Rachel Madsen PhD ‘18, Social Policy & Sociology: Director of Assessment at Wake Technical Community College
Can you describe your career path and how it has led to your current work?
My main interest in a career has been to do purposeful work that can in some way improve the well-being of individuals, families, communities, and our environment. This overarching goal has guided me through work in a number of sectors and, during graduate school, I had the opportunity to work on various research projects with wonderful, supportive professors who helped build my skills and confidence. One external project involved an internship with the research division of the National Fire Protection Association and ultimately a role as a consultant with this organization for several years. During the last few years of my PhD program, work as an independent consultant grew and my Brandeis Sociology classmate and good friend, Nick Monroe, and I started working on consulting projects together that specialized in providing research, data analysis, and assessment services. After finishing the PhD program, I was hired as the Director of Assessment at Wake Technical Community College in Raleigh, NC. With its mission to “provide equitable access to education that transforms lives through economic mobility and personal fulfillment,” I find the work at Wake Tech to be extremely rewarding and feel very fortunate that my path eventually led me here!
What services and/or resources did you use while at Brandeis for your career search?
The professors I worked with both in the Sociology Department and Heller School were very supportive and provided opportunities for paid research and teaching assistantships that helped with gaining professional skills, as well as a better understanding of the kinds of work I wanted to focus on for a career. Through their dedication to their own work, my professors and peers in both departments were an inspiration to me in pursuing a meaningful career. Thanks to the Sociology Graduate Director, I learned of the internship that led to further consulting work, much of which came about through networks with Brandeis faculty and alumni. I also registered on Handshake and would be notified of relevant job postings periodically, which helped me gain a better understanding of the job market and how my skill sets could be applied to various roles.
What skills from your Brandeis degree have you found most valuable in your current work?
Certainly, research and data analysis skills. Policy analysis. Project management. Critical thinking. Presentation development and public speaking.
What advice do you have for current students as they embark on their career exploration or job search?
My advice would be to keep an open mind about your career potential and to pursue work that aligns with your core values. Some work that presents itself may not seem to clearly fit in a particular path, but, if you’re gaining skills, working with positive and supportive people, and keeping your core values in mind, it will likely be worthwhile and beneficial to you in the long run.