Meet Alumna Melissa Howland ’15, Senior Program Coordinator for Off-Campus Programs, Boston University

Name: Melissa Howland

Class Year: 2015

Title: Senior Program Coordinator for Off-Campus Programs

Organization Name: Boston University, School of Social Work


1. In one sentence, what does your job entail? 

My job entails coordinating events, class schedules, faculty assignments, student services and advising to Masters of Social Work students across our four Off-Campus satellite locations around the state.


2. What planned and unplanned events connected you to your industry and your first employer after Holy Cross? How did you learn/decide it was a good fit for you?  

Right out of college I thought I wanted to work in emergency management and was offered a position with FEMA, but due to some health issues I was not able to take the position. I then started thinking about education since right out of high school I thought I wanted to become a teacher. I applied to work with an organization called College Possible at their Philadelphia office to work with high school students. I was offered a position in their St. Paul office working with college students. Although it was not what I thought I originally wanted, I accepted and that decision has helped shape my career in higher education and non-profits since.

I learned that I enjoyed working with college students, especially in an advising capacity and working with them through the transition from high school to college. I quickly learned that I was not destined to be a classroom teacher and I really appreciated working with students one-on-one. I now work in a bit of a different capacity where I get to develop and administer a program to continually enhance the student-experience.


3. What were you involved in when you were on campus?

When I was a student, I was involved with the Student Advisory Committee for the Sociology & Anthropology department, I studied abroad in La Coruna, Spain and I worked in lower Kimball.


4. What was your major and how did it affect your career decisions?

I was an Anthropology major and completed a concentration in Latin American & Latino Studies. The biggest takeaway for me from this major was that I enjoyed learning about people and hearing their stories. This became evident when I started advising students because I was able to build relationships with them that allowed us to develop plans for them to reach their own academic or personal goals.


5. What are one or two skills that you developed at Holy Cross that you use in your work?

Some major skills I developed at Holy Cross were my time management and organizational skills. Especially the few semester I was taking 5 classes, I had to stay on top of my readings and assignments or I would quickly fall behind. When I was managing caseloads of between 80-150 students it was critical to keep on top of my workload and now managing four satellite campuses, it is critical I stay organized to deliver an equitable program across all sites and stay on task for the many different deadlines throughout the academic year.

I also learned how to say yes to a lot of opportunities while at Holy Cross which is something I have carried with me. I said yes to many events on campus that led me to meeting many people, trying out classes I otherwise would not have signed up for and attending events put on by all different clubs. This has continued in how I have made career choices, from applying for jobs outside of my comfort zone to moving across the country for different opportunities. It has even guided me back to school, as I am now a Master’s in Business Administration candidate with a focus on Social Impact.


6. What advice do you have for students on campus today?

I would encourage students to take advantage of the many opportunities around campus to try out new experiences and build their resume. I was involved in a few things but really regret not doing more. I would also encourage students to reach out to alumni or others in their network to learn about all types of jobs. Mostly, be willing to step outside your comfort zone, try something new and maybe take a chance on something even if it not exactly what you think you want. It could be the best choice you ever make!