Alumni Spotlight: Gaige Cogswell Shares His Story From Higher Education to the Corporate World

Meet Gaige Cogswell, who graduated in 2018 from App State with a BS degree in Sociology with a concentration in Social Inequalities and a minor in Psychology. He also completed a Master's degree in Student Affairs Administration. Here is his success story and advice for future sociology undergraduate majors.

1. What have you been doing since you left App State? 

Since graduating with my undergraduate degree, I have continued my higher education journey by completing a Master's in Student Affairs Administration at Appalachian State University. During that program, I worked with Academic Advising and Orientation within the Appalachian and the Community Together (ACT) office in the Student Leadership and Outreach, as well as with Alternative Service Experiences. After receiving my Master's degree, I worked as an Academic Advisor at Appalachian State University for six months. As an Academic Advisor, I was able to advise students academically while helping them make the transition from high school to college and navigating the COVID-19 pandemic. In January 2021, I started a full-time role as the Assistant Director of Student Leadership and Service at Meredith College. Meredith College is located in Raleigh, NC, and is an all-women's institution that has around 2,500 students. While at Meredith College and navigating the COVID-19 pandemic, I began to think about life outside of higher education and what works in the corporate setting would look like.

After working at Meredith College for thirteen months, I left Meredith College and higher education as a whole. I started as a Senior Sales Operations Administrator at Ultimate Kronos Group (UKG). In this role, I was a liaison between the customer and product success. A large portion of my role was working on amendments and customer contracts to extend or discontinue the use of our products. At UKG, the work was different, and the environment was different, but it wasn't bad, just different. The pieces of higher education that felt difficult or immovable in the past became an exciting challenge and reason to return to higher education. Remembering how much of a resource higher education administrators are and how much student impact I was making helped aid my decision to return to higher education. So, I currently work at NC State University in the Goodnight Scholarships office. This scholarship provides students from low- to mid-income backgrounds to receive a full scholarship that covers tuition and fees. In my role, I primarily focus on transfer student success through programming, advising, and experiential education.

2. How did sociology at App State help or prepare you for your recent successes?

In my current role, I say this all the time, I can not believe how much my Sociology degree helped prepare me for success. I work with a small population of students attending a large institution. Throughout my undergraduate classes, I could study other groups and see how they worked or didn't, as a group, what allowed them to be successful and what made them struggle, and various other aspects of their lives and community. I utilize these skills daily, I look at the goodnight scholars and see how the programming allows them to be more holistic. Watching our mentorship program grow and thrive reminds me of how students want to see students succeed and prosper. I also think that my degree in Sociology allowed me to learn about interpersonal skills and how to manage difficult conversations that are necessary at points. These interpersonal skills allow me to make connections and aid in student success. Overall, my degree has brought me more benefits and opportunities than I saw during my time working towards my degree.

3. What advice would you give new sociology majors moving forward in our program and into the job market?

I would advise a newly graduating student to be passionate and follow those passions. Find what brings you joy in life and find a way to make that your job. In life and school, I felt that other majors were valued over Sociology, which always caused my internal turmoil regarding my decision in my major. Still, in the end, Sociology was the perfect fit for me. If you're trying to get into a field that is different from Sociology, look at your transferable skills and what experiences you have had that would make you successful in that field, what opportunities can you be doing to make sure that your skill set aligns with the field you want to enter. Be reflective with your "why" and your "how." Asking yourself "why" and reflecting on what you see for your future can provide clarity in your future decisions. Lastly, ask questions and ask for help, we don't know what we don't know, but someone does. People are your friends, and people want to see you succeed. Enjoy everything life has to offer.

Congratulations, Gaige! The Department of Sociology looks forward to hearing more about your successes. 

Gaige Cogswell
Published: Oct 10, 2022 10:10am