Shannon Wiatrek, 27, studied psychology as an undergraduate and then earned her master’s in business administration before moving to Colorado Springs with her husband about three years ago. She works as an admissions specialist at the University of the Rockies, helping people find their futures and get on the right career path. But she’s also recently been considering her own path and loves the idea of blending her expertise in business with her background in psychology. And she’s finding that she might be in just the right place to get started.
Tell us about your new role at University of the Rockies.
I’m excited about my new position. My title is now Campus Admissions specialist. I work directly with prospective students and am involved in recruitment events on and off campus. I talk to prospective students about our programs, their professional goals, and guide them through the application process. Prior to this, I was doing a lot of behind-the-scenes work for Admissions in event planning, lead and database management, and reporting amongst other duties. When I first started with University of the Rockies, I was working in academics doing administrative work.
What attracted you to work in higher education?
I worked for University of Maine all throughout my undergraduate degree and really enjoyed it. When I moved to Colorado, University of the Rockies caught my eye. I learned it was a graduate school specializing in the field of psychology, so it seemed meant to be since I’ve always been intrigued by psychology. I love working with students and being able to help them in any way that I can. Education is such a valuable and rewarding field to be in. In the helping professions that our graduate degrees are designed for, it’s amazing to be a small part of a student’s journey where someday they’ll be out in the community giving back to others.
What are your long-term career goals and where does University of the Rockies fit in your plans?
I’ve always wanted to get my doctorate degree and I’m hoping to start our PhD in organizational development and leadership when the timing is right. I’ve been interested in Industrial/organizational psychology for several years. University of the Rockies is extremely supportive in professional development and has helped me get involved in community activities such as the Chamber Rising Professionals and Leadership Pikes Peak. I’d like to stay active in volunteering and am hoping to find a nonprofit board to join when things slow down a little.
What interests you about blending your business and psychology backgrounds?
I came across a job for a wealth management firm in Waltham, Mass. shortly after I graduated from college in Maine. The job completely changed my perspective on my future career goals. I always knew I wanted to help others, but wasn’t quite sure counseling was the right path for me like I had thought. I found an interest in numbers and data, and I also felt a sense of purpose in a firm that assisted clients in educating themselves responsibly in regards to charitable giving, college education funding, retirement planning, etc. The firm had a consultant who came in to conduct various staff trainings and coaching in wealth psychology to help us better deal with our high net-worth clients. It was fascinating to me because it was more than just handling money; it was advising clients on how to live their lives to the fullest while effectively dealing with people skills in a business atmosphere. I earned my masters in business administration last year in Finance to supplement my Bachelors in Psychology. I have many interests, but down the road I’d like to help people who work in financial services. There are many people who are not properly financially educated and cannot make sound financial decisions. Money can cause complicated issues in human behavior and the necessities of interpersonal communication can sometimes get overlooked when working with numbers. Ethics research and organizational behavior also interests me.
What unique challenges and opportunities do you believe young professionals face in Colorado Springs?
I believe there are challenges in the job market now for all ages, no matter where you are or what industry you’re in. If you are motivated, there are many exceptional opportunities for young professionals here. I encourage others to find a nonprofit they really care about because there are many organizations that need your help and it’s very satisfying to do things for others. I’ve never lived in a city where young professionals are so passionate and involved in the community. I absolutely love Colorado and that is one of the reasons I want to stay here. I hope that young professionals can find something they are enthusiastic about in our community and stick with it. One person can make a big difference.