Winny Oyamo Twombly, MA, EdD, class of 2009, is the assistant director of academic advising and academic pathways at Middlesex Community College. After earning her MA in English, Creative Writing; Fiction, Non-Fiction, Poetry and Teaching Writing at SSU, she went on to earn her Doctor of Education (EdD) in Higher Education/Higher Education Administration at Northeastern University.
What does your job involve?
Preparing and running orientation sessions for new students; meeting with students to complete career assessment, identify a major, utilize academic maps to plan out courses; research and prepare for transfer; preparing for graduation. Managing the functions of the Lowell advising office; collaborating with advisors on roles and responsibilities at the office; troubleshooting and resolving student and office concerns; training peer advisors, and other duties assigned by director of advising.
How have you applied your experiences at SSU to your career?
Yes. I worked as a tutor at the tutoring center, an editor for the school's literary magazine, and a student advisor at the international students’ office. The work I do preparing and running orientation sessions was something I learned at Salem State's international students' office. Effective communication skills, both via email and in speech I learned and polished working at all the offices, and especially via the writing and education classes I took in my graduate English program. The most important experience at Salem State was that being a student there reminded me of how much I enjoyed being in academia. It was based on my overall experience that I decided to apply for, and got a job working in a college's enrollment office. I have since then transitioned to working in academic advising and loving every minute of it!
What do you find most enjoyable about your job?
The opportunity to watch and be part of the process of students growing and learning and become better and improved versions of themselves with every semester and year. In my role, I find that what I know is actually useful and helpful to the students that I work with. It gives me confidence that I am making an impact, one student at a time. At my current institution, I have been blessed to have colleagues, supervisors and leadership who have believed in me and have supported my professional and academic growth, and have allowed me to grow and provided opportunities for me to make an impact on students and in my department.
What personal qualities or abilities are important to being successful in your career?
Knowledge and experience of how American higher education works and how it relates and connects to the pre-k to 12 system and the workplace. Relationship building, listening skills, collaboration within and outside the institution, and effective communication are soft skills that are invaluable in my role.
How do you adapt and stay current on developments in your field?
Attending professional conferences for my field, especially the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA), is one way I stay current in my field. We also have webinars that we watch. These may be related effective use of technology, career planning, or academic advising. I also just started training to teach at a graduate higher education program. This allows me to utilize my training in teaching language arts and creative writing while connecting with faculty in the higher education administration field. Also, getting involved in on-campus committees that investigate strategies to improve various aspects of institutional life.
Have you had other jobs you'd like to tell us about?
Since graduating from Salem State, I have stayed in higher education. I started out working in admissions, and did this at two institutions, between 2009 and 2014. Then, since 2015, I have transitioned into academic advising, starting out as an academic advisor, then a coordinator, and now an assistant director.
What were your favorite classes at SSU?
Geesh! This is hard. I loved to write creatively, so my favorite classes were the non-fiction writing classes, even though I had to get comfortable with getting my work critiqued. But these were a fun way to learn, even though they stretched my creativity to the limit.
What was your favorite thing about SSU?
To be honest, it is hard to say one specific thing was my favorite. I think it was just the general vibe at SSU that was a perfect fit for me. It took on the character of a former teaching school and had faculty who loved to teach and enjoyed what they taught, which made classes enjoyable and I felt supported through my learning process. But, as an international student, the CIE office was just invaluable in ensuring that SSU became home away from home. Nelly Wadsworth, Don Ross and Reiko Morris and Yanxia Wang just made life in America and at SSU fun. I never felt lost, confused or alone because they became family. For that, I am beyond thankful to SSU for the CIE office.
Why did you want to major in English?
I loved to write, was already a high school English teacher, and decided I wanted to see if I could make a career out of writing. It was a great experience, but I decided to shift to higher education administration because, if I wanted to, I could still teach on a part-time basis.
Do you have any published works?
The only publishing I have done is my doctoral-level dissertation. I complete a higher education administration program at Northeastern University.
Anything else you'd like to share?
Being an international student at Salem State was my best educational choice and experience! It set me up to be the confident and capable educator that I am today. Thank you! Go Vikings!