Scholars at Work

Reflecting on My Time as a Simpson Center Student Assistant

Ellie Stillwell

"...through the events held at the Simpson Center, and through my work in promoting them, I’ve gained a different perspective on what graduate students do, and I have a better idea of what kinds of things I want to do in graduate school."

This spring the Simpson Center says good-bye to four graduating UW students who have been working with us over the last few years. Our web tech & communications assistant Dana Bublitz will receive her Master’s in Library Science from the Information School, our event photographer Max Cleary will graduate with a Bachelor’s in Photomedia from the School of Art, and our office assistants Lydia Harrington and Ellie Stillwell will receive a Master’s in Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations and a Bachelor’s in Psychology from the College of Arts & Sciences, respectively.

One of our student assistants, Ellie Stillwell, wrote the following reflection on her time at the Simpson Center. We were incredibly moved by it and would like to share it here:

I’m a senior at the University of Washington, finishing up my BS in psychology with a minor in philosophy this June.  I have worked at the Simpson Center for the Humanities for nearly three years now as a part-time student assistant, with the main task of assisting with communications and publicity support for the Center’s numerous projects and co-sponsored events.

I started working at the Simpson Center in October 2011, near the beginning of my sophomore year at UW.  At the time, I also worked as a resident adviser in Terry Hall, and in a psychology lab on campus as a research assistant, where I earned credit towards my degree.  When I started at the Simpson Center, I was excited to have found a campus job that would complement my other commitments while giving me the chance to earn extra money for books and off-campus meals, which at the time were a rare luxury.  I enjoyed the job – it’s nice, calming work, mostly designing, generating, and organizing flyers, keeping the advertising bulletin boards up-to-date and neat, and archiving old publicity items.  I was happy to be able to use Adobe InDesign, a program I had worked with in my high school yearbook club, to create the flyers for the various events and lectures hosted and funded by the Center.  I didn’t expect the work being done at the Simpson Center to have much of an impact on my path – I was interested in the Center’s focus on interdisciplinary collaboration between majors, but, as an undergraduate, I didn’t think that pertained much to me.

However, the longer I’ve worked here, the more I’ve come to appreciate the work that the Simpson Center does, and how working here has really shaped where I see myself going.  When I started, graduate school seemed like a vague thing that I would eventually encounter if I wanted to go anywhere in the field of psychology.  But through the events held at the Simpson Center, and through my work in promoting them, I’ve gained a different perspective on what graduate students do, and I have a better idea of what kinds of things I want to do in graduate school. 

I plan to pursue a PhD in social psychology or industrial/organizational psychology.  Working at the Simpson Center has shaped my plans for graduate school by exposing me to multiple facets of graduate student life, and showing me what kinds of opportunities are available to engage with a wider audience concerning graduate education and research.  While pursuing my PhD, I hope to be able to participate in a program similar to the graduate Certificate in Public Scholarship, which has been housed at the Simpson Center and is focused on public outreach.  I’ve added this to my criteria of things to look for in a graduate program: it’s important to me to be able to engage the public with the research being done in psychology, rather than just doing research for research’s sake.  It gives meaning to the work and research being done in the field.

During my time at the Simpson Center, my role has evolved to play a more integrated role in the office.  In addition to my work with publicity, I work now as a receptionist, assist with managing the Center’s social media activity, and act as an informal office “tech” person, offering technical assistance to presenters and helping to educate staff on the latest technology resources at the Simpson Center.  One of my favorite projects at the Center has been learning how to use the office’s technology resources in our new Collaboration Studio space, and turning that knowledge into an instructional handbook for visitors to reference when they are using the space.  I have worked closely with the Center’s staff to make sure we have all the necessary accessories for the space, such as cables and connectors, and the like.  The Collaboration Studio space is now available and accessible to university faculty, staff, and graduate students to reserve for their projects and presentations.  I continue to work with the space by troubleshooting issues, answering questions, and giving short tutorials on the space to those who have reserved it.  My work in the Collaboration Studio has been one of my more fulfilling projects during my time at the Simpson Center.

Many things have changed since sophomore year.  I am no longer a resident adviser – Terry Hall has been demolished to make room for a newer, nicer residence hall, and I have an off-campus apartment, a partner, and a dog.  I have switched psychology labs, and my interests in the field have shifted countless times, only to settle back where they started.  The only thing that has remained constant over the past few years has been the Simpson Center.  I graduate in June, and will be leaving the Center, and Seattle, for a job in my home town at the University of Missouri as a psychology lab manager.  While I am eager to graduate, and looking forward to starting this next chapter in my life, it is a bittersweet experience.  The Simpson Center has given me a unique insight into what kind of scholar and researcher I want to be, and so I know that as I start on this new path of full-time employment, and when I begin my graduate education a few years down the line, the things I’ve learned about public scholarship and interdisciplinary collaboration will continue to have an impact on how I engage in my work and in my research.

Thanks so much, Ellie! We will miss all of you greatly and wish you the best in your future endeavors!

Note: The Collaboration Studio has been renamed. It is now our Meeting Room