From Making Connections to Administrative Assistant, Feben Alemu Inspires Others at the UW Women's Center

Submitted by Nell Gross on
Feben and Senait at the Womens Center

Graduating senior Feben Alemu joined the Making Connections (MC) program at the Alene Moris Women's Center as a high school sophomore, receiving academic and enrichment services to prepare for college. Feben notes those services include "helping students with career exploration, academic tutoring, personal and professional mentorship, leadership development, etc. I went to the center 2-3 times a week to get help with my homework/projects as well as college applications my senior year. I was able to go on the college tour, went job shadowing at Microsoft, and received a scholarship to go to Washington D.C for the National Conference for Women Student Leaders (NCCWSL). I also won the Habib and Bertha Scholarship. All my experiences and learning opportunities were all because of the Making Connections Program." One such opportunity allowed Feben to give back to the Women's Center when she was hired to be an Administrative Assistant in the 2019-2020 academic year. Here, Feben shares reflections from working with the Women's Center and the ways these experiences have affected her time in the geography major.

A "Day in the Life"

"As an administrative assistant, I would start by checking the mail; I would organize each mail depending on where it should go. I would check voicemails received from overnight or after the center closed and call back or forward the message to the appropriate person. I would check emails and respond; accordingly, I would also check in with the Program Manager or the MC staff to get updated on the schedule for the day, events, conferences, meetings, etc. I would prioritize my tasks thus and with respect to deadlines. I usually help organize data files and input tutoring/mentoring time sheets. Depending on what time I work, for example, if I work in the evening, I will help with additional MC projects or tasks such as staying an hour later to assist a high school student with homework. If I worked in the morning, I would help the center in any way to prepare for the day or coordinate with others on projects for that day or week.

I would describe myself as an organized person, so one project I took on was inputting paper files and digitizing it by creating a file online by arranging the old filing system of the Women’s Center had in place. I color coordinated applications of MC students by year and quarter. Small tasks like these were very productive and enlightening to me."

Pivoting During COVID-19 Stay-At-Home Order

"When the stay-at-home order was in place and the campus closed, the center had to change its operations to remote work like everywhere else. I had access to my work desktop, so I had all the files and access I needed to complete my job remotely. Working from home was different and an experience as I have never worked remotely. Tutoring and events were via zoom, helping students with homework or school was always our number 1 priority, we did the best we could to keep it as normal as possible considering the global pandemic."

Leadership and Other Skills

"The number one skill that I acquired while working at the Women’s Center, was being a leader. This was something I was able to work on more as an employee there, but I believe that being in the MC program before I applied, primed and encouraged me to be who I am today. It’s funny how I always thought that I was excellent in using Excel, Microsoft, and PowerPoint, but being an administrative assistant increased my knowledge in these areas and I learned so many new and valuable tricks on how to better use these applications. My job gave me an insight and experience in administrative work that I believe is valuable in any field of work or career."

On Balancing Work & School - And Giving Back to the Community

"As a work-study student, the Women's Center was very helpful, supportive, and understanding of the course load I had as a college student. It is important to them that anyone that works there thrives in their schoolwork. When there are office hours I need to attend or take a day off to study for exams, I would let them know and they would always work with me. I loved working at the Center, but I see it as not working but giving back to the Center and the program that got me to where I am today. I see it as giving back to my community."

Connections with the Geography Major

"Working with a lot of data information at the center improved my ability to convert data from either older sources (digitization) or from multiple sources to either a common format or common schema. This includes editing said data as needs arise. This experience improved my skills in my major. Problem-solving, statistical analysis, and innovation are some qualities that a GIS analyst should have in order to be successful. I believe that working at the Women’s Center helped me excel by providing me with creative thinking abilities. Also, I was able to gain excellent communication and interpersonal skills that I can use in my career."

On Future Plans and Networking as Relationship Building

"I have gained relationships with my mentors like Senait Ogbe Habte, Dr. Sutapa Basu, and Heather Hudson who have always pushed me to achieve my goals and become a leader. They are strong and successful women and I aspire to be like them in the future to guide under-served communities. I want to help young girls who want to further their education. I want to have a place of support for high school students because I was once in their shoes and if it wasn’t for people like Senait, I wouldn’t have been able to be where I am today."