ACC Alumni Making a Mark in West Texas

Sarah Vasquez (right) interviews an ACC student for ACCENT while on campus when she attended the school in 2009. Photo taken by Karissa Rodriguez

By: Pete Ramirez

It’s not uncommon for a portion of students to find their way back to school at Austin Community College. Sarah Vaszquez enrolled at Texas State University immediately after graduating high school. Eight years later, she enrolled at ACC.  Now, Vasquez is a freelance journalist and photographer whose work can be found in the New York Times, Texas Tribune, Texas Highways Magazine and others. 

It is common for students, of any age, to start here in order to get there. After graduating high school, Vasquez became a student at Texas State University. About two years into her higher education journey, she decided the best thing for herself was to take a break from school. During her time away from school Vasquez began writing her own blog called So Many Bands, which covered the independent music scene in Austin. 

“I was interviewing anybody and everybody who would let me,” Vasquez said. “I was so shy, my brother would sometimes ask band members if I could interview them.” 

After a few years, Vasquez decided to step back into the world of academia as an ACC student. In her first semester, she was recruited to work for ACCENT’s newspaper, which had its last publication in 2014.  

“[ACCENT] gave me the space to learn everything I wanted to learn,” Vasquez said. “I learned photography, how to edit audio and work on video.”

While working for ACCENT, Vaszquez picked up as many assignments as she could to become the Campus Editor and, eventually, Assistant Editor. Vasquez credits ACCENT for giving her low-stakes opportunities to grow as a journalist.

Sarah Vasquez Photo 2 - Vasquez (right), in 2011, works in the ACCENT newsroom to pull together the latest edition.
Vasquez (right), in 2011, works in the ACCENT newsroom to pull together the latest edition.

“I feel like ACC legitimized my career,” Vasquez said.  “It opened so many doors for me and gave me confidence to come out of my shell.”

After graduating from ACC with her associate’s degree in journalism, Vasquez was selected to take part in the Poynter Institute’s fellowship for a semester which is one of the most recognized schools of journalism.

After completing her fellowship, Vasquez returned to Texas State University. She quickly fell into the fold at the student-run radio station, KTSW 89.9, where she continued to develop her journalism skills in an audio format.

“I don’t think I would’ve been as prepared for the work at the university level if it wasn’t for ACC,” Vasquez said.

Vasquez received her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Texas State in 2012 and decided to take a four-month internship with Marfa Public Radio. After growing up in the fast-paced Austin area, she found joy and calm in the slower-paced west Texas town. Half-way through the internship she began working at the Big Bend Sentinel part-time. After the internship ended, Vasquez was hired as a full-time staff member for the newspaper.

“I was the general assignments reporter [at the Sentinel], so I covered everything,” Vasquez said.

In 2016, after working for the Big Bend Sentinel for three years, Vasquez decided to go her own way and become a freelance journalist and photographer covering the west Texas area.

Vasquez’s photography and writing for the Texas Tribune during February’s winter storm was essential coverage for rural west Texas communities that are often overlooked.

Although her path to ACC was not straightforward, Vasquez’s story is a testament to the valuable opportunities and connections that can be made at ACC.

“[ACC] exceeded my expectations,” Vasquez said. “I had no idea I would go on this journey.”

Vasquez plans to continue her work as a freelance journalist and photographer in the west Texas region.

Career Searching: Landing Your Dream Job

ACCENT multimedia reporter, Pete Ramirez, interviews Trish Welch, Career Services Director at ACC, Pam Fant-Saez, Digital Skills for Today’s Jobs Director at ACC, and Gloria Walls, an ACC student who just started an I.T. apprenticeship with the help of Career Services.

By: Pete Ramirez

As the 2021 spring semester comes to a close, Austin Community College is doing all it can to give its graduates the skills to snag the jobs they want. This often overlooked work is driven by the Career Services Department, who offer free tools and career coaching to any current or former student in  need of help navigating the current job market. 

“Job postings have increased,” said Trish Welch, Career Resources Director at ACC. “The number of employers who are interested in hiring ACC students has dramatically increased.”

Welch believes the challenges students are currently facing revolve around preparing for employment.Through career coaching and innovative technology, Career Services may be able to help relieve some of the stress that comes along with looking for a job, while improving the chances of an applicant landing an interview.

