While an undergraduate at UW-Madison, Emily Brix (’16) co-majored in English and Spanish and participated in the Undergraduate Writing Fellows Program. Following graduation, Emily worked as a paralegal in Madison before returning to UW as an Admissions Counselor in the Office of Recruitment and Admission. Although her current office is all the way on the other side of University, she continues to be involved in the English Department as a member of the Board of Visitors.
We sat down with Emily this semester to talk about her career path so far, her work with the BOV, and her passion for working with students. The conversation has been lightly edited for clarity.
Before coming back to UW-Madison as an Admissions Counselor, you were working as a paralegal. How did you go from English major to working in a law firm?
I applied for a job as a bilingual intake specialist. They could see from my resume that I had worked as a Writing Fellow at UW, so they asked about that during the interview. I told them about how I would work with a faculty member to help improve student writing in their class. They were interested in that experience and asked if I would consider becoming a legal assistant. So I came in to interview for one job, but ended up interviewing for two! They gave me the option, and I took the legal assistant job. I worked at that law firm for three years, and was eventually promoted to paralegal, which allowed me to do much more high-level writing work.
And then what brought you back to UW-Madison?
Aside from the Writing Fellows program, I also worked with students in their summer orientation program with the Center for First Year Experience. I knew that I always enjoyed working with students on campus.
I realized that what I liked most about being a paralegal was communicating with many different audiences, and being the connector between client and attorney. And I recognized that would be really transferable to the role of admissions counselor, where I’m the connector between student and the University. Part of the job is communicating to potential students, and local and out-of-state high schools, what the University is looking for in their new undergraduate student body.
Can you tell us more about what you do as an admissions counselor? What’s the day-to-day of the job like?
I would describe my job in three tiers: Part of my days are spent giving information sessions to prospective students who come to campus with their parents or support systems so they have an academic overview before they go on their walking tour. Another part is serving as a counselor on duty. This is where we respond to people who call in or email with sometimes difficult, often specific, questions such as “are my credits going to transfer?” or “am I a strong candidate?” The other part is reviewing applications. I think this is where my experience in the Writing Fellows program helps. Having reviewed and given feedback on essays, I’m now using that skill set to review applications and give feedback for the people who eventually decide whether to admit these students.
For the past few years, you’ve been serving on the English Department Board of Visitors. The BOV plays an important role in shaping the Department, but not everyone knows what they do. Who is the BOV, and how would you describe their role in the English Department?
The BOV is essentially the connecting bridge between past and present English majors at UW-Madison. So, in a sense, a large part of our role is supporting students and facilitating opportunities for them, as well as supporting the department—responding to the needs that the chair shares with us, looking for opportunities and funding for current faculty, as well as maybe helping to bring in some new faculty.
What does the BOV do to connect with students?
We have meetings twice a year, and the undergraduate adviser will bring in students. We like to hear what students are up to—what courses they’re taking, what classes they’re really liking. And I feel it’s really important to ask them how they feel supported and how we can better support students. Does that mean extending more alumni connections for potential internships or potential employment? Does that mean bringing in a different area of courses that they would want to study?
We’re also responsible for planning a scholarship reception in the Spring, which is really important for helping students fund their education, and lets them know that what they’re studying and what they research is important.
This Fall, the Board co-hosted an event with the Political Science BOV, where you brought in Wall Street Journal sportswriter Jason Gay to give a campus talk. What did that entail?
A lot of planning. I think I underestimated how many people and departments and people would be involved in even a small-scale event. But even though it takes a lot of planning and a lot of meetings, it’s nice to realize how important events like that can be. I think after our event, we did a count, and we had over 200 people attend. And there were a lot of students who asked a lot of great questions in the Q&A section, which shows that the event really paid off, because it was engaging to students. They had questions and were able to engage with a Wall Street Journal journalist. It was a great event to incorporate alumni and also to show students how valuable their degree is.
Finally, can you share any favorite memories of your time as a student here?
There are so many! One of them would be taking Prof. Cherene Sherrard-Johnson’s class, and reading Toni Morrison, and all the texts for that class. Also, just going into [then-undergraduate advisor] Karen Redfield’s office, because she was so welcoming. She would send an email checking in with all the students once a week, and to have someone who’s truly looking out for you—not just whether you’re taking your requirements, but someone who’s truly invested in you as a student—is a really fond memory.