Welcome to CLAS Connections, a minicast that spends a heartfelt five minutes with people from UConn’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. In each case, their special connection has had a profound and lasting impact on their lives.
Today, we hear from Nick Boston, educational program administrator in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and his former student worker, alumna Andrea Li ’22 (BUS). Andrea describes how her connection with Nick — over three and a half years of working in the EEB office — turned her into the confident professional she is today. Here’s Andrea and Nick.
Andrea: Do you remember the first time we met?
Nick: Yes, I do. I remember when we were interviewing students for the office, and then I remember you coming into interview and being very nervous. I just remember thinking: I can see it that she has potential to grow a lot from being a shy, reserved little freshman to someone who can do extraordinarily well. And I think you’re the first student that we’ve ever had from freshman to senior. It’s really exciting to see the full transformation from timid freshman Andrea to confident professional senior Andrea.
Andrea: Oh my goodness. One of my favorite parts of working in the EEB office is our EEB professional development seminars. I think those are very, very unique to us. All the student workers get together, and each one of the students chooses a topic that they would like to further discuss. And these topics range from critical thinking to independence or confidence.
Nick: One of the reasons I thought it was so important to start doing those seminars is because we’ve historically relied on students so much to get everything we need to get done, done. I felt like the least we could do is try to make sure that they’re getting a worthwhile experience out of this as well. How do you think that your experience in the EEB office affected your overall experience at UConn?
Andrea: I would say I definitely became more confident. When I first came to UConn and first started working at the EEB office, I don’t know if you remember this … I was so scared to write an email to anyone! It would take me literally like 30 to 45 minutes to send one email out, and it would be like, “Your package has arrived. Please pick it up.” I was terrified. And so, I would definitely say now given all the experiences that I have … I’m way more confident in not just sending emails, but conversations professionally between people.
Nick: Where we’ve been fortunate is having you go actually meet with new student workers in the math office, in chemistry, in philosophy, sociology, departments throughout the entire College. And I think we’ve really made ourselves known as very particularly competent. I’m trying not to sound like we’re bragging, but we do have a reputation for being really good. And so, it came to when other department admins are hiring new students, we put it out there to say: “I have a really great student named Andrea. I’d be happy to have her train your new students on travel, purchasing, whatever it is.” I think it has been really, really rewarding. And I think that we did a really good job because I know that the students that you’ve trained have been successful because I still talk to the admins all the time.
Andrea: Oh my goodness. Love.
Nick: What I found very inspiring, I guess, is that every day you come into the office and you are always happy to be there. You always have a smile on your face. And you’re ready to work. Even though it’s not always fun work. Sometimes it’s just scanning papers for hours, or reviewing spreadsheets, and looking at course scheduling and doing travel reimbursements. It’s not a glamorous job, but the way that you have your outlook when you come in is something that I think a lot of people could learn from. Come in and have a good attitude. It really, really does change your entire experience.
Andrea: My ego is so big now because of you! I’m so, so grateful because you are like, honestly, one of the primary reasons why I have so much confidence today. Being a recipient of several student life awards, one of the primary things I talked about when I was going through the interview process was being able to do work within the EEB office. That was definitely one of my talking and bragging points because I was so, so proud of those moments, and being able to help out a community as well.
Nick: And I think it’s important just to note that it’s not just because we nominated you for them — but because you deserved them. Because you have worked so hard and because you are not just a member of our office community, but the department, the College, the university as a whole.
Andrea: The connection that I have with Nick as a staff member is very, very different because while you do help me professionally — we’ve done mock interviews together, you’ve helped me explore what kind of avenues I want to go — there’s also that sense of: I can unwind now. I can talk about things to you that I wouldn’t particularly feel comfortable talking about to faculty members or my professors.
Nick: Being able to see that transformation from freshman to senior year has been really eye-opening for me. As someone who’s not a faculty member, I don’t really get the opportunity to interact with a lot of students. And so, being able to firsthand is really meaningful to me as a staff person.
Andrea: Yeah. It doesn’t necessarily have to be academic, if that makes sense.
Nick: Same wavelength. That’s three and a half years of working together, it will do that to you. We finish each other’s … sandwiches!