One of the Career Center’s popular annual programs is career shadowing, held over winter break. Hamilton alumni and parents have always played an important role in shaping students’ career exploration, and although it looked a bit different, 2021 was no exception. Ellis Strutton ’23 took advantage of the SnapShot virtual shadowing program over this year’s extended break, shadowing Judy Silverstein Gray K’78, who works with the Florida Department of Health in disaster preparedness. Strutton talks about her experience in the following.
When the adapted 2020-21 academic calendar was released, I was both excited and wary about the two-month break between the fall and spring semesters. I worried that two months without classes or work — in addition to social distancing and COVID-19 lockdowns — was going to be a long period of enforced downtime. So when I read the Career Center email describing the new SnapShot virtual shadowing program, I knew that I had found the perfect solution. The pandemic has drastically affected career exploration opportunities for students across the country, cancelling internships, shadowing programs, and other networking opportunities. Luckily Hamilton’s Career Center and our network of alumni and parents stepped up to organize exciting virtual shadowing opportunities.
After reviewing the database of opportunities offered by parents and alumni across various fields, I chose to shadow Judy Silverstein Gray K’78, who works with the Florida Department of Health in disaster preparedness. As a student interested in public health, disease, and healthcare, I knew it would be an incredible opportunity to shadow someone with such a wide-ranging and impactful position. When I initially contacted her back in early December, Gray and her team were in the midst of COVID-19 vaccination plan development. Throughout my extended shadowing period, her team has organized the state’s vaccination efforts, managed vaccination information, and helped address public concerns about the vaccine.
Due to the hectic and unpredictable nature of this time, particularly in a state Department of Health, Gray organized a flexible and atypical shadowing opportunity for me consisting of phone calls, various webinars with leading experts, and invitations to participate in the discussions with the Hamilton Career Network HealthMatters! Book Club.
I learned a lot from Gray about her experiences working with vulnerable and underserved populations and gained an inside look at the pandemic response. Most recently, I had the opportunity to view a talk by Dr. Peter Hotez, a leading expert from the Texas Children’s Center for Vaccine Development, on the COVID-19 vaccine and the anti-vaccine movement.
Although I am still unsure of the specific career path I wish to pursue after graduation, this experience exposed me to different options in public health and healthcare. More importantly, it provided me with connections to draw upon for advice and ideas as I continue to develop a career path of my own. The Career Center’s innovation and the eagerness of the Alumni Network to support students during such a unique time managed to turn this extended break into a fantastic career exploration opportunity.