URI librarian Bohyun Kim’s speaker series “ Non-traditional Career Opportunities for Students in Humanities and Social Sciences” recently hosted Andrea Russo on March 15th as the second presenter in a series of four. Russo visited Carother’s Library from her current position as the regional manager of Rhode Island for TEALS, an organization with the goal of bringing computer science programs to every high school. Russo’s presentation was essentially an autobiographical exercise, but showed the audience how your career path doesn’t necessarily need to follow a conventional or expected sequence.
Andrea Russo began her presentation by showing an image by M.C. Escher entitled “Relativity” which depicts intersecting and gravity-defying staircases. She drew an analogy between her career and the art by emphasizing the importance of approaching things with multiple perspectives, and thus drawing connections between concepts you might not otherwise detect.
Russo’s educational background encompasses pre-law, a biology minor, enough art credits for a minor, an M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction in STEM, and an M.S. in Science Education. From there, she pursued jobs at the NY Botanical Garden, the NYC Department of Education, and the Museum of Science. Thorough and expansive experience with the museum circuits allowed her to participate in curriculum design for American Museum of Natural History and the NY Hall of Science as well as serve on the board of directors for RIMOSA, the Rhode Island Museum of Science and Art. Russo also worked as an educator for grades 6 to 12 in NYC from around 2008 to 2014.
A major point strewn throughout Russo’s presentation regarding her own professional experiences, was the advice that you combine casual non-academic interests with professional occupations. Diversifying your own education by seriously pursuing non-academic hobbies and applying them in a professional sphere can present more opportunities than if you followed a stricter path. For instance, Russo perfected her STEAM educating capabilities by expanding her own skills through taking extra science and engineering courses beyond her degrees. She continues her experience with the NY Botanical Garden as a personal hobby and by helping a friend organize an urban gardening project. She used her computer science education to become a Microsoft Innovator Educator which helps people earn badges for digital skills. Finally, she uses reading as a hobby to expand her knowledge base as much as possible. Early on in the presentation, she mentioned she tries to read every day whether it be a professional publication, personal social media feeds, news sources, or something else pertaining to her casual interests. Reading helps her keep on top of trends and popular theories in her respective field of interest.
The final portion of Russo’s talk was based on questions from the audience. Most of this part covered how to maintain yourself as an individual in a hectic professional world, including maintaining your public face through networking and maintaining your private self through self-care. After being asked how to effectively maintain contact with people in your professional network, Russo first stated that you should definitely say ‘yes’ to anybody if they ask for your help on a project if you have the time to do so. Helping them will make it more likely for them to help you in the future. On the topic of preserving such relationships, she mentioned how she sends along published items or articles to people who she thinks would be interested in whatever topic/subject it covers. That seemingly small instance of contact helps keep open lines of communication.
The last important topic which came out of the Q&A portion of her presentation was the importance of self-care and time management. For her, sticking to a set routine prevents burning out in an active and multifaceted work environment. She emphasized the importance of scheduling in something like a jog, a night off to spend with family, and knowing your own capacities. In other words, you must know when to stop your own projects and say no to others.
Emphasizing not only how your hobbies and passions can offer professional opportunities, but how important it is to keep time to yourself, Russo highlighted the balancing act that any professional life can require. Her professional trajectory is fueled by passion, interest, and diverse knowledge.The story of her career provided insight into how one can manipulate what might be considered a hobby or casual interest and transform it into a professional supplement.
If you’re interested in attending on the of future talks, you can find more information and register here.