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Symone Mercado

Since graduating, I have worked exclusively for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in Washington D.C. as a contractor. I currently work at the VA Headquarters across the street from The White House providing direct support to the Assistant Secretary of Human Resources and Administration/Operations, Security and Preparedness (HRA/OSP) Strategic Planning and Organizational Performance (SPOP) team as a Project Manager. The office's mission is to provide recommendations on strategic planning and organizational performance throughout various VA HR offices within the department.

My Women's Studies coursework has been extremely helpful in my current work by allowing me the ability to leverage the strong analytic and writing skills I gained from the major in support of various projects I manage. For me, using the foundational knowledge I gained from majoring in Women's Studies has heightened my ability to be able to think critically and offer diverse perspectives in workforce planning, which is vital to long-term success in the field of Project Management. Additionally, by being able to translate the years of academic writing to my professional career I have been able to gain an edge on individuals competing for the same job (who may possess more years of work experience than me) because I can provide an employer the writing skills they need. I ultimately feel that my ability to "write" adds a lot of value to companies as it transcends in a variety of jobs from business to education and health. To have an organization trust you to be able to draft a business proposal, memorandum or even an email on their behalf without them having to check behind it is priceless!

For me, having a Women's Studies degree has helped my career by allowing me the fortitude to be a Feminist pioneer while giving me awareness on how to look for opportunities to enact change throughout my organization. Additionally, I believe the disciplined I gained from reading, analyzing and assessing theory and other pertinent material throughout the trajectory of the ODU Women's Studies program greatly assisted in my ability to study and pass the widely recognized Project Management Professional (PMP) exam on the first try in June 2018 which has been essential to the advancement of my career.

In my opinion, choosing to be a Women's Studies major inherently provides that foundation to stand out on both local and global levels. The ODU Women's Studies Department provides the structure for thought-provoking discussions while cultivating a unique and safe environment for self-exploration. You don't just major in Women's Studies...you are granted an opportunity to embark on an educational experience where your intellectual thinking, personal perspectives and curiosity for gender-theme issues are expanded through a collaborate partnership with you as the student and the ODU Women's Studies Department. It is a journey where you create lasting impacts- in the classroom and through a personal commitment to continuous learning- all of which contribute to your ability to be a valued citizen in society. This major will positively contribute to your life both personally and professionally.

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