A Remarkable Learning Experience Through Informational Interviewing

By Jamie Douglass-Espaillat, SCDC Higher Education Intern

An informational interview differs greatly from a formal interview. The purpose behind informational interviewing is to gain knowledge of a certain field while networking and creating industry contacts. I decided to conduct an informational interview in an effort to uncover a direction towards an area of full-time work upon my graduation this May. After reaching my contact and arranging a time and place to meet via email, I created a list of questions for the interview. I did not want to be confined to this list; it was created merely to provide some direction during the interview, in case I found it was needed.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Maziely (Mazi) Crisostomo, Director of the College Now program here at Baruch. I was excited; assisting high school students with navigating their way through higher education choices was my motivation behind pursuing a Master’s degree in the first place. College Now is a program that mentors high school students who attend public institutions within our city. The program provides the opportunity to high school juniors and seniors attending schools in traditionally underserved neighborhoods to partake in college level courses through dual enrollment. College Now also extends its services to home-schooled students and students with disabilities.

Mazi has an extensive history of working in college access. She began as an outreach worker at Queens Community House, assisting students with a history of truancy to navigate accelerated paths to their high schools diplomas. She then moved on to Phipps Community Development Corporation in the Bronx where she helped students apply to college, and later to Good Shepherd Services at West Brooklyn Community High School where she resumed working with truant students. Mazi thoroughly enjoyed her work but wanted more. She eventually transitioned to College Now and is juggling a variety of responsibilities in her new role as Director.

When speaking of her new position and how it fulfills her, Mazi said she finds the most enjoyment in seeing her students succeed and watching them promote the program to their peers. Receiving gratitude from the students she mentors is also fulfilling. When discussing challenges within her role, Mazi’s concern is the ability to sufficiently promote the program and be available to students while handling the administrative duties that come with her position in a short-staffed office. She was also concerned with keeping her students motivated.

The interview concluded with a discussion about the plethora of resources available to students, especially those who are interested in pursuing vocational paths. Mazi’s passion for assisting students in navigating the sometimes blurry high school-to-college pathway is evident through her extensive knowledge and desire to mentor. Speaking with her was not only personally informative, but also reinforced my decision to pursue a career in higher education.

Prior to meeting with Mazi, I was aware that conducting an informational interview would be beneficial; after all, what opportunity to learn isn’t? What I was not aware of was the reassurance I would gain from the experience. Meeting with Mazi not only provided encouragement of my professional choices but was also inspirational. It gave me the motivation I needed to enter my last semester of graduate school here at Baruch with excitement and vigor.