Psychology Alumni Return to Albion, This Time as Employees

Read about four recent graduates’ deepening connection to their alma mater through their staff and faculty roles at the College.

March 31, 2022

A photo ofEl’Verson Mitchell, Alondra Alcazar, Shanti Madhavan-Brown and Griselda Iñiguez.

They share a major, an alma mater and a workplace (from left): El’Verson Mitchell, Alondra Alcazar, Shanti Madhavan-Brown and Griselda Iñiguez.

By Ariel Berry

Four recent psychology graduates have made their professional homes at their alma mater—Albion College.

“I’m excited to work at Albion because this place is so familiar to me. It is a new chapter in my life but it still feels like home,” says Alondra Alcazar, ’20, one of four recent psychology graduates who have returned to Albion as employees.

Alcazar has worked in the Office of Admission since 2021 as an admission counselor. In her role, she recruits students, walks them through the admission process and reviews applications.

“My coworkers are amazing,” she says. “I’ve had jobs where I’ve dreaded coming to work, and at Albion I genuinely look forward to coming to work because I know I’m going to see my coworkers.”

Those aren’t the only interactions she enjoys as part of Albion’s admission team. “I love working with high school students, especially those who come from underrepresented backgrounds, especially those who have Spanish-speaking parents, just because I’m able to connect with them a little bit more,” says Alcazar, who comes from a Spanish-speaking family.

Ever since her school days at Albion, Alcazar has worked to make Albion a more inclusive place. She remembers vividly when, at her first-year orientation, her mother was unable to participate in the parent activities because she didn’t speak English. “I was just like, ‘When I’m a student, I have to do something about that,” Alcazar says. “And I did.” Thanks to Alcazar’s input, first-year orientation now always provides a Spanish interpreter and Spanish-printed materials.

Alcazar later became a tour guide and, noticing the need for bilingual tours, advocated for the creation of a website button to request a Spanish-speaking tour guide when scheduling a tour. “Albion made it very easy to see these things happen; they knew that they had room to grow,” Alcazar says. “I love how they made it very easy to adjust to these students.”

Representation Matters

Another recent psychology graduate, Griselda Iñiguez, ’19, has also found her Spanish-speaking heritage to be useful in her job. Iñiguez has been working as a success coach in the College’s Cutler Center for Student Success since 2021. “I have students who, once they get comfortable with me, just completely speak in Spanish, because that’s what they are more comfortable with,” she says, “and I’ve noticed that it helps those relationships a little bit just to have your resource be of the same background as you.”

Iñiguez is enthusiastic about bringing her culture to Albion. “I think representation really matters, and with our Latinx student population going up a lot, we don’t see a lot of that in staff and faculty,” she says. “That was a big thing for me when I was a student, that I didn’t feel very represented. So I’m excited to be part of that change, and hopefully it continues to change in the right direction.”

At the Cutler Center, Iñiguez works with students who are struggling academically as well as transfer students. She says her favorite part of the job is “meeting and getting to know students from all kinds of backgrounds; that’s pretty fun.” And her student experience at Albion only enhances her dedication: “I like to give back in a way, since I went here,” Iñiguez says.

She adds, “When I was a student some of the people that I got close with really shaped not just my experience here but my life afterwards. So I’m hoping to do that with some students.” She explains that her previous relationships with faculty and staff have proved to be invaluable contacts, now that she is an employee herself. Iñiguez works closely with professors to create plans for students to succeed, so already knowing many of them has made working together easier.

Diverse Perspectives

El’Verson Mitchell, ’20, a new counselor in Counseling Services, started this year after earning a master’s in social work in December 2021. Mitchell says Albion prepared him for his current job through “exposure to diversity. Working with students who come from different backgrounds and have different intersectionalities is something that is going to impact me and influence me all throughout my career as the world becomes more diverse.”

He is enthusiastic about his new position and says, “I’m excited to grow,” adding that he looks forward to the opportunity to “have an impact.”

