Tuesday Talk gives students insights into possible careers

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James Waller, Staff Writer


In a Tuesday Talk at the Houston Cole Library, Jacksonville State University’s Office of Academic Advisement had alumni from the department of human services and social sciences speak to students about how they found their careers and what they get out of those careers.

Introduced by Jennifer Wood of Jacksonville State University’s Academic Advisement, Tuesday, February 19, at 5 p.m., on the 11th floor of the library, former students gave talks to human services social students about what to expect from careers as lawyers, probation officers, managers of disaster relief, and housing managers.

The first panelist, Tyrone Smiley, who graduated from Jacksonville State University in 2009  with a bachelor’s degree in communication and now works as the university’s assistant Director of housing operations, started by telling the attendees about his original goals to be a news reporter for CNN and how his career took a different when he accepted his initial post-graduate school job as live-in, university hall director at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, after earning a  master’s degree in public administration. Smiley advised that his undergraduate political science major had a variety of skills that would be useful in many career paths but were especially transferable for him transferring into working in higher education.

The second panelist, Katie Carter Stotts, a senior probation officer for the Northern district of Georgia, who graduated from Jacksonville State University in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, initially attempted to apply to law school. Stotts changed her mind on networking with a federal probation officer. After this, Stotts stressed the importance of networking in her career.

“My big spiel in all this is networking,” Stotts said. “Networking is absolutely huge in any line of work, but especially in federal law enforcement. A majority of my work is on the social work side and dealing with people’s personalities and helping them develop those better cognitive skills, making better decisions, putting people who have substance abuse issues into treatment, finding those programs for people so they can reintegrate into society.”

The third panelist, G. Davis Varner Jr., an attorney and partner of Shelnutt and Varner P.C., who graduated from Jacksonville State University in 2008 with a political science bachelor’s degree, spoke about how his undergraduate degree did little to prepare him for his career and told the attendees that almost any degree would get a person into law school. Varner stated that some of his classmates in law school had degrees as disparate as biology and music.

“The most challenging aspect of getting into law school—I would say three things: the LSAT, law school, and the bar exam,” said Varner.

Varner does both criminal and civil practices. He stated that he most enjoys that he can help people with his practice, but also says that the best way to do his job is to maintain some professional detachment and avoid taking on too much of his client’s emotional baggage.

The last panelist, Dr. Bryce Woodruff, a three-time-graduate from Jacksonville State University, graduated a bachelor’s degree in sociology in 1994, a master’s degree in emergency management in 2004, and a doctorate in emergency management in an unspecified year. Dr. Woodruff is a manager of disaster resilience and recovery for a private company. He stated that he found his career’s start with FEMA when a professor passed his name along to an unnamed FEMA official. Dr. Woodruff was involved with the disaster relief following the tornado that hit Jacksonville, Alabama and other areas on March 19, 2018, doing much damage to the university.

“The most satisfying aspect of this job is being able to help people recover form devastation,” said Dr. Woodruff.

Dr. Woodruff went on to say that his job ties together knowledge from many disparate disciplines, like engineering, environmental science, and architecture, as many things must be considered and repaired during disaster relief efforts.

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