Career & Networking Maintaining Connections Tribe Athletics Undergraduate Experience

The Transformative Power of People

By Braxton Hicks ’15, M.Acc. ’16

Hi! My name is Braxton and in light of Professional Development Week being near, I wanted to reflect a bit on my time at William & Mary and how it helped shape my career (and really my life as I know it). Quick background on me: I got my Bachelor of Science in human factor physics from W&M back in 2015, and then got my Master of Accounting from the Raymond A. Mason School of Business a year later in 2016. I played on the W&M Football team during that time and was involved in a few pretty cool extracurriculars, so naturally I had a lot of time on my hands! Since then, I’ve gone on to get my Ph.D., work for NASA at the Johnson Space Center, and now I work as a UX (user experience) researcher at Google. Not bad for a few years post-grad! If you can believe it, though, I can trace those achievements back to three very specific moments at W&M. This might sound like one long ad for the university, but truthfully — it isn’t. It’s about people. In three conversations, the people at W&M changed my life … and I’d like to tell you about them.

William & Mary is an interesting place. You grow, you fail, you learn, and if you’re lucky, you meet a few truly exceptional people who change your life for the better. Coming into W&M, we’re all told that the students you’ll meet will be the brightest minds in the world. With this, I couldn’t agree more. As much fun as I had learning and growing with my peers, it was the relationships and experiences I had with faculty and staff that made it a truly special place. I had the pleasure of interacting with several impactful faculty during my time at W&M, but I’d like to quickly highlight three people in particular and how they led me to my post-undergrad adventures.

For a W&M student-athlete, there are few people as invested in your success as Jason Simms, then academic advisor for the athletics department. For my final year at W&M, I’d planned to be in grad school. Unfortunately, weeks before graduation, I found out that the grad program I’d planned to join was to be discontinued. Shocked and unsure of what to do, I knew where I could get help. I ran over to Jason’s office and, in a bit of a panic, explained the situation. Jason assured me that we’d find a way through this together, and immediately helped me find another grad program that worked for my situation. He sat with me and helped me pick up the pieces of a broken plan to formulate a new one. Truthfully, I’m not sure what I would’ve done without Jason’s guidance and quick action; I certainly wouldn’t have found the Master of Accounting program — and it was there that the direction of my life really shifted.

The M.Acc. program was pretty intense. I wasn’t really performing at my best and while I was leaving early from a tough class, visibly downtrodden, Dean Todd Mooradian spotted me in a stairwell and asked two very powerful questions: “How are you?” and “How can I help?” This was our first time meeting. We had several conversations after that in which I shared my post-W&M dreams with him, and he became a vital mentor. Unbeknownst to me, Dean Mooradian reached out to a few professors outside of W&M to share my story. One of these professors wrote back and asked to meet with me. This turned out to be the beginning of my Ph.D. (and ultimately Google) career. Few people in my life have had as significant an impact as Dean Mooradian. His proactiveness and willingness to connect sparked a monumental change in the direction of my life.

As my time at W&M was coming to a close, I had some good leads on where to go next, but at that stage, nothing concrete. Without knowledge of a direct next step, I was referred by a mentor to chat with Vice Provost for Research and Graduate/Professional Studies Dennis Manos to ask for advice. He listened, challenged and pushed me to think broadly and ambitiously.  Professor Manos took it upon himself to connect me with a head researcher at NASA’s Langley Research Center, inadvertently launching my career at NASA. What amazes me here is not only Professor Manos’ willingness to meet with me, but also to extend himself to forge a connection for me at a place as prestigious as NASA.  

As I reflected on those three experiences, I noticed a few common themes that could be framed as learnings here. The first thing I noticed is that these people showed up for me at low moments, not high ones. Each of these three people stepped in during moments of great uncertainty and were willing to act. Their actions during those moments of inflection reshaped not only the current situation, but they reshaped my perspective as well. Given that theme, I try to see those low moments as opportunities to reframe my thinking and become larger and better than I thought. One other theme I noticed was that these people sought to connect with me having no guarantee of dividends or knowledge of what I’d go on to do. They chose to invest in a person, not a product or a goal. I’ve since felt compelled to do the same for myself and others. There are several benefits to building connections, but I’ve learned that there’s power, transformative power, in building people.

Connect with Braxton on LinkedIn.

Career & Networking

What I Want to Be When I Grow Up

By Maegan Crews Fallen ’12

Did you think about what you wanted to be “when you grew up” as a kid all the time, or was that just me?  At one point in my childhood I wanted to be Barbara Walters, then a lawyer, an archeologist, a teacher, a truck driver and a million other things. I was never the kid, or teenager, or then college student who knew for sure what I wanted to do with my life. While that caused its fair share of existential crises throughout the years, it also led me to my current role which has been perfect for the kid who doesn’t know what they want to be when they grow up. 

My time at William and Mary was some of the most formative years of my life, as college should be. My confidence, curiosity, and community all grew in ways I didn’t know were possible. From my Barrett Hall freshman dorm, to the classrooms of Morton —RIP, to the Pi Phi House and the many nights in Swem, I slowly evolved into the person I am today. While I did not share the same specialized and specific career goals some of my peers had, I did begin to live some of the lessons that have been tremendously important to me in my roles since then. Looking back now, so many of these experiences are so clearly tied to the professional I am. 

I was fortunate enough to land my first job after college because of an internship I had completed the summer before. A couple weeks shy of graduating, I called my internship supervisor and asked if she had any leads I should pursue, only to be pleasantly surprised that the office would soon be adding another staffer and I was invited to apply. I am grateful that my first three years as a professional were spent as a congressional staffer and meant I got to put my government degree to use —don’t we all love to actually use our degrees? In this role I realized that the experiences I had outside the classroom were just as formative as those inside. The relationships I had throughout college with peers, faculty and staff had taught me to be an active listener and read between the lines when solving problems. I had built a community and knowledge of resources through my previous internships and used those quite often when I assisted constituents.

My husband (Jon Fallen’10, M.A.Ed’11) and I decided we wanted to move closer to our families, so I took a calculated risk and decided to change industries and actually took a step backward to get my foot in the door in higher education. I am not a naturally risk taker, In fact I would say I am the opposite; however,  I  reflected on my time at William and Mary where I learned the importance of hard work and perseverance. This step ended up paying off in a big way because through my time at Randolph College, a small private liberal arts in Lynchburg, Virginia, I have moved up through various positions to Director of Career Services. Now my role consists of coaching and counseling students about what they want to be when they grow up. Every day I get to think about a different career field and help map out a route to that job for the student. It really helps satisfy that itch of not knowing just what you want to become. I can confidently preach to my students about the importance of internships and networking because my career has been a testament to those. It is a rewarding job because I get a taste of everything that’s out there, what it’s like to apply in those fields, and watch as my students blossom into young professionals themselves. My hopes are that some day I just might finally figure out what I want to be when I grow up too. 

So here’s my advice: take risks, get involved, realize networking exists in every part of our lives, talk to people and work hard. You never know where you might end up; it might just be where you belong. 

Feel free to contact me via email (, find me on LinkedIn, and make sure to watch my W&M Professionals Week Young Professionals Networking Workshop webinar!

Connect with Maegan on LinkedIn.