In the current hiring market, artificial intelligence is heavily relied upon by companies to filter through the thousands of applications they receive. These technologies are programmed to search for keywords within resumes to find solid candidates for the position. Career services’ solution to this problem is Jobscan. 

Jobscan is a way for students to optimize their resumes by comparing their resume against a specific job posting. The platform then awards a score to the resume which indicates if the applicant is a good match for the position.

“We don’t consider that resume complete until it has a score of 85%,” said Skills for Today’s Jobs Director, Pam Fant-Saez. “[With that score], we know that the chances of it getting through to see human eyes escalates way up.” 

Fant-Saez said that the platform can do the same with a student’s LinkedIn account to optimize their profile so that it doesn’t slip through the cracks either.

Career Services also offers assistance in preparing for interviews by utilizing another piece of technology: Big Interview. Big Interview allows a student to practice being interviewed by an avatar to alleviate some of the potential pressure of being put in the hot seat by another person.

With each recorded session, the student can continue practicing until they’re comfortable with what is being asked. The questions the avatar asks can also be changed depending on which industry the student is attempting to enter.

“Students don’t realize how amazingly powerful this is,” Fant-Saez said. “And then they get hired in 10 days as opposed to eight months.”

Students interested in improving their job seeking skills can access these tools by  applying to the free, monthly classes Career Services offers, Strategies for Today’s Jobs.

One student who completed these classes and credits them for her success is Gloria Walls. Walls recently started an Information Technologies (IT) apprenticeship at Saber Data, a local tech company in Austin.

These classes taught Walls the t-chart strategy, one used for writing a cover letter. To use the strategy, place the job description in a column on the left and on the right column describe how your qualifications match what the employer is looking for. 

Walls said, “I think it also helps to prepare you for your interview because it helps you think about what skills you have.”

Fant-Saez is also a fan of cover letters and encourages students who have something compelling to say to take the time to write a cover letter. She feels it can allow an application to shine brighter among the rest.

“When you don’t have a lot of experience, it might be good to express immense enthusiasm,” Fant-Saez said.

Walls said that any ACC student who is looking for a job should take advantage of this free career training course.

“I think it helps you organize your materials, think about what your skills are and helps you to really get that thing that is going to make you stand out from other candidates,” Walls said.

Leadership Conference Aims to Build Students’ Confidence

Austin Community College Student Life is kicking off 2021 with the first annual Student Leadership Conference! This web-based convention allows ACC students to attend panels, meet with guest speakers, and network with their fellow peers. ACCENT met with organizers of this event, students, and guest speakers to get the scoop.

By: Adam Cherian

Austin Community College is kicking off 2021 with the first annual Student Leadership Conference! This web-based convention allows ACC students to attend panels, meet with guest speakers, and network with their fellow peers. 

Starting on Feb 4, this virtual two-day event will encompass central themes of confidence, resilience, and civic engagement. Students will have the opportunity to build such skills by listening to guest speakers such as local Austin icon, Evenlyn from the Internets.

Each day is divided into different time slots, where panels and networking will take place. The organizers realize that building networks of people during the Covid-19 pandemic is not easy, so the conference organizers have dedicated a whole hour each day for the sole purpose of meeting with other students. 

ACCENT had the opportunity to speak with ACC students, Ashley Pesina and Todd Snow, about why they were attending this conference, as well as what they are expecting to gain from attending.

“I want to strengthen my leadership skills. I am the new president of the new student organization LatinX Student Union. It will definitely help me in this new opportunity to be a better leader,” Pesina said. 

Snow, who is now the current president of the Student Veterans Association of ACC, is attending for similar reasons.

 “Even if a person will never be in a leadership role, the skills a good leader needs are skills everyone should have.” Snow said. 

Many students, like Ashely and Todd, are looking for better ways to increase their leadership skills, especially while we are in a pandemic and are unable to meet in person. 

“…we have been virtual for a year almost so I am used to participating in events online,” Pesina said. 

Snow disclosed with us that he would not  have been able to go if it were an in person event, which raises the question of accessibility. Having virtual events for the past ten months have created a space where everyone can safely participate in large events.

For instance, there are over 130+ students planning to attend this conference. 

“I would recommend an ACC student to attend this conference because it will help them gain leadership skills and network with different people,” Pesina said. 

