Alumni Spotlight: Melissa Benson

Melissa Benson had a unique and fulfilling experience at Berea College. She attended the college as a non-traditional student and majored in Art History while also holding multiple labor positions, including at the Philanthropy Office and the Art and History Department, and Appalachian Center during the summers.

Melissa is a Senior Federal Learning Specialist with Oracle and is responsible for training medical personnel on Oracle’s health solutions. However, this is only a small part of her involvement in various activities. She believes an inclusive and loving environment is essential for a healthy society. So she actively works towards this goal by organizing a summer camp for kids called Camp Beacon. Additionally, Melissa decided to continue her education and obtained her Master’s degree in Teaching from the University of Cumberland. She is currently a Ph.D. candidate for the University of Kentucky’s Interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Education Sciences. When asked if this was the career path she had envisioned for herself during her college days, Melissa said she had initially planned on an entirely different career outlook but that the best career path is not always a straight line. Her passion for giving back to her community inclined her towards an education-centered career, and she finds it fulfilling to serve people in the medical sector.

Even though Melissa did not pursue a career directly related to her major obtained at Berea, her Art History major helped her in many ways in life. For example, while writing her Master’s dissertation, the soft skills she acquired at Berea proved invaluable. Melissa believes networking is key and encourages students to reach out to the Berea family. She also suggests doing informational interviews with people working in companies of interest as a helpful way of expanding one’s career network. Furthermore, Melissa emphasizes the usefulness of social media tools like LinkedIn for career outreach and Twitter for academic outreach when used correctly. She also stresses the importance of balancing time between work, personal life, and studies, which can be challenging at times but is crucial for achieving success. Melissa has just been hired as a Research Assistant for the National Educational Technology Plan!

When asked about the most important skills for students to succeed, Melissa gave some valuable advice. First and foremost, she emphasizes the importance of building relationships, which will prove crucial in life. Secondly, she suggests learning how to efficiently manage projects and time, citing her own non-traditional Berea experience as an example of how it helped her acquire project management skills that she still uses today in her job. Thirdly, Melissa advises students to stay as current as possible with technology updates and suggests using LinkedIn learning (which Berea offers free for its students) as one way to do so. Fourthly, she believes students should take healthy risks and be comfortable with productive failure. Melissa encourages everyone to never stop learning and seek out more learning opportunities as they advance. Scholarships, fellowships, and assistantships are great ways to learn on a budget and broaden your horizons.

We hope Melissa’s story has been inspiring, and if you’d like to learn more about her experiences and connect with her, you can reach out through LinkedIn –  Melissa Benson, MAT | LinkedIn.

By Eduard Ciobanu
Eduard Ciobanu Employer Relations Specialist