Q & A with Auburn Young Alumni

Whether you have just begun your time at Auburn or your graduation is right around the corner, every Auburn student is working toward the goal of having a successful career. Through your classes, extracurricular activities, internships, and other valuable experiences, you are gaining the skills and abilities that are preparing you for your future. When you look back on your time at Auburn, you will want to know that you made the best use of your time and made connections to further your career.

Recently, I asked ten successful, young Auburn alumni to answer two questions about their time at Auburn: 
  1. What did you learn at Auburn that most prepared you for your career?
  2. What is one thing you wish you would have done at Auburn to prepare for your career? 

Hopefully their reflections can give you some insight on life after graduation and what you can be doing now to make the most of your Auburn experience.

What did you learn at Auburn that most prepared you for your career?

Be passionate about your career.

“I learned the value of hard work and the potential of passion. Hard work has propelled me through challenging times and I can attribute my determination to the faculty who challenged me academically. Working hard is a mantra that keeps me prepared and thinking about the future while building upon the past. Auburn provides students and faculty alike with opportunities to make a difference in the community. I still admire and remember being a part of the ones where passion was palpable. It showed me the power of passion through success, and I inherently learned about humility during times of failure. Startups seem to attract passionate people. At Ledbury, passion promotes hard work and that goes into everything from business development to sales.” -Thomas Burke 

Be open-minded about your career.

“One thing I learned at Auburn that has been helpful is to keep an open mind with opportunities as you are considering next steps.” -Alysha Kambeyanda 

“I didn't know that I was going to be teaching English overseas when I chose to major in English, but it turned out to be perfect for what I'm doing! Most foreign teachers teach spoken English, but because I had a lot of experience writing essays and research papers, I was able to teach many writing classes. All of my literature classes in which I had to write MLA style papers really prepared me well for being able to instruct Chinese university students how to do the same thing.” -Lauren Mosteller

“The biggest thing I learned at Auburn that shaped my career was to be prepared for the unexpected. In the last semester of my Master’s program, on a whim, I enrolled in an elective course offered to undergrad and graduate students, Principles of Fundraising. This course literally changed my career path and led directly to employment after graduation. Who knows where I would be now had it not been for adding an elective at the last minute.” -Nathan Payne 

Know how to communicate, both verbally and written.

“Communication skills are probably the most important thing I've learned that helped prepare me for my career. No matter what major you are or job you end up with, communication is essential! Students need to realize how important written and verbal communication will be in their careers.” -Brian Brown 

Your classes are important and relevant.

"I think Auburn prepared me well through Student Media. I think in a broader sense, it forced us to get real world experiences while still in school. It was a required class at Auburn, but it allowed us to make mistakes, learn on the job and get experience that was more valuable than sitting in a class.” -Coleman McDowell 

“I learned from my classes that innovation is one of the most important parts of keeping a growing company relevant in the industry.” -Drew Young

“Auburn gave me a great foundation of knowledge and know-how that I'm still building off of today professionally. Even if some of the classes I took aren't directly applicable with what I do day-to-day now, the coursework helped shape me into a quick, adaptable learner. This is important because learning shouldn't stop after you graduate - it's really only just the beginning.” -Michael Knowles

Appreciate others.

“I learned the value of investing time in other people and organizations. My degree and extracurricular student group involvement provided me with a unique opportunity to interact with a wide range of campus administrators and fellow students. In my profession, volunteer and donor development is critical to my success as an executive and fulfilling the mission of my organization. Without the opportunities I pursued and was also provided at Auburn, I wouldn't be in the position I am today.” -Justin Shugart 

“I learned so much at Auburn.  Outside of the excellent education I received, one of the best things I learned that prepared me for being a veterinarian is my deep appreciation for people and the special bond they share with their pets.  Auburn fosters such a rich environment for budding veterinarians, and really gives students the opportunity to witness the personal side of our profession - not just the physical/medical side.” 
-Kelsey Marble, DVM 

What is one thing you wish you would have done at Auburn to prepare for your career?


