Doctoral Students at Work – Featuring Ben Briskin at the Center for Students with Disabilities – UConn Center for Career Development

“It was the first big step I took after my undergraduate experience towards a professional position, and it helped me learn what is expected of professionals in the field,” Said Ben Briskin. Ben is in his third year of a doctorate in learning, leadership and educational policy. A program with a concentration in sports management proposed within the Department of Educational Leadership. He has been working as a graduate assistant since 2017 at the Center for Students with Disabilities (CSD).

How does CSD work?

In his role, Ben works with students with different ability levels in weekly one-on-one sessions. Students who come to his office have different goals for the semester. Some may want to achieve a certain level of grades or better manage their time, while others may want to meet more people. “We then take on those goals and implement academic and social strategies that best suit each student and his or her specific needs,” Ben said.

Working with students is one of the things Ben likes about his work. He often meets with students for multiple semesters. “It allows me to build relationships with students over time and gives me a unique opportunity to see them grow over the years,” he said.

Ben appreciates that the staff at CSD help and support throughout. He said, “They gave us the opportunity to be flexible and understand the responsibilities of the job in ways that work for us. The CSD team is always so nice and makes it fun to get into work every day.”

Ben works in his office at the Center for Students with Disabilities (Photo courtesy of Ben Briskin)

How are your academic training and GAship related?

Ben sees much of what he learns from courses relevant to his work. For example, he once attended a course on “Effects on Adult Learning” that examines how people learn, which is a major focus of his work with students. He is currently taking a course in leadership in social justice, where he also finds the concepts related to his work.

What are some of the skills developed?

Between the Eight types of skills and abilities Ben has been identified by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) whose employers value candidates for their job, Ben is confident in communication, teamwork, leadership and critical thinking developed in his past experience and academic training. Meanwhile, his GAship at CSD has enabled him to build skills in professionalism, equality and inclusion and technology.

“It was the first big step I took after my undergraduate experience towards a professional position, and it helped me learn what is expected of professionals in the field,” he said. He also learned a lot about equality and inclusion as it is inherent in the focus of his work. There are various technologies he has also learned about, from note-taking technology to audio recording and various types of supporting technological tools.

What will be valuable for your future career that you have earned from your current job?

Ben sought his job at CSD using the information shared by his friend Max and he applied directly for the position. He has been working in the current position since he first started graduate school in his master’s program. Although GAships were available on his show back then, Ben did not want to limit himself to what opened up to him, “… because I knew I had interests elsewhere that would match what I was looking for.”

Like many graduate students, Ben was unsure of what to do after graduation. His work at CSD leads him to consider a possible career in a school that involves working with students with unique abilities. “It’s not something I would have imagined before my time here at CSD,” he said, “… so, in a sense, my work here has been a revolution in terms of helping me figure out what I want to do!”

Stay tuned for more episodes Improving career readiness: PhD students at work .

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