Northeastern University

Abby Wagner - Class of 2012

Human Services and International Affairs

Abby was a 2012 recipient of an Outstanding Co-op Award - to read more click here

Why did you choose this major, and does/did it seem like the right major for you? Why?

As a freshman at Northeastern, I arrived completely undeclared. I had no idea what I wanted to do after high school graduation and the list of degrees Northeastern offered was daunting. My interests ranged everywhere from math to psychology and Spanish to health sciences.

Thank you to the undeclared peer mentor program, I was able to sort through my options by attending “What’s in a major Wednesday’s.” At the Human Services Wednesday lunch, I met HS Program Director Lori Gardinier and immediately knew that I wanted to join that program. Lori was a motivator and inspirational. My experience in the Human Services Department has been unbeatable. After meeting Lori, I was eventually introduced to Natalia Stone and Lisa Worsh and the other professors who are dedicated to the success of a students growth and develop. These three individuals have been a huge influence on the amazing experiences I have had in this major and life.

Why did you choose NU? Was/is this the right school for you?

This is a funny story. I stumbled upon Northeastern because I was lost and fell in love. I came to Boston to visit two schools, Boston College and Boston University. My mom and I were on day six of our east coast tour and we were exhausted. We had already visited seven other schools and we were ready to be back in Minnesota. While we were wandering around the city, trying to get to Boston College we stumbled upon Northeastern University. Clearly we were lost. We were starving so we decided to stop for lunch. While eating lunch at the Marino Center, we ran into a tour group and we jumped on board. We joined right as our tour guide was raving about his co-op with Fidelity Investments and his study abroad experience to Rome. The tour lasted about 30 more minutes and everything that was stated on the tour gave me goose bumps. I was in love. It was everything I was looking for in a school. I knew immediately that this was the school I wanted to attend. We went to BC immediately after and I was not impressed. Northeastern was the winner! As soon as I made it back to MN, I applied, and six weeks later, right before Christmas, I received my acceptance letter. It was the greatest Christmas present I could have asked for.

How many co-ops have you completed?

Three amazing co-ops.

If you participated in co-op, can you list give a quick synopsis of what you did?

  • ABC’s Day Time - The View - Development Intern

  • International Rescue Committee IRC - First Things First Department Intern.

  • Northeastern University's - Dialogues of Civilization -India - Teaching Assistant.

  • My first co-op was completed in New York City, where I was a production assistant for ABC’s Day Time-The View. My job consisted of many roles such as audience coordinator, celebrity host, and special agent to the ladies as well as ticket master and expert at giving away prizes. My experience at The View, taught me how to work in a fast paced environment as well as learn to not take everything personally. Work is work and it’s important not to take it home with you.

    For my second co-op, I moved to San Diego to assist an entirely new population; refugees. At the IRC, I interned in the First Things First Department, which worked with newly arrived refugee families and helped them adjust to the school setting. We taught classes in adult ESL and early childcare development 30 hours a week. While there I also worked on volunteer recruitment and case management with individual families. Everyday was extremely rewarding and I learned more about the U.S. Welfare System than I ever could have in a classroom.

    Lastly, I did my third co-op in India as a teaching assistant for Professor Lori Gardinier and Denise Horn. In this two-part program I had many different tasks. For the human services component, I organized eight service learning sights at various non-profits in the Hubli-Dharwad region of Karnataka, India as well as worked on many logistical tasks, which can always be a challenge in a developing country. For the International Affairs component I co-taught a class on social entrepreneurship and how to start a social enterprise.

    What were the highlights and great learning opportunities you gained from your co-op?

    Each of my three co-ops were very different in context and subject matter so each of my co-ops taught me a new skill set as well as improved existing skills.

    At The View, I learned to be detail-oriented and calm. When you are getting orange juice for Paul McCartney, it better be just how he asked for it, right? Well yes, as funny as that sounds. I learned how to adapt to my environment and learn from constructive criticism. The latter is a great skill to have because in order to be successful you have to learn to listen to what people are telling you and take it with a grain of salt. I feel I have grown the most by listening to my critics.

    The greatest skill I obtained at the IRC, was patience and flexibility. I realized that not everything is going to happen over night but waiting and being patient will bring about accomplishments… sometimes of course.

    And lastly, as a teaching assistant, I learned that you can not please everyone. It is important to do your job to the best of your ability and hope that people are responsive and appreciative but keep in mind, there will always be one critic. I also expanded my communication skills to an entirely new populations and learned to work with peers, authority, non-profit managers and ordinary citizens. Life is a never-ending lesson. Throughout all of these co-ops I realized that it’s important to always be learning and growing.

    Did you have any other "learning from outside of the classroom" (service learning, student leadership, study abroad, research, or volunteering) that also enriched your time here?

    The great thing about Northeastern is you can do anything you desire.

    I had the opportunity to participate in three Dialogue of Civilizations programs throughout my four and a half years here.

    In the summer of 2008, I went on the DOC trip to Mexico with Professor Lori Gardinier. In Cuernavaca, our theme was capacity building within the non-profit. I worked in an orphanage called Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos, where we put together a proposal to fund a project about cherishing memories. NPH was very well run and they had many resources and donors so we wanted our project to be small but leave a lasting impression. We also took Spanish classes in the morning and were able to live with host families, where we had the chance to see real Mexican living and eat delicious authentic food. Aside from the dancing, which took place nightly, I met some of my best friends. I want to go back.

    In the Fall of 2009, I went on my second DOC to Hubli, India. This was a semester long dialogue, which was spent in Boston (5 weeks) and in Hubli (6 weeks). It was a two-part program, the first focusing on international capacity building and non-profit development and the second focusing on social entrepreneurship and starting an NGO. While in Hubli, I worked with the Akshara Foundation, which promotes education and literacy in slum neighborhoods and for working children who are unable to go to school. Working with members of the Akshara team, my group and I developed an English Curriculum for slum preschools in the Dharwad region.

    For the second half of the program I collaborated with American and Indian students to do local research on how cow dung was affecting the health of families in the villages. We partnered with engineers, both in India and America, to create a cost-effective technology that uses cow dung to produce methane gas for cooking as well as organic fertilizer.

    And lastly, last summer I headed to Spain, to complete my NU core art credit. I honestly participated in this dialogue because, why not do your art credit in Spain as opposed to Boston? While there, I also had a chance to improve my Spanish speaking skills and perfect my sense of fashion style.

    Getting involved at Northeastern, whether is be through participating in DOC’s or in service learning, which I completed at the Mission Hill school (Sept 2007-Present), has engrained in me a sense of commitment and many passions!! I have learned something new throughout all of my experiences and have been able to incorporate these skills into my co-ops and leadership positions.

    Have you graduated from NU? If Yes, please let us know what you are doing and if you think your co-ops and experiential education have helped you in your career path.

    I have not, but I am excited to graduate this December and see what the next chapter brings. Northeastern has set the bar high as far as the experiences I have gained and the amazing students and faculty I have had the opportunity to work with.

    Is there anything you would like to add?

    Don’t let anyone ever tell you that you can’t. You always can, especially at Northeastern!

    “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

    Questions Answered as of 9-22-2011