All three of the front-desk staff members in the Dean’s Office in Gebauer Building are alumnae of the Cellege of Liberal Arts. We spoke to Kaley Aguero, Richelle King, and Kacie Vanecek about their past, present, and future.
Tell us about your background at COLA as a student and in your current job as a staff member.
Kaley Aguero (KA): I was a student in COLA from 2014–18. I am a first-generation Hispanic college graduate, and the first to pursue a post-graduate degree, so my experience is groundbreaking in my family. I studied anthropology and classical languages: ancient Greek with a minor in philosophy, and a forensic-science certificate. I had three jobs as a student: student associate in the Office of the Dean, student assistant in the Department of Anthropology, and an undergraduate research assistant in Dr. John Kappleman’s lab. I was also in student groups: the UT Anthropological Society and Eta Sigma Phi, which is a collegiate honor society for the study of classics. I’ve been in my current position as a staff member since April 2019.
Richelle King (RK): I dropped out of college for a while, however I finally graduated in May 2017 at UT with a major in gender studies and minor in government. While in COLA, I was involved with grassroots campus organizing for Planned Parenthood and the Texas Freedom Network, working towards LGBTQ rights and acceptance. I also worked as an intern at the gender and sexuality center. I just celebrated my one-year anniversary as a full-time staff member in COLA.
Kacie Vanecek (KV): I was a student in COLA from 2016–2020. I majored in English and rhetoric and writing. I had a student job in Gebauer as a Foundation Scholars Program mentor, and I worked for OnRamps supporting their rhetoric staff course staff who created dual enrollment classes for high-school students. I have been a staff member since November of 2021.
What are your aspirations for your career after COLA?
KA: I’m in the process of getting my MA at Villanova in classics, and am thinking about a PhD, after which I would consider making a move to the field of museum studies, maybe as a curator, with a side-gig as an adjunct. I want to illustrate how classics are still pertinent to modern society and can be learned in a variety of different ways that are non-traditional, particularly via modern fiction. I want to highlight the female experience, along with other non-dominant perspectives, within the ancient world that are often overlooked.
RK: I’m a cartoonist, and I also make films and do photography, and I’m embedded in the arts’ community in Austin. I feel respected in my position in COLA, which is extremely important to me. My job at COLA has given me the ability to do my artwork on my own time and feel fulfilled. Having time to be an artist is most important to me.
KV: Being relatively fresh out of college, and coming out of a pandemic, I’m still figuring out what my path will look like. I’ve always been interested in copy editing and copy writing, and have considered non-profits as an area I am interested in working in. I am currently taking life as it comes, and am enjoying working on the newsletter team and the promo & social team for gaygenda.org, a social media collaborative that provides support resources to LGBTQ+ community members, in my free time.
How has your experience at COLA, as a student or a staff member, equipped you to take the next steps in your career ahead?
KA: I was exposed to so much at COLA as a student and there were so many people taking on even more than I was. Pushing myself the way that I did felt normal. Being a student at COLA was both high-pressure and high-reward. As a staff member, I’m realizing the academic environment for staff and faculty is that way too. Working at COLA helped me to consider if I wanted to do a post-grad degree. Seeing how a college is run and how things filter between different levels of college leadership, I am learning so much about communication. I have also learned about faculty/staff tension, and really enjoy helping people overcome this issue. I was also on staff during the transition to a new Dean, and this helped me learn new ways of thinking, just like my time as a student in anthropology and classics did. The question of how we evolve taught me how many angles from which you can question preconceived notions.
RK: Since I was a non-traditional student in a few ways (I came to UT after dropping out at my previous institution, was older than my peers, and come from a low-income background), I never quite fit in. It was challenging, and this experience really shaped for me the importance of forging my own path and being scrappy. The easiest path for some wasn’t always available to me, and I have found a lot of success through understanding this. My experiences at UT have taught me to be nimble and flexible, and I learned how to write and probe ideas I’m not familiar with. I became a dynamic and rich thinker, and this has helped my art too.
KV: When I applied for this job, I was really excited it was at COLA. As a former student and student employee, I remember there was always an undercurrent of teaching people to prioritize taking care of themselves. Faculty in departments really reinforced this too and it was so impactful. I even see this now as a staff member. This is a theme that has carried through and something that I will carry on into the future.
(KA: We’ve put in a lot of work into how we approach work in the past few years).
What do you all like about working with each other the most?
KA: I like having a team, period. I was the sole support in the dean’s office through most of my time on staff, so having colleagues to teach and learn from has been amazing and I no longer feel like everything is on my plate. They’re also fun people to talk to and work with.
RK: They are so easy to talk to, and funny! Both Kacie and Kaley are really approachable, and I feel really supported by them both. It’s hard for me to ask for help, and they are both so open to helping me. They never make me feel like there are any stupid questions.
KV: Kaley and Richelle bring a lot of joy to my day. I don’t think my job would be half as fun without them. I love talking with them, and they help guide me and teach me about the job and answer all my questions.