Aleksandra Degernes is a nontraditional student on a mission. Having recently graduated with a sociology degree with honors this spring, she is now pursuing a Master of Science in Management. Learn about her business, the seminars she hosts for Eastern European immigrant professionals and how she helps Russian and Ukrainian immigrants.
Who at UNC Charlotte has been integral in your education journey?
My amazing professors in the Sociology Department encouraged me to enroll in the honors program, especially Professor Anne-Kathrin Kronberg. I also appreciate my awesome professor, Joseph Dippong, who guided me through the research process.
Why did you choose UNC Charlotte?
As an adult student who lives and works in Charlotte, UNC Charlotte is the best university in town.
What do you love about UNC Charlotte?
I love the quality of education and connections I’ve made.
Can you tell us about your experience being a nontraditional student?
As an adult immigrant student, I can genuinely say that I am thoroughly enjoying my time at UNC Charlotte. Like many non-native English-speaking immigrants, I had insecurities about whether my proficiency would be sufficient to fully embrace the knowledge and excel in school. These fears dissipated as soon as I received an overwhelming amount of support from professors and faculty.
What do you do when you’re not on campus?
I'm deeply engaged in community work. Over the past three years, I've been hosting career development seminars for a large community of Eastern European immigrant professionals. I've also organized business networking events and conferences. All this effort led me to connect with a dedicated team of professionals who share my vision. Together, we founded the first Eastern European Chamber of Commerce in the state of North Carolina. Our mission is to spotlight the rapidly growing, highly educated and promising community of professionals and business owners in Charlotte, raising awareness among companies and organizations as well as providing quality network opportunities, professionals and business education, and advocacy.
Can you tell us about your experience helping in local job search assistance for Russian and Ukrainian immigrants?
The community work, networking events and career seminars, along with my research in the honors program, gave me a multifaceted socio-economic perspective on the untapped market of talented immigrant individuals. In 2021, I opened a workforce development company, MyProgress LLC, to provide career development and employment services.
Who inspires you the most?
I find inspiration in the opportunity to open doors of possibilities and boost the confidence of immigrant individuals. This isn't just about helping disadvantaged immigrant communities; it's also about benefiting the American economy. Research on the underemployment of highly educated immigrant professionals shows that the U.S. is missing out on billions of dollars in tax revenues. So, the idea of creating opportunities for others while making this country more prosperous for everyone truly fills me with energy and purpose!
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to a nontraditional student?
Embrace the challenge, be proud of your hard work, celebrate your individuality and never stop learning, growing and dreaming.