Graduate Student Experiences

A Story of Serendipity: Transitioning from Math Education to Student Affairs & Higher Education

Deciding that you want to go to graduate school can be daunting and confusing.

Questions pop up like,

What kinds of programs am I qualified to apply for?

 Do I need to keep studying what I majored in, in undergrad, or switch to something new?

Are there masters programs that let me start fresh?

What skills did I gain from my undergrad that can translate into graduate school?

All of these are valid questions.




The Graduate Admissions office attends to these types of questions quite regularly, with the overall worry being that one won’t be able to switch fields from undergraduate to graduate school.

Our office has programs that can remedy this concern!  SUNY Plattsburgh Graduate study has a handful of programs that do not require you to have significant background in the program’s subject (although each program requires some sort of prior coursework that you have likely completed in your undergrad).

Here are your choices…

If you’re interested in any of the programs above, please contact our office for more information–we would love to talk to you about making a change.




With all of that said, our office wanted to know what changing field of study really looked like–so we got the inside scoop from one our own graduate students.  We would like to introduce you to Brooke Layhee, a first semester graduate student in the Student Affairs and Higher Education graduate program.  Her undergrad degree is in Mathematics: which she received from SUNY Plattsburgh.  Brooke is a perfect example of a student who not only switched field of study, but applied the skills she learned in her undergrad to her graduate studies.

We hope that our prospective students can find wisdom in Brooke’s journey, that our current grads can identify with where she is now, and that our alumni can attest to this graduate program’s welcoming of diversity.

Here’s Brooke’s story…

Hello, everyone!  The main factor in my switch from math to student affairs was my experience abroad in my junior year of undergrad.  I had the wonderful opportunity to study in England for a full semester, where I studied math, British culture, and education.
I wanted to be a secondary education teacher, but when I returned to Plattsburgh I knew that I had found a new passion for travel and culture.  Although, I still wanted to work with adolescents, so I stayed on my path to become a teacher.  However, when I was given the opportunity to work in the Global Education Office (GEO), I found myself in the environment that I knew was meant for me.  In this field, I was still working with adolescents, but I had never given thought to working with college students since I was one myself!
Once I found this passion, while working with students who wanted to study abroad, and international students, I knew I needed to switch my field of study. 
I applied to the student affairs graduate program here at Plattsburgh. I wanted to knowIMG_3645.JPG right away what people in student affairs studied in their undergrad; I quickly learned that everyone comes from a different background.  However, everyone shares a story about an experience they had that opened them up to the world of student affairs.
Mine was my study abroad trip.
At first, the transition was very daunting.  I had spent most of my time believing I would be a teacher, but discovering what I was really meant to do was so rewarding.  I saw how my strengths could relate to the world of student affairs.  With that affirmation, making the decision was much easier and the transition  much smoother.
My undergraduate studies absolutely provided me with the foundation to be successful in my graduate work.
One may believe that mathematics is the furthest thing related to student affairs, but for me it completely relates.
File_003 (1)
In my undergraduate life I spend a lot of time taking math, chemistry, and education courses, which gave me a strong foundation in numbers, research, and problem solving skills.  During my senior year, knowing that I would make this switch, I was able to expand my course work into anthropology, English, a short term program abroad (yes, again!), statistics, and even some athletic coaching courses.  Based on this experience, I have a wide range of coursework under my belt, I’m acquainted with faculty in a variety of departments, and I have a broader knowledge base.
However, I started my undergraduate journey following a very strict course sequence that taught me time management and how to work hard.  Yet, as I neared toward the end of my undergraduate studies, my transition to graduate became more flexible:
I had the ability to create and follow my own path.  My undergraduate experience really prepared me for the course load in graduate school and gave me a unique perspective into many diverse topics.
If you’re in a similar position as I was,  I would suggest taking a graduate course in the program you’re interested in as a undergraduate student, or as a non-matriculated student.  I was able to do this as a senior, and it really solidified my decision to apply to the program.  If that’s not possible, take an opportunity to interview or 2015-12-20 07.59.05shadow someone in the field–hopefully that will clarify where you see yourself fitting best.  I would also interview a student in the graduate program of your interest (the Graduate Admissions office can help with this)!
Ultimately, take advantage of opportunities that come your way, even if they don’t seem relevant at the time.  My job in GEO was to stay involved with study abroad students. Yet what happened for me was serendipity, as I ended up stumbling into a career that has created a life changing decision for me. I’m not sure if I would have found it otherwise!
Be open to opportunities, take them when you can, and stay confident in what makes you the person you are, as that will guide you through these decisions and transitions.

Thank you Brooke, for such an honest and insightful story!


Okay so if all else fails and you’re still freaking out on the inside (and out), find wisdom in the unofficial mascot of Graduate Admissions: the ‘hang in there’ kitty…


But really, if you have any questions or want to set up a meeting with us to talk about your questions, issues, or concerns, please don’t hesitate!

The Graduate Admissions Office is located in room 113 on the first floor of the Kehoe Administration Building.

Phone: (518) 564-4723
Toll-Free: (800) 723-9515 (In U.S. and Canada)

Office Hours (come visit!): Monday – Friday, 8:00am to 4:30pm


One thought on “A Story of Serendipity: Transitioning from Math Education to Student Affairs & Higher Education

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s