Elicia Dennis ’18 ’23 has curated a wildly full life for herself. She is the web content strategist for the College of Arts and Letters, a graduate student, a board member of Thrive! (Notre Dame's employee resource group for female employees) and on the advisory council of the AnBryce Foundation. Her current bustling schedule is a far cry from her time immediately after graduation--a time she speaks honestly about to scholars worried about their future.
Elicia graduated in the winter of 2018 with a degree in Sociology although she initially came to Notre Dame as an electrical engineering major. "The first 7 weeks after graduation were difficult. I was applying to dozens of jobs a day while doing DoorDash to keep myself afloat. I felt incredibly defeated during that time. Throughout my ND career, I figured I'd just be set to move smoothly into the next chapter of my life once I graduated, that my ND degree would solve all of my problems. I know now that a lot of my struggles were the product of timing. Most jobs for ND students hire in the spring, so, I'm a huge advocate for being mindful of when you enter the job market now. " However, the timing ended up being perfect to join the College of Arts and Letters' Office of Communications. As a web content strategist she is the technical support and project manager for all of the departments, centers, institutes, and special projects. "I love the analytical creativity the most." Elicia says she has always had an analytics mindset and prefers decisions based on data. "I like to use user behavior data and heat mapping to find creative ways to solve problems." She also likes how varied the work is. Her role oversees around 80 program websites and upwards of 140 total sites. In just one semester, she had projects with Romance Languages, Shakespeare, Latino Studies, Sacred Music, and the Center for the Study of Languages and Cultures. When asked which sites she loved creating the most, she points to the Program of Liberal Studies site and the Shakespeare sites as fun challenges. She has also been an invaluable resource for AnBryce's site, in particular, how to make our site more visually dynamic.
Her professional work helped inform her decision to return to the classroom to get her Masters of Science in Data Science (expected 2023 graduation). She admits she had not always thought about graduate school. "At first, I thought college was my last stop. However, after I switched majors to sociology I started to reflect on what kinds of work I really enjoyed doing. Most careers that interested me needed an advanced degree." She also shares that she missed the "taking apart" side of engineering. "I really liked the engineering problem-solving approach — breaking things down to individual parts and then building them back. I realized I could combine the research of sociology and the deconstructive/reconstructive problem solving with a data science degree and enjoy all of the intersections."
She definitely feels more balanced this time around. Reflecting on her struggles during her undergraduate years, she feels like this is redemption. "I'm taking the hard lessons I learned and I'm doing it right to show the full extent of my ability." It's also a deliberate exercise in time management and self-awareness. For instance, she does a full week of meal prep on Sunday. "Cooking is definitely a mental reset for me and something I have come to treat as sacred time." She preps 18 meals a week, which allows her to sleep in a bit in the morning and enjoy the puzzle of how to rotate all of the meals to keep them interesting.
Another key strategy and bit of advice she shares is the importance of getting help. "I was totally okay asking for certain kinds of help during college, but I was not as great at teamwork." The teamwork skills she learned with the communications office have helped with her graduate work. "No person is left behind in our cohort. I have learned to be comfortable jumping into the group chat to ask for help and someone always replies. I do the same for others. My goal is to give as much as I take."
Elicia shares she is aware of how her resilience has grown over the years, "It was always there, but I am working through struggle better. I am stronger and navigate places of struggle with more confidence." This has definitely helped her goal of giving back and learning new skills in the new year. "I am excited to continue to build networks in all of my worlds and use my skills to help others." To that end, she encourages AnBryce alumni to take the recent alumni survey. "I really want to grow the community of all of the AnBryce Scholars at Notre Dame and NYU. We all have so much to offer each other."