M. Cristina Fernández
Assistant Director, Career Advising; School of Nursing and Health Sciences
Cristina joined Merrimack in the Fall of 2020 and serves as the Assistant Director for Career Advising in the School of Nursing and Health Sciences. Her goal when working with students is to support them to cultivate and achieve their professional goals so that they take the next steps in their career journeys with confidence.
Before Merrimack, Cristina enjoyed a career in Human Services, supporting adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities to obtain and retain competitive employment. Cristina holds a bachelor’s in psychology from Florida International University and an master’s in community social psychology from the University of Massachusetts Lowell. She is a Certified Employment Support Specialist (CESP) through APSE and insists that she cannot get through her day without a cup of café con leche.
What does Cristina wish she knew about career development when she was in undergrad?
In short – anything. I was an excellent student, but when it came to skill marketing and job search basics, I was a disaster. Accessibility of university services looked much different back then; not everything had migrated online, and FIU was a massive school whose two main campuses were separated by the entirety of Greater Miami. We were registering for classes on paper and then waiting in line at the registrar. It seemed like too much of a hassle to so much as figure out where the career services department was located, much less utilize any of their services. Besides, I was about to enter the working world with a bachelor’s degree from a top-rated university, which I assumed would be sufficient enough to launch me toward a lucrative career. Doors would swing open, the red carpet would roll out and I’d waltz right into the job of my choice.
Spoiler alert: That’s not how it works.
The lack of vocational guidance meant that I made a lot of foolish, preventable mistakes early on in my job search. I had a resume, but it was poorly formatted and didn’t highlight my skills and education adequately. I landed interviews, but I was routinely late for them (“Cuban Time” does not apply to interviews – who knew?), wasn’t dressed for the part and didn’t give effective answers. I wasted a lot of time before finally being offered an opportunity. I wish I had taken advantage of career services as an undergrad, even if it was just a single mock interview or resume review.
Assistant Director, Career Advising; Winston School of Education and Social Policy
Sarah joined Merrimack in 2011 and is the Special Internship & Co-op Programs. Prior to working in the O’Brien Center for Career Development, Sarah worked as an Admission Counselor at the University of Hartford and then as an Assistant Director of Admission at Merrimack College. After starting her masters degree she realized she wanted to work more closely with students, and transitioned to focus on career advising.
Sarah received a Master of Education in Higher Education from Merrimack College and a Bachelor of Arts in Communication from the University of Hartford.
What does Sarah wish she knew about career development when she was in college?
I wished I had utilized my career center much earlier! I didn’t even think to do an internship until right before my senior year. I ended up not liking the career field I thought I would end up working in. This caused me to reevaluate my personal skills, values, and strengths. Ultimately, this led me to a career that I love, but I wish I had explored this earlier in my college career, so I could have gotten even more experience and internships before I graduated.
Assistant Director, Career Advising; School of Engineering and Computational Sciences
Laura joined Merrimack in the Spring of 2013 and provides comprehensive career guidance and support to students. Prior to joining Merrimack, Laura worked as a Student Services Coordinator at a private college planning company guiding high school students and families through the college application and admissions process. Laura earned her BA in Human Development from Boston College and an MS in Counseling from Fitchburg State University. Laura is also a CCE credentialed Global Career Development Facilitator (GCDF) and licensed School Counselor.
What does Laura wish she knew about career development when she was in college?
I wished that I had learned about the power of networking and how helpful informational interviews can be. Had I known, I think I would have been able to make much more informed career decisions for myself. I try to impart this knowledge to my students and stress the importance of career exploration early on and throughout the four years so that when they graduate they feel confident and ready to take the next steps towards their future career.
Assistant Director of Career Advising; School of Arts and Sciences
Stephanie joined Merrimack’s career advising team in 2022 and works with students in the School of Arts and Sciences. She uses a holistic advising approach to guide students towards the career path that is the best fit for them and is passionate about helping her students find careers and internships within arts and science fields.
Stephanie is a Double Warrior and received a bachelor’s degree in communication and media and a master’s of education in higher education from Merrimack. Before coming to Merrimack as a career advisor, she was an academic advisor for college students and students in 6th-12th grade.
What does Stephanie wish she knew about career development when she was in college?
I wish I had taken advantage of more opportunities offered by the O’Brien Center when I was an undergraduate. Working with my career advisor was helpful, but I think I could have expanded my knowledge of career development and improved my skills even more by attending more events and workshops.
There are so many ways that students can expand their network and build their professional development skills to help them become a strong job applicant, whether it’s attending a career night or doing research on careers using Merrimack’s online resources. I tell my students that they’re only in college for a short time, so it’s important that they take advantage of all the opportunities available to them.
Career Advising Graduate Fellow, School of Engineering and Computational Sciences
Rachel Draghi joined the School of Engineering and Computational Sciences as a Career Advising Graduate Fellow in fall 2023. She graduated from Temple University in 2015 with a degree in Strategic Communications. Rachel then worked as a marketing and communications professional in the business-to-business and non-profit sectors. She is now a graduate student in the Clinical Mental Health Counseling program.
What is most important about career development that you learned in college?
A critical aspect of career development I learned in undergrad is getting involved in on-campus organizations – especially if there’s a student professional organization for your desired field! Joining these groups are an excellent way to expand your skill set, network, and gain valuable leadership experience that you can reference in both internships and entry-level positions.
Career Advising Fellow
Sanjana joined the O’Brien Center team in the fall of 2023 as a Career Advising fellow. Sanjana graduated from MCPHS University where she got her Masters in Pharmacology. She did bench research in biotech companies after her graduation. She is currently enrolled in Merrimack College’s Clinical Mental Health Program.
What does Sanjana wish she knew about career development when she was in college?
“My experience thus far with career development is like the word suggests; developing. I believe it’s okay
to not know what you want to do with the “rest of your life.” The approach that worked for me was trial
and error and by being involved in different activities, internships, learning experiences, co-ops etc.
Something that I believe is really important is networking and building connections. It is not only great
resource for knowing about the opportunities but also to gain great insights on building a career.”