Thinking and planning for your future may be one of the most nerve-wracking processes that a college student will face. It trumps writing a paper or taking an exam; it involves preparing oneself to enter the real world and become an adult.
Naturally, many students are quite intimidated, as many don’t know where to begin to make the transition from the familiar comforts of an academic culture to a career and financial independence. There is, however, a simple yet powerful solution to eliminate much of the stress of post graduation life: to network and assume leadership positions.
Senior art history major Lauren Peightel happens to be an expert when it comes to these two tactics for success.
Peightel entered her freshman year at Seton Hill University (SHU) as a leader. After high school she worked at a local farm camp near her home in central Pennsylvania where she held the position of arts and crafts director.
Peightel worked there every summer since. This past summer she was given the honor of an additional leadership role as program director. “This position came with lots of added responsibility and time but it was worth it,” said Peightel.
According to Peightel, this unique camp experience targets young women and girls living in large urban areas to “teach them about where their food comes from, the value of hard work, the necessity of good team work and invaluable friendships.”
Additionally, the camp promotes a local fair because it is a small dairy farm. “The girls learn about the whole process and work individually with an animal for the majority of their two-week stay,” said Peightel.
Young campers not only have fun and learn valuable life lessons, but they learn skills that will serve them for the rest of their lives. As director, she delights in seeing young girls grow and bond; likewise, Peightel takes away self-awareness of her perseverance, patience and a very strong work ethic.
According to her boss, Peightel’s leadership skills are indispensable to the camp. Her efforts bore fruit, and Peightel was invited to chaperone a group of girls for a two-week period in Scotland this past August. Peightel is a leader and has the skill set necessary for application in other positions. Some college students are too selective and seem to search for leadership roles that solely fit with their major; this limits the opportunities of students. While Peightel’s experience with the camp does not necessarily have a direct link to her major, the networking opportunities that have come to Peightel from the farm are incredible.
Her campers were aware that Peightel is interested in museum studies and were eager to help. She was introduced to two mothers currently holding key positions at the Smithsonian and the National Gallery of Art. Due to taking initiative and putting herself out there, Peightel travelled to Washington, DC over fall break and privately toured the National Gallery archive labs and was given advice on her senior project concerning the restoration of sculptures in SHU’s archives. “I’m so thankful for these great experiences,” she said.
Perhaps the most unexpected encounter during her summer was meeting the world-class photographer, Annie Leibovitz. Peightel said, “It was great to see the face behind such great work.”
Peightel had her picture taken by Anne Leibovitz as a reward for taking care of her daughter for two weeks, who was an enrolled camper. “Her daughter was a fantastic camper, and they all are great kids. Leibovitz was incredibly friendly and so genuinely grateful for what the camp does for girls,” Peightel said.
Leibovitz was effusive when complimenting the camp. She was sincerely thankful for Peightel as camp director since her daughter enjoyed the arts and crafts part of camp the most.
Peightel’s advice to every college student is to simply network: “It is vital. Especially when trying to make your way into the art world, it is so incredibly important.”
Who would have ever thought that working on a small dairy farm as a camp director would prove to be so beneficial to Peightel and her future career? She encourages others to “take advantage of every opportunity, every suggestion and be open to blessings that come in unexpected places