Alyssa Allyn is originally from Culver, Indiana, but is now a resident of Michigan. During her time at Ball State she majored in English with a concentration in Creative Writing and a minor in Graphic Arts. She graduated in May 2014. Since graduating, she’s moved to Interlochen, Michigan and is now in her second year as a Hall Counselor. Her first year she looked after 37 teenage girls and 1 boy, and this year she looks after 17 teenage boys.
You’re working in Michigan at the Interlochen Arts Academy boarding high school as a Hall Counselor. Are you thinking about a career in Student Affairs or Residence Life? How has your degree helped you in the work that you do?
When I first started working at Interlochen, it was purely a transition job. I had never really thought of myself as someone who would work in Student Affairs, but the more time I spend with these students and the longer I stay at Interlochen, I can’t imagine not working in Student Affairs, especially here. I’ve always been a people person, and these past two years I’ve been able to let myself learn and grow into a more confident leadership role. I find myself passionate about what I get to do every day. I get to find different ways to make the experience at Interlochen better for our students, and catch a tiny snapshot of their lives as they pass through high school. I get to be that embarrassing “parent” at performances. It’s one of the hardest yet easiest jobs I’ve ever had. I’ve unexpectedly fallen in love with it. It doesn’t even feel like a job!
My degree has helped in the following ways:
- Writing grade reports about each of my 17 students 4 times a year (68 total). They all have to be individualized and different each time.
- Editing and helping kids think through college applications/essays, scholarship essays, and class essays, poems, short stories
- Writing/reading daily emails – more than I would care to count
- Interacting with parents, other faculty, and staff via email daily
- Teaching students how to write professional emails and have professional interactions by demonstration
- Being in high-level stress situations and needing to get my point across clearly and concisely
- Connecting with them about reading their art in front of people and having people hear what they have to say
2. What does your typical day look like?
There’s no such thing as a typical day for me right now, but that would be nice. Most days, I don’t start work until 4:00pm because most nights I’m working until 12:00am and I’m not in bed until 1:30am. At 4:00pm, I most likely start a desk shift, which means answering parent phone calls, replying to emails, signing students off campus, and much more. Around 6:00pm I get off to grab dinner in the cafeteria where I’ll be able to see some of my kids, probably for the first time that day. Up next, if it’s Monday, I’ll do room inspections which is exactly what it sounds like–making sure that all 17 of my boys have cleaned their rooms that week. Most of the time I’m very proud. Then from 9:00pm-12:00am I will sit in the lobby and close my building for the night. It’s my favorite part of the day because this is when I get to see and talk to all of my kids. I get to hear how their days were, if they passed their tests, how their pre-screenings went, and everything in between. The lobby will close at 11:00pm and one of the students will come to clean it, they’ll all go to bed, and I will walk around checking lights out at 12:00am. If I’m lucky, no one needed to be taken to urgent care that day, then it’s off to bed to do something similar the next day.
3. Was there a particular class in the English major or a particular faculty member who influenced you?
I recently found the folder on my computer with all of my papers I’d written in college and got a good couple of laughs out of what I read through. After workshops, I had a couple of professors ask me, “Are you okay, is everything alright at home?” and I never really understood why. After re-reading my stuff I see: I wrote some dark things in college.
Among all of that, I found a paper for Rai Peterson’s ENG347. It was supposed to be a literary analysis, but somewhere along the lines I missed the mark. I read The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut and I had worked my butt off writing the paper because I was so in love with it (that book is now one of my favorites). When I got the grade back I was devastated. But long story short, even though I missed the mark, something in me was still unabashedly proud of that paper and the ideas and words I put into it. That’s something that I’ve carried with me since. I try to remind myself to be confident in my heart and gut everyday. Nearly failing that paper taught me that lesson, and Rai opened my eyes to the world of books in a whole other way. I’m forever thankful for that.
4. Do you have any advice for English majors who are trying to figure out what comes next in their lives? What advice do you have if they’d like to do something like what you’re doing now?
Someone told me last year, “Stop thinking about what you are going to do next and focus on how you can make where you are right now the best it can be for you, and everyone else around you.” This has been my silent reminder when I start to doubt myself and start to say, “But what about my degree?” I think it’s really important to know where you want to go, but you should be open to the way you’re going to get there. I’ve learned more about myself and who I want to be professionally and as a human being in general from working with teenagers these past two years. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. It’s kind of amazing what you can learn and where you can learn it from when you’re not even expecting it! Just be open to all of it, every experience and interaction. It’s all significant, you just might not know it yet.