Augusta University is celebrating excellence on Wednesday, Nov. 13, during the second annual Values Week.
Graduate student Mariah Clay opened up about her strive for excellence at the university.
Excellence is reflected in distinction, effectiveness, efficiency, enthusiasm, passion and quality.
Clay, from Covington, received her bachelor’s of social work from the Katherine Reese Pamplin College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences in May 2018. She is now working to complete her master’s in counselor education with a concentration in school counseling at the College of Education.
“I was pretty shy in the beginning,” she said. “Toward the end of my freshman year, I decided to step out of my comfort zone and become a peer mentor with Housing. By the time I graduated, I had such an engaging and enriching experience. I got to know students, faculty and the university better. I think of AU as my home.”
While completing her undergraduate degree, she served in several leadership roles with Housing and Residence Life and the Department of Student Life and Engagement including being an Orientation Leader. She now serves as one of the graduate assistants for Housing.
“From the moment I stepped on campus as a prospective student, everyone I met was so welcoming and inviting, I knew I wanted to stay here as a student,” she added.
Do the best with what you have
Clay spent a year as a student coordinator for Housing and Residence Life. Her main responsibilities included planning the logistics for ROAR Camp, the university’s extended orientation program for all first-time freshmen living on campus.
Toward the end of the year, she had a crucial part in the planning stages of ROAR. She had to step up, as there was a vacancy for her direct supervisor, leaving her with more responsibilities.
“I felt so overwhelmed, but knowing that I was one of the few students to help create something like this is very humbling. I can say that I created something special for first-year students,” she said.
“Being one of the first student coordinators was a great highlight,” she added. “When I look back at the program and seeing it continue to grow really makes me smile.”
Although she experienced a lot of success in her undergraduate career, her journey to get into graduate school wasn’t easy. Clay mentioned how the residence life staff comforted and motivated her when she found out she had to retake the GACE exam to get into her graduate school program.
“I work in a department that cares about its students. They helped me widen my scope and see things differently,” she said. “They noticed I was upset and they pulled me aside to talk to me. They helped me push through and get into grad school.”
After she did her research on the different graduate school programs for counseling, she felt staying in Augusta was the best option for her career. She is expected to graduate with her master’s degree in December 2020.
Clay plans to become an elementary school counselor once she completes her degree. She is passionate about being an advocate for elementary school students.
“I have a big heart for that population. I worked with little kids since high school,” she added. “I also interned with Columbia County’s Board of Education’s social work department. I feel that so many children are undervalued and overlooked. I want to be that spokesperson for them.”
Even with a lot of experience and support, she humbly admitted that she is still figuring things out one step at a time.
“I’m not perfect. You can only do the best you can do with what you have,” she said.
Strive for excellence during Values Week
To display students excelling in various areas, there will be a poster presentation from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 13, in the JSAC Breezeway. The posters will include student research and conference presentations.
“The university cares about you and the university knows about our needs. They will help you achieve your goals,” Clay said.
There will also be the Noon Arts Concert beginning at noon Nov. 13 in the Natalie and Lansing B. Lee Jr. Auditorium. The event will showcase the many talents of university students, faculty and staff.
For more information about Values Week, contact Joe Pierce, director of student life and engagement.
Learn more about the Department of Student Life and Engagement.