Tom Darragh graduated in 2016 with a degree in Meteorology and an MBA in 2018 from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University – Daytona Beach. He currently works at ERAU as the Housing Operations Coordinator for Housing and Residence Life.
Discuss your academic and professional background.
I began my time as a student at ERAU in Fall 2012 and graduated in Spring 2016 with a Bachelor of Science in Meteorology. I continued my education at ERAU by pursuing a Master of Business Administration and graduated in Spring 2018.
Shortly after graduating, I was excited to begin serving as the Housing Operations Coordinator for ERAU Housing and Residence Life in Daytona Beach, FL. I work with a motivated student staff of Operations Assistants to provide furniture maintenance services to students in our halls. I also have the pleasure of working with our campus partners in Facilities Management, Custodial Services, Campus Safety, and many other departments on several joint projects every day to give our students the best experience possible.
How did ERAU help prepare you for post-college life and in your current role?
In my role and in Student Affairs in general, it is important to be able to empathize with many types of students beyond the surface level and help them grow.
ERAU gave me the opportunity to meet and engage so many people of different backgrounds all working to achieve great things. I was able build great friendships with students from near my hometown and students who grew up in entirely different parts of the world. I had some memorable experiences with students who were in our ROTC programs and in various student organizations across campus.
Taking time to reflect on these relationships and experiences, especially the challenges we have supported each other through, has been crucial to enabling me to support our students today in the best ways possible.
If you could relive your college experience, what would you do differently and why?
For me personally, I think I would have taken a bit more time to go on fun trips or explore different areas. There is certainly a lot of pressure to get involved and to keep working hard towards your future – those items are important! But I think it is also important to live in the moment. When you reflect on your college experience, you should be able to look not just at academic and professional experiences, but also your personal experiences and how you have grown.
What do you think students should be doing now to land that first internship? That first full-time position?
Build on your experiences outside of the classroom. That means finding time to go to programs hosted by your RA and events hosted by Career Services. Make a genuine effort to attend that networking event for your dream employer or industry. Take advantage of those opportunities to build on your soft skills and improve your ability to interact with others in different settings.
Be true to your specific strengths and goals. There are general guidelines and things to do to prepare yourself for seeking an internship or full-time position. While bearing those in mind, you should avoid losing sight of yourself and your unique experiences that you bring to the table.
Get involved in a way that is meaningful and rewarding to you. As a student, I was a Resident Advisor and got involved with the Homeland Security Student Association, the American Meteorological Society, and the Student Government Association. In addition to working with many wonderful staff and students in these organizations, this involvement gave me a lot of real world experiences and memories that prove invaluable in post-college life.
What advice would you give to students who are interested in pursuing higher education administration or student affairs as a career path?
There is more than one path you can pursue to get into Student Affairs, regardless of if you studied STEM, Arts, or Social Sciences. For example, I studied Meteorology and my boss studied Astronomy. My classroom experience has been invaluable and I have been able to leverage those skills in surprising ways. My involvement outside of academics is what helped me truly define myself and carve a path forward in to Student Affairs.
Consider how you specifically want to influence and support a college experience. In the broad field of Student Affairs, your work goes towards helping people at a very important and dynamic time in their lives. The impacts you have are often long term and you may not always see the results right away. Even so, continue to support students by empowering them to make their own decisions and soar to new heights. Rest assured that it if you stick to that and do right by your students, you will be successful in what Student Affairs is meant to be about.