From the faculty to the administration to my fellow students on campus -- everybody cared about me, cared about my experience, cared about my needs, my education and -- importantly -- they cared about the career I would be pursuing when I graduated."
When it comes to describing why she chose Auburn over a host of other top-tier universities, 2017 Harbert College of Business graduate Natalie Maroun puts it simply – “Everybody cares. From the faculty to the administration to my fellow students on campus – everybody cared about me, cared about my experience, cared about my needs, my education and – importantly – they cared about the career I would be pursuing when I graduated.”
Natalie’s journey from an Atlanta area high school to Auburn wasn’t a pre-ordained one, even though her grandparents are Auburn alumni or that her sister was already enrolled at Auburn. The options on her plate were many and varied, including two of the usual suspects her friends were also considering – University of Georgia and the University of Florida. We sat down recently with Natalie to hear about why she ultimately chose Auburn and how that decision changed her life in ways she hadn’t expected.
HCOB: Let’s start at the beginning – why did you select Auburn, Georgia and Florida as the three primary options for your higher education?
Natalie: Auburn was on my list based on everything I’d heard from my grandparents and my sister, who was already enrolled there. Being from Atlanta, UGA was clearly on the list – it’s a great school, and a lot of my friends were planning on attending. Florida made my short list for much the same reason. All three are top-tier public universities with strong reputations for what I originally wanted to focus on, which was pre-med. All three had their plusses and minuses, each was appealing for very different reasons.
HCOB: How did you go through your evaluation from that short list – what was your process?
Natalie: Campus visits were the defining element for me – I needed to get a first-hand feel for what it would be like to spend the next four years of my life at each school. I’d already been to UGA several times, so I was familiar with the campus and Athens itself – it is beautiful and a comfortable place to live, and not too far from home. (Freshman roomates pictured with Natalie are Katie, Kathryn and Maddy).
Florida was an entirely different experience – I just didn’t get a good feel on campus. Perhaps it was the size, but there just didn’t seem to be the tight knit community I experienced in Athens, for example.
But Auburn was an entirely different experience all together. It is hard to describe until you walk onto campus. The term ‘Southern Hospitality’ comes to mind, but it is more than that. Everybody is just so nice – I know that doesn’t sound like much, but to an 18-year old about to leave home for the first time, how you feel about this new home-to-be is a very important factor. At least it was for me.
HCOB: Can you give us some examples of how that feeling manifested itself during your visit?
Natalie: Everybody cared about my experience during that visit, and I mean everybody. The tour guides, counselors, admissions team – the one-on-one personal touch really made the difference. My friends didn’t get that same kind of attention as I did at the schools they visited.
And I didn’t know it then, but that level of care would define my experience at Auburn for my entire time there. I’m not talking about being coddled – that’s not it at all. There was a balance between guidance and independence that prepared me well for life after college.
HCOB: Talk to us a little more about that balance and how it prepared you for your professional career.
Natalie: One of the first times the balance between an abundance of support and the ability to branch out of my comfort zone came during my first year. I had come to Auburn as a pre-med major, but soon found out that just wasn’t right for me. With a lot of guidance, I changed my major to international business, which required a language track. I declared a concentration in marketing – all of that was quite a shift, very challenging. I had to step out of my comfort zone.
It was the curriculum and faculty engagement at Harbert that made that kind of wholesale change possible. The coursework involved a very high level of hands-on, collaborative work with other students – periodic peer evaluations, very transparent give and take, no running away from difficult situations or fellow students you didn’t necessarily get along with. That prepared me extremely well for the “real world” challenges of today’s business environment.
HCOB: Tell us more about that transition from college to professional life – how did Harbert help you get your first job?
Natalie: OPCD, the Office of Professional and Career Development, was key. From the Careers Fairs and Legends and Leaders speaker series to