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New Operations Specialist joins Department of Student Activities

When he’s not taking night classes to complete his master’s degree, Jake Thongsythavong is working as the Department of Student Activities (DSA) new operations specialist, after joining Brandeis on Oct. 7.

Thongsythavong, a second-year master’s student at Salem State University, is replacing JV Souffrant ’13, who started as an employee at Brandeis in 2017. As operations specialist, Thongsythavong also supervises the Campus Center Team (CCT), the operating staff of the information booth in the Shapiro Campus Center (SCC), the Usdan Game Room and works with DSA on their events and registrations.

While managing both his job and classes is difficult, Thongsythavong says, doing both is worth it because what he learns in his program directly applies to his work at Brandeis and vice versa.

“It’s harder than I thought it was going to be for sure, but I definitely think it’s worth it,” Thongsythavong said. “I’m getting experience here that I wouldn’t have gained otherwise just being in school, so I’m very grateful for the opportunity.” 

Though Thongsythavong has only been at Brandeis for about three weeks, he said he was excited to work with other department members on projects like Family Weekend, which is this weekend, and in managing the Campus Center Team. One of the reasons Thongsythavong decided to pursue his master’s in higher education and student affairs was because he enjoys working closely with students.

“[With Brandeis] being 20 percent international students, that was especially appealing to me because I definitely love working with international students, underrepresented students and students of color.”

Thongsythavong first heard of the position when he was a program coordinator at Northshore Community College this past summer. Thongsythavong worked with the six-week bridge program Men As Leaders Empowered to Strive (MALES), which is designed to help new minority students transition to college and engage in their campus community, according to the program’s website.

At MALES, Thongsythavong focused on planning and hosting events and workshops where he also met Director of Student Activities Dennis Hicks, who was working as an instructor at the program. Hicks told Thongsythavong about the potential for an open position in Brandeis’ Department of Student Activities, Thongsythavong said. Hicks later reached out to him when the operations specialist position opened, which Thongsythavong started on Oct. 7. 

Thongsythavong completed his undergraduate degree in counseling psychology at Johnson and Wales University but decided to transition into higher education and student affairs after he realized how much he enjoyed working with students at his university’s peer education organization. 

At Salem State, Thongsythavong worked in the retention services office which analyzed data on why students stay or transfer out of the university and how to help students graduate on time. Though the experience was valuable, Thongsythavong said, he much prefers to work with students than in data analytics. 

At Brandeis, Thongsythavong said he was transitioning into the role and his different responsibilities, like registering and planning events, and meeting different Brandeis staff members. Coming to Brandeis, Thongsythavong said that the Department of Student Activities was small but that the transition into his new role was fairly smooth. 

“It’s still been pretty hectic but great hectic.” 

Thongsythavong supervises about 18 students who work in the information booth in the SCC, students who help set up and break down events and on events programming. Thongsythavong  hopes to make the information booth a presence in the SCC and a fun environment for all students. Thongsythavong will complete his master’s degree in May 2020. 

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