Janelle Greene and Darrell Merriweather, guest speakers for the Resilience: Reaching In, Reaching Out, Reaching Around panel set to occur at 10 a.m. on Feb 5 will discuss how people can remain resilient in these times, while also maintaining civic participation in our communities. 

With the panel’s intention to educate the attendees of the panel on the ways to remain resilient in the face of hardship, they also strive to connect with students in different ways, especially during the pandemic.

“We wanted to bring about different strategies…finding support groups…being able to bounce back and persevere through these times,” Merriweather said. 

Kelsey Sisler and Jamal Nelson, organizers for the event, stated that though the theme of this year’s conference is confidence building, Nelson explained that this conference is more than just that but that civic engagement and acquiring leadership skills are also the focus. As well as trying to build leadership qualities after traumatic experiences. 

When we asked Sisler about what she was specifically doing to plan for the event, she emphasized that diversity was extremely important. Both planners made diversity a huge priority, which is seen in the panelists they are having.

 Both organizers exclaimed to us how much easier it is to plan this event online. Though they both experienced “Zoom fatigue” while planning, the accessibility of having it online is worth the fatigue.

 “The take away from the conference should be the information gathered, and the larger network built,” Nelson said. 

The Student Leadership conference of 2021 is one of the largest virtual conferences held by ACC Student Life that allows students to get connected with your peers, as well as get informative talks from highly experienced individuals. 

Visit the Student Life website to learn more about the schedule of events and registration. 

Getting Remote Career Ready with ACC Career Services

We talk to ACC Career Service about the best ways to adapt to a tumultuous job market.

By Adam Cherian

Need help preparing for the job market during a pandemic? We talk to ACC Career Service about the best ways to adapt to a tumultuous job market.

In the turbulent job market that COVID-19 has created, it’s essential that college students adopt the best qualifications for remote or online work. Given the volatile nature of this pandemic, it’s been stated as the safest option to search for work is remotely. Because there is no conclusive end to this pandemic, remote work seems to be the norm. That being said, there are new sets of skills that students need to adopt with such a shift in conditions. Career Services provides the best ways for ACC students to prepare for a career, remotely.

  1. Check Out the Job Search Page on the ACC Career Services Page
    • The best way to start your job search during a time when most things are remote is with this helpful page. ACC Career Services realize that the pandemic has hit working ACC students hard. So to help those who have lost their jobs, they created a page where you can look for job listings in your area. There is an excellent amount of positions ranging from in your field of study, to entry level jobs. Give it a look to help you find the best remote career opportunities.
  2. Read the Career Essentials Student Reference Guide (2019/2020)
    • This guide is a game changer! You will be given the most essential steps in how to prepare for applying for jobs. This guide is extensive, with sixty pages of extremely helpful information. It details everything from resumé tips, to Linkedin profile checklists. Better securing a good remote job is made easy with this guide, as it gives you the best tools to make you stand out. Consider giving this a read when applying for jobs to better prepare yourself, and to impress your future employers!
  3. Take a Glance at the ACC Resumé Guide
    • Need more help making your resumé stand out? During a time where remote work is becoming more necessary, a resumé that exceeds your employers expectations is a crucial step in securing a job. ACC Career Services has a resumé guide that is filled with tips, instructions, and examples to make sure you secure that remote position! Give this a read if you want to give your resumé a professional finish.
  4. Consider Practice Interviews using Big Interview
    • The interview process is always nerve-racking. With the added pressure of remote interviews and technological barriers, this process can be scary. Thankfully, ACC Career Services provides us with a platform where you can practice interviewing in your specific field. You can use this to practice at any time because the questions are pre-recorded. Give this a try and see how helpful practicing real world interviews virtually can be.
  5. Schedule an Appointment with a Career Counselor
    • Once you have visited all the other resources ACC Career Services has to offer, it’s time to visit with a career counselor. Career counselors will offer you with the best advice on how to get, and prepare yourself for a new job. Speaking with professionals on how to better suit yourself for a remote job is priceless, and ACC offers it for just that! If you want to understand everything you need to know for remote work, schedule an appointment with a counselor today! 

The year 2020 has thrown everyone for a loop. Hopefully these resources will help ACC students better prepare for the remote job market. These are the best for career readiness, and ACC students are privileged enough to get this for free!