University of Georgia
September 2016
Educating Leaders
Alumnus reflects on the leadership opportunities at UGA

Alumnus Mark Rush: "UGA prepared me for my career by giving me both the leadership and relationship skills to navigate the working world."

Alumnus reflects on UGA's leadership opportunities

A recent graduate recalls how taking initiative on campus prepared him for life.

Post-graduation success requires more than textbook smarts. A combination of strong leadership skills and a solid foundation for building and maintaining relationships will help students to thrive in the real world.

Recent alumnus and former Student Alumni Council President Mark Rush shares his thoughts about how the University of Georgia helped prepare him for professional life.

Mark Rush graduated in 2015 with degrees in economics and political science and a certificate in personal and organizational leadership from the Institute of Leadership Advancement.

Current job: I work as an advisory consultant at Ernst & Young in Washington, D.C. In this role, I consult for a variety of businesses and organizations to improve their performance and processes through data analysis and research. The job allows me to work in a variety of sectors, doing a diversity of tasks. It also requires the ability to work with a team and establish relationships with colleagues and clients.

How did UGA prepare you for this role?

UGA prepared me for my career by giving me both the leadership and relationship skills to navigate the working world. My experience with the Student Alumni Council was pivotal for my leadership and professional skills. I was passionate about SAC, serving as events chair and president in my time at UGA. I learned to effectively work with members of the organization to accomplish our goals while growing my own leadership style. It taught me to work with campus administrators and students alike, while spreading the word about student giving at UGA. I truly appreciated being a part of something bigger than me, through which I could give back to our university. I was proud of all that SAC accomplished during my three years in the organization and continue to be impacted by my SAC experience.

My time in school also taught me how valuable relationships are, especially in a large place like UGA or Ernst & Young. Leadership skills alone can only go so far and it requires strong relationships with those around you to actually accomplish an organization’ goals. UGA’s campus is large, but interconnected—much like today’s world. My experience on SAC and in other organizations required me to build relationships across campus and find my place within a large school. Understanding how to navigate a large environment like UGA is an important skill that I gained from my college experience. Additionally, I credit professors like Vikki Clawson in the Institute of Leadership Advancement for teaching me how to use empathy and emotional intelligence in leadership and relationship-building, which are some of my most valued skills. In her course, we learned the adage that “people are more important than things”—something that has proven true in my life outside of college.

What advice would you give current UGA students hoping to improve their leadership skills while on campus?

At UGA there are countless opportunities for students, and my personal motto is to follow opportunities where they lead. Current students have so much to gain by getting involved and learning new leadership skills through working with many types of people. There is no “one size fits all” UGA experience, so each student has the opportunity to pave his or her own way by seizing unique opportunities as they come. Whether this means working with the Alumni Association or writing for a political publication, I gained something from every opportunity that arose. Don’t feel confined by your area of study—try something out because it looks interesting. Even if you are not in an official leadership role or organization, there are always lessons to be learned in working towards goals and building meaningful relationships. I guarantee you will never regret taking an opportunity and will likely gain new skills, relationships, and experiences because you chose to say yes.

—Nellie Pavluscenco ’17