Mitchell values his time spent as Albion as a student. He says his favorite part of his undergraduate years “would be my development—personally, professionally and academically.” In particular, Albion’s academic focus was beneficial after graduation. “It definitely prepared me for the rigorous coursework of grad school,” he says.

Mitchell appreciates student feedback and insights as he approaches his new role. He says he looks forward to “getting to learn from the students as well. I know they consider us as the experts (as staff), but they’re really the experts on their lives and their background and their story and their narrative.” Especially important, Mitchell continues, is “just being able to work with students and gain different perspectives and also learn from them.”

That array of perspectives—and his interest in exploring their potential—was a key factor for Mitchell in his decision to join the Albion staff. “I think what attracted me the most is the variety of experience that Albion has to offer, especially from the student body,” he says.

Learning from Students

Shanti Madhavan-Brown, ’15, a faculty member in the Department of Psychological Science since 2020, also finds students’ wealth of knowledge to be beneficial. “Working with students” is her favorite part of the job, she says. “I frequently have the feeling that as much as I’m teaching them, they teach me. I love that collaborative discussion that happens throughout the class. I really enjoy that a lot.”

Reflecting on the nature of small classes in Albion’s small, liberal arts setting, Madhavan-Brown says, “I just know for myself personally, I wouldn’t do well teaching a huge class of some 500 or more students, not really getting to know them, not really getting to incorporate their interests in the class. It would be very difficult for me.” The intimate class sizes were a draw for her in becoming an Albion College faculty member.

Madhavan-Brown is thrilled to have returned to campus. “It’s been great,” she says. “I have a very supportive department, which is excellent, and so they made the transition from me as a prior student to colleague very smooth, which I really appreciated.” She adds, “I loved Albion when I was here. I was very sad to leave, so I always had dreams of coming back, and so for that to happen has been pretty amazing. I consider myself to be extremely lucky to have gotten the chance. I really like the environment here, and I really love being in town as well. I’m enjoying that quite a bit.”

A resident of the City of Albion, Madhavan-Brown values partnerships with the community. “With my work on the practicum/internship course in our department, I get to work with many community partners from Albion and surrounding areas,” she says. “I enjoy these collaborations immensely.”

These partnerships also provide important experiences for students, she says. “Partnering with leaders and organizations from the City is important because of the diversity—not only in the identities and backgrounds of the professionals we work with, but also the settings in which students can gain experience.”

Madhavan-Brown, who has a masters’ degree and is in the final stages of a Ph.D. program, credits Albion for preparing her for graduate school work. In particular, the Prentiss M. Brown Honors Program provided her with the opportunity to write, propose and defend a thesis, similar to the dissertation process she is going through now in graduate school. She also points out that the practicums and internships she completed as an Albion undergrad helped her to explore the aspects of psychology in which she now specializes.

Engaging in Interests

In addition to academics, Albion provided valuable experiences in other areas. Madhavan-Brown says, “Albion offered me the opportunity to engage in things I was interested in, to still develop my interest as a person separate even from my career.” For Madhavan-Brown, that was music. She participated in band while at Albion and played the saxophone.

In fact, all four returning alums enjoyed extracurricular experiences at Albion. Alcazar was involved and became a leader in many clubs and organizations, including Union Board, Student Senate and the Organization for Latinx Awareness (OLA). “I didn’t just want to join; I wanted to have a say,” she says.

Iñiguez was immersed in the equestrian program as a student and rode for a team. Now, having returned to Albion, she still rides at the Nancy G. Held Equestrian Center. “There’s this unspoken barrier for students,” she says. “I want to connect more students of color, Black students, brown students, to the equestrian center, because I think that we have so many opportunities that we haven’t really used.”

Mitchell, too, was an involved student. He says he feels “love and respect” not only for the Psychology Department, but also the Albion football team on which he played, as well as his fraternity, Alpha Tau Omega.

These four psychology alumni have taken advantage of the full Albion experience, embracing challenges and overcoming difficulties. Returning to Albion to work is a homecoming of sorts. “This was my other home for four years,” says Alcazar, “so it wasn’t so strange. That’s why it was so exciting to come back: because I was missing it.”