Sociology ProgramDepartment of Sociology and Anthropology
Sociology Program

Laura Selin

Laura Selin Biography

            I am currently employed at Women’s Initiative for Self Empowerment (WISE), Inc. as the Youth Program Coordinator. I completed an internship there from January through May in 2007. My internship helped me obtain a part-time employee position as Administrative Assistant. I was then promoted to Youth Program Coordinator in December of 2007.

            At this time I am coordinating two college preparation programs for immigrant and refugee youth. One is an after school program twice a week at High Ground Academy, an Afrocentric Charter School in St. Paul, Minnesota. The other is Girls Getting Ahead in Leadership, a college preparation and leadership development program for immigrant and refugee girls. The girls are juniors and seniors in high school.

            Here I design, implement, and evaluate program workshops. Coordination includes planning and facilitating weekly workshops; scheduling presenters; planning special events including cultural activities, college visits, and networking sessions; supervising mentors on how to provide one-on-one assistance; and presenting information on college preparation. This includes the application process, financial aid, scholarships, choosing a college, leadership development, and time management among others. One of my major responsibilities is finding funding for the program, which consists of conducting research, contacting potential funders, and writing grant proposals.  At times, I also design and implement weekly cultural art activities for fourth through sixth grade students.

            Working at a small nonprofit organization I tend to do more than my title suggests. I also plan special fundraising events for the organization, which includes advertising, soliciting donations from businesses for a silent auction, putting together food/drinks, keeping track of money, supervising volunteers, and marketing our programs. On occasion I also act as receptionist, assistant to the Executive Director and note-taker at staff meetings. This is not uncommon is most nonprofits.

            In total I work between forty-four and fifty-one hours each week. I work thirty hours a week as the Youth Program Coordinator and the rest of the week I work as a barista at a local coffee shop, Urban Bean. I am completely happy with what I do and how much I work. I like the flexibility I have at WISE, although sometimes it is hard to complete all my assignments within the thirty hours. Working at the coffee shop is great because it adds some variety to my week. At the coffee shop, I work independently in the evenings making drinks, interacting with regular customers, cleaning and prepping for the next day.

            During college and after graduation I worked as a Fitness Consultant at Curves for Women. At this job I conducted individual fitness consultations, trained new members on machinery, and opened and closed the facility. I also worked as a Youth Development Staff for the Ridgedale YMCA’s Summer Uproar Program. Here, I coordinated field trips and activities for large youth groups, ranging from the ages of 11-14, and supervised and mentored ethnically diverse and special needs youth.

            In my current job I use Sociology every day. I work with a very diverse group of people, including immigrants and refugees from East and West Africa, Laos, Thailand, Burma, and Latin America. Learning about diversity and different cultures in general is very helpful in what I do. Studying different social issues prepared me for my work; opening my eyes to racism, classism, and sexism in today’s society.

             In Sociology classes, we often had to facilitate or be involved in group discussions. This definitely helped me in my work, where I plan and facilitate workshops around college preparation, career exploration, and self-esteem. Writing was also very crucial in Sociology. This transfers to any job, especially in the nonprofit world, where you often have to write grant proposals to get funding for programs, establish goals and outcomes, and write reports for funders. Most people dislike writing, but all the writing for our Sociology classes made it much easier once I got into the real world. The Senior Seminar course helped me a lot since it forced students to put together cover letters, a resume, ask for letters of recommendation, etc. This not only helped me land an internship and a job, but it also helped me teach my students how to write and prepare for college.

            One piece of advice I can give future and current students is to be less afraid of getting into the social service industry, especially the nonprofit sector. The work that nonprofits do is extremely important. As a college student, I did not have high expectations for pay after graduation since I found it realistic to assume that I would get hired for an entry level position. Also, I planned on working at a nonprofit organization. Money was never an issue for me when I graduated since I was used to living as a “poor college student”.

             Although, I would like to say that even though I do not get paid as much as your typical college graduate, I am happy with my job and my life. I support myself by paying my rent, bills, and loans and still have enough money left to live modestly. As everyone knows, the economy is taking a toll on the job market, so everyone should be happy with what they get and realize that not everyone can start off making $60,000 right out of college. For those that do, are they even really happy with their jobs? Think about it.


For any further information or advice for future college graduates feel free to contact me at: