It is really important to take advantage of those extracurricular activities because you don’t know how they will impact you and your future. Students should also not be afraid to ask for help.

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