The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Recognizing the Rockefeller Center's Student Program Assistants: Avalon McRae '15

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In this series, the Rockefeller Center features our Student Program Assistants, student staff who contribute significantly to the success of the Center’s events, programs, and activities.

Have you ever wondered why the Rockefeller Global Leadership Program meets on Mondays rather on Wednesdays? Or why as a '17 you suddenly receive an email about sophomore summer programming at the Rockefeller Center? Or perhaps why you, along with a select group of students, received a special invitation to a private Board of Visitors reception? The answer to questions like these are made possible with the work done by the Center’s Student Program Assistant for Database Management. Meet Avalon McRae, a Computer Science major modified with Economics from the Class of 2015. Through use of a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software system, the Rockefeller Center maintains a unique, relational database as a resource for its staff to ascertain participation patterns and trends, quantify student engagement with the Center’s programs, determine which days work best for program participants, and obtain accurate lists of both current students and alumni who have been involved with Rockefeller Center programs. This allows the Center to have a better understanding of how to best meet the needs of students interested in public policy and civic engagement, and Avalon’s Computer Science major is useful for her position. Computer Science gives her an analytical perspective and obvious natural attention to detail instincts that come in useful for the work required by the position.

Student Program Assistant Avalon McRae '15. Photo by Thanh V. Nguyen.

Effectively targeting students is important to the Rockefeller Center’s outreach strategy. Indicating the success of its efforts, Avalon became involved with the Center through targeted outreach. She participated in the Management and Leadership Development Program (MLDP) during her sophomore winter. The following term, Avalon received an email from the Rockefeller Center about the Student Program Assistant for Database position. She would later learn that her new position was in charge of maintaining the records which make such specific advertising possible. Seeing the way in which everything relates is what Avalon finds exciting about her position. She states, "It’s really cool to see how the small amount of data we gather can tell us so much. From it we can see an increase or decrease in programs, which allows us to know where to focus our attention or how to best target our correspondence to students."

Another aspect of the position that Avalon loves is the people. While she admits that it might sound cliché because every student says it, she says the staff really do make the Center a great place to work. For the past two years, Avalon has had the chance to get to know the full-time staff and other classmates with which she had never interacted with before. She relishes her experience at the Rockefeller Center as it has given her "the opportunity to get to know so many great people even though I’ve never taken a Public Policy class. I’ve found a way to still be involved." Avalon credits the Rockefeller Center with diversifying her involvements on campus through exposure to its various programs. She also attributes her professional development both in and out of the classroom to her time with the Center, which staff members have commended her on. Joanne Needham, Coordinator of Public and Special Events, praises Avalon as "one of those people who follows through with the best of her abilities whenever she makes a commitment to something – working at Rocky as a student assistant, acting as the student leader of the DREAM program, pursuing a computer science degree. Her ready smile and reliability make her a delight to work with!"

This is also one of the few positions at the Rockefeller Center where the student program assistant works with every member of staff. The flow of information needs to go both ways, and the work demands someone who is very organized and very conscientious. Staff members supply Avalon with the raw data, and each in turn will come to her again at some point with a request for information. Her familiarity with both the database and the staff has been especially important this year due to the departure last fall of her original supervisor, Thanh Nguyen, who moved on to graduate school. "Avalon never missed a beat and even helped us out over Winterim, which was not in her original plans. Her thorough knowledge of the database and our processes has been a tremendous help to us during the staff transition. There’s no way it would have gone as smoothly as it did without her," says Elizabeth Celtrick, Assistant Director for Co-Curricular Programs.

-Written by Crandalyn Jackson '15, Rockefeller Center Student Program Assistant

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