Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Alumna Returns to Serve Alma Mater

Rachael Burbank '09

If you had asked me or anyone who knew me freshman year if I would still be at Pacific University now six years later, you’d hear an eruption of snickers and laughter.

Without even visiting campus, and only spending a long weekend in the state of Oregon a few years prior, I took a gamble.
I grew up on Cape Cod in Massachusetts and to defy my parents’ push to attend a university, Pacific was the furthest and only school accepting of me. I had East Coast written all over me: white polo shirt, popped collar, tucked into my cuffed jeans with a pink and chartreuse printed flip-flop patterned belt. I looked like a tourist.
Three years later, and a lot of shredded up transfer paperwork, homesickness, and lasting friendships, I brought my senior year schedule to the registrar office. I kept telling myself, “well, you got through one semester and it wasn’t so bad, just do one more.” Submitting that senior schedule was me finally admitting, “I am a Boxer.”
Something that made me feel like I had a purpose, other than getting an education, was having a job on campus. I was a student worker in the Office of Alumni Relations every year and gradually increased my responsibility into something resume worthy. Some degrees don’t have specific future careers out there to pick from and for a Creative Writing major, I had to be even more creative.
Becoming the Communications Assistant for Alumni Relations, along with interning at university events such as Homecoming and the Masters in Fine Arts of Writing residency, gave more meaning to my degree’s stereotype of adjectives and sonnets. But, and that’s a big but, I wish I did more networking.
I wouldn’t describe myself as shy, but I was intimidated by people who have a stable career. I mean, who was I? Some transplant from the East Coast with no set career path just a thesis filled with essays that had a lot of typos. I was one of many college graduates without a clue.
Most people doubt their career path. Some transfer to new careers, just like majors, because it doesn’t jive with them anymore. That’s normal; there are valuable skills you can learn by taking a gamble. A degree is a specialty, but it’s not everything. Sometimes I forgot that I earned a liberal arts education, not just a Creative Writing degree.
So after bartendering for six years, volunteering at masquerade balls and charity road races, and selling a lot of wedding gowns and tiaras, I have returned back to Forest Grove still with a collared shirt, but it’s black with a red emblem. It’s been fun finding my strengths and weaknesses at dead end jobs, but I’m ready to start my career with non-profit public relations back at Pacific University.

Burbank '09 wrote this as a guest piece of the Pacific Index issue on Feb. 16, 2012. She is the Alumni Relations Coordinator for the Office of Alumni Relations. You can contact her at rburbank@pacificu.edu or 503-352-2969. She also volunteers with a melanoma awareness nonprofit, The Glenna Kohl Fund for Hope: www.glennasfund.org

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