From a Doctoral Student in Philosophy to a Higher Ed Professional: Emma Bjorngard-Basayne’18 Ph.D.’s Success Story

UConn alumna Dr. Emma Bjorngard-Basayne18 Ph.D. Philosophy is currently an Academic Advisor at the Office of Undergraduate Advising, UConn School of Business. She is also an Adjunct Professor in Philosophy at the Stamford Campus, UConn. Her career journey suggests that in addition to the academic skills and training gained from one’s degree program, doctoral students should step outside of their department and take a test drive in the field of their interest through internships or career-related experiences that might help expand their career choices and may eventually lead them to their future career.

Networks and Career-related Experiences Matter

Dr. Bjorngard-Basayne shares how people she reached out to or worked with helped navigate and eventually shape her career, and how her internship experiences in other departments of UConn impacted her current career:

When I started to consider working in Higher Education, not necessarily as an academic but as a practitioner, I reached out to the UConn Center for Career Development for guidance. As luck had it, I was scheduled to meet with Kay Gruder, Assistant Director for Graduate Student and Postdoc Programs and Services. Since day one Kay has been the greatest cheerleader of mine and always went the extra mile to help me find new and exciting opportunities. For instance, she worked with me to completely change my resume (from being research-focused to having more emphasis on experiences relevant to a higher education advising job) and helped me think intentionally about what opportunities to pursue if I wanted to be a higher education professional. She connected me with the Dean of Students Office, which eventually led to me meeting Maureen Armstrong (Associate Dean of Students & Director) and getting an internship in the office. Maureen was a great mentor to me during my time with them, and was the one who encouraged me to apply for the Program Coordinator position with the School of Business at the Stamford campus, where I found out about my current position.


At this time, I also interned in the Residential Life Office with Claudia Arias-Cirinna and got to learn about a different side of the university and the student experience. Both Maureen and Claudia had a huge impact on me, and it was through them that I truly started seeing myself as a future higher education professional. Through their encouragement I began to look into getting an additional graduate degree, and eventually ended up completing a Master of Science in Counselor Education with an emphasis in Student Development from Central Connecticut State University.


Bjorngard-Basayne (right) volunteering with her colleague Kristin Glinzak (left) at the graduation ceremony of School of Business (Photo courtesy of Dr. Emmal Bjorngard-Basayne)

Reach Out to Friends for Overcoming Obstacles

While handling obstacles related to career preparation during her study at UConn, Dr. Bjorngard-Basayne talks about reaching out to friends in order to overcome her anxiety about public speaking:

Although I have a lot of experience talking in front of people, I’ve always felt anxious about public speaking. It’s something I’ve come to accept about myself, and this acceptance has made it easier to deal with. One pro-tip that I have employed and that has helped me greatly in this regard is to collaborate with others on presentations. Not only does it give you a sense of comfort to have a friend up there with you, but it also allows for better ideas to be created through collaboration. Some of the best public speaking experiences that I’ve had, and the ones that have been the most beneficial for my career, have been with my colleagues and friends: Dr. Kristi Kaeppel (fellow research partner and UConn graduate), Kayla Hogrefe, Susan Harding, and Carlton Jones (UConn Academic Advisors). So ask your friends to collaborate! 


Bjorngard-Basayne and colleagues, Carlton Jones (middle) and Susan Harding (right), after presenting at her first conference as an Academic Advisor of School of Business (Photo courtesy of Dr. Emma Bjorngard-Basayne)

Feeling Thankful

Through her entire career journey, there have been people, from her supervisors, advisors, to her colleagues and professional staff at UConn, whom she has been thankful for:

Besides Kay, Maureen, and Claudia, my current supervisors in the School of Business Brandy Nelson (Executive Director for Undergraduate Programs) and Nakeia Moore (Director of Academic Support Services) have contributed immensely to the higher education professional I am today. They always listen to my (sometimes “out there”) ideas and are willing to try new and exciting things, such as our LAUNCH Podcast that I started together with my colleague Kayla Hogrefe. As a woman I feel honored to have two women as my supervisors, and the way they make decisions and center friendship within their work inspire me to model myself on them as a future supervisor. I also must emphasize the importance of my PhD advisor Dr. Mitchell Green in supporting my decision to explore an alternative path in academia. If it wasn’t for his constant encouragement and sage advice, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

Advice to Current Doctoral Students  

Lastly, Dr. Bjorngard-Basayne highlights why it matters to take advantage of many resources and opportunities and to push herself to step outside of her comfort zone. She said, “I remember feeling so lost before I went to the Career Development Office and wasn’t even sure if my interest in pursuing a career in Higher Education was actually feasible. But, by forcing myself to attend the appointment and being vulnerable about my aspirations, and through the encouragement and guidance of Kay, I was able to take the steps that I needed to make this dream a reality. The support that I received along the way from so many individuals at UConn who went out of their way to help me succeed is truly remarkable. We have such a supportive community at UConn so I encourage everyone to immerse themselves in it, and network as much as you can.”

Dr. Emma Bjorngard-Basayne is the Recipient of the Joy Nuckols Memorial Staff Award, UConn Stamford, Fall 2020. Her current research paper co-authored with her colleagues received the Elwood F. Holton III Research Excellence Award, Human Resources Development Review, 2020. The paper is titled “The F Word: The Role of Women’s Friendships in Navigating the Gendered Workplace of Academia”. She can be reached via LinkedIn

By Damiao Zoe Xu
Damiao Zoe Xu Graduate Assistant, Graduate Student and Postdoc Career Programs and Services (She/Her/Hers)