Spotlight on Social Sciences Alumni: Lauren Jewett
Name: Lauren Jewett
UR Major: History
Other UR Majors/Minors: Political Science (major), American Sign Language (minor)
Additional Education: Alternative Certification Program (teaching certification)
Current City, State of Residence: New Orleans, LA
Job Title: Special Education Case Manager
Employer: Special Education Case Manager, KIPP McDonogh 15 Primary School for the Creative Arts and Content Seminar Instructor, The New Teacher Project (TNTP)
Community Activities: Secretary and Board Member of New Orleans Track Club (NOTC), Member at-large Executive Council for United Teachers of New Orleans (UTNO), New Teacher’s Roundtable
How did you choose your major(s)?
I was always interested in social studies in middle school and high school and it had been my favorite subject. I naturally wanted to continue studying history when I got to college, so I immediately signed up for an American history class and a political theory class during the first semester of my freshman year. I really enjoyed the courses and decided that I wanted to major in both history and political science. The University of Rochester’s flexibility in curriculum afforded me the opportunity to be a double major.
What activities were you involved in as a student and what did you gain from them?
As a University of Rochester student, I was a four-year member of the varsity cross-country and varsity track and field teams. I also served as a Residential Advisor (RA) for two years, worked as an employee at the campus bookstore for four years, and taught as a political science teaching assistant. All of these activities strengthened my ability to effectively balance time, learn the importance of teamwork, and represent the University of Rochester in a positive way.
Who were your mentors while you were on campus? Have you continued those relationships?
Many of my cross country and track and field teammates, especially the older members of the teams, served as really important mentors during my first few years on campus. I still stay in touch with many of them even though we have all graduated and gone our separate ways. In addition, I still stay in touch with some of my professors from the history and political science departments and try to make an effort to visit them when I am on campus from time to time.
What was your first job after graduation? What college experiences prepared or qualified you for that position?
After graduating from the University of Rochester in 2009, I immediately traveled to New Orleans as a corps member with Teach for America. I spent the summer training in Phoenix, Arizona and taught first and second grade special education in a rural parish just outside of New Orleans while working on gaining my teaching certification in Louisiana. The college experiences that best prepared me for this position were all of the responsibilities and activities that I balanced in college. College taught me a lot about how to manage and prioritize time and how to be organized. These were skills that are imperative as a special education teacher.
What do you do now and why did you choose this career? Where would you like to be in five years?
After completing my Teach for America corps commitment in 2011, I decided to continue working in education in New Orleans. I worked for one year as the Director of Scholar Supports at a charter school in New Orleans, Louisiana. I helped oversee the entire special education department at my school and ensured compliance with local, state, and federal special education laws so that we could appropriately serve students with disabilities and special needs. After this position, I went to a KIPP school in the city to work a special education teacher. I also currently work with The New Teacher Project (TNTP) as a seminar instructor and teach a seminar to first year special education teachers who are working on gaining their certification. I chose this career because my aunt has a disability and I feel that it is extremely important, especially in a school system that is in the midst of a great deal of reform, that children with disabilities and their families have someone who understands students’ needs and will advocate for them. In five years, I would like to go to graduate school, likely for education, and would still like to be working in special education.
What advice do you have for current students? What early career advice can you give to current UR students studying history?
Definitely take advantage of as many of the wonderful opportunities that the University of Rochester offers as you can. Study the things and do the things that make you the happiest. When you are happy, you will feel successful. These opportunities will make you a well-rounded person and give you a better perspective on life. My advice that is specific to history majors is to also really think about how the content they are studying might impact their professions later on in life. Looking back on my college experiences, I can directly connect my current experiences as a public school teacher in the city of New Orleans to many of the courses I took that covered social movements, reform, and urban history.
What is your opinion regarding graduate school vs. working right after graduation?
Since I have only worked since graduation and have yet to pursue a graduate degree, I do not think I can necessarily make any comparative judgments as to which pathway is better. However, I think that working right after graduation has opened my eyes to many things that I could never learn in a book or in a graduate school course. Nothing compares to real-life, hands-on experience. I planned on going to law school post-graduation, and I’m sure I would have gotten through it just fine, but when I graduated in 2009, I do not think I really had a sense of focus in terms of what law school would mean for me three years later. Now that I have worked and taught in a region with a very complicated education system, especially when it comes to children with special needs, I have a much better sense of direction about my professional pursuits and ambitions for higher education.