“While at Auburn, I think it would have been helpful to network with more industry professionals to support continued advancement beyond four years of academics.” 
-Alysha Kambeyanda

“Despite being quite involved in various activities and organizations, I realize now that I still missed out on taking advantage of many more opportunities to network, engage and grow through on-campus events. (I probably should have skipped class less, too.)”
-Nathan Payne


“More internships because the few I did were more helpful than many of the classes.” - Drew Young

“I would've tried to take advantage of internship and part-time job opportunities related to my major starting the summer after my freshman year instead of waiting until my junior year. Figuring out what you like (or don't like) about a job, company, or field early in your college career can save you a ton of trouble and effort in the future. Changing career paths only gets harder the older you get.” -Michael Knowles


“I wish I had completed a minor in plant pathology or entomology, or business, and done a study abroad.” -Brian Brown

“I think a better mix of classroom learning and actual hands-on activity would have prepped me a little more.” -Coleman McDowell

“I wish I would have taken a stronger interest in getting involved on campus my freshman and sophomore years. I went through a burnout phase after high school and it wasn't until the spring of my sophomore year that I decided to get involved. Earlier involvement could have provided the opportunity to interact and learn from different student groups and advisors. This would have provided an opportunity to learn, grow and adapt to the world around me, three actions I now find instrumental to success in my career.” -Justin Shugart

“I wish I would have taken the time to do more community outreach. I really fell in love with the city of Auburn, and looking back, I wish I would have volunteered more.  I think at the time, I didn't think I had the time for it. Now I realize I probably could have made more time for things like that.” -Kelsey Marble

“Two things come to mind... first, I took one Linguistics class at Auburn, but I wish I had taken more! I can't tell you how often I've thought of something I've learned from that one class as I was trying to instruct students in pronunciation. Second, I wish I had spent more time around international students at Auburn. The Auburn ESL program provides opportunities for native students to help the international students to practice their English, and though I started doing this the semester before I graduated, I wish I had been doing that for years!  It was such a valuable experience, not only in instructing English, but in learning about cross-cultural communication.” -Lauren Mosteller

“I wish that I had spent more time on campus, and I'm thrilled to see that playing a theme in Auburn's new initiatives.” -Thomas Burke

Meet the Alumni

  • Brian Brown 
    • Master of Science in Horticulture: 2005 
    • Bachelor of Science in Horticulture: 2002
    • Current position: Student Services Coordinator for Auburn University College of Agriculture
  • Thomas Burke 
    • Bachelor of Science in Business Administration: Accountancy: 2010
    • Current position: Financial Controller at Ledbury in Richmond, VA
  • Alysha Kambeyanda 
    • Bachelor of Industrial Design and a minor in Spanish: 2011
    • Current position: Business Development Specialist for General Electric Digital in Atlanta, GA
  • Michael Knowles
    • Bachelor of Software Engineering:2012
    • Current position: Software Developer at We Are Mammoth, Inc. in Nashville, TN
  • Kelsey Marble, DVM 
    • Doctor of Veterinary Medicine: 2013
    • Bachelor of Science in Microbiology: 2009
    • Current position: Associate Veterinarian at Longwood Veterinary Clinic in Longwood, Florida
  • Coleman McDowell 
    • Bachelor of Arts in Journalism: 2012
    • Current position: Associate Editor at golf.com, a division of Time Inc. in New York, NY
  • Lauren Mosteller
    • Bachelor of Arts in English: 2011
    • Current position: English teacher for the English Language Institute/China in Harbin, China
  • Nathan Payne 
    • Master of Education: Administration of Higher Education: 2014
    • Bachelor of Arts in Political Science: 2008
    • Current position: Director of Athletic Development at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne in Fort Wayne, Indiana
  • Justin Shugart 
    • Bachelor of Arts in Communication: 2009
    • Current position: Executive Director of the Alabama/NW Florida Chapter of the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America in Birmingham, AL
  • Drew Young
    • Bachelor of Science in Building Science; 2010
    • Current position: Owner of Young’s Plant Farm in Auburn, AL

By Dori Weldon
Career Counselor
Auburn University Career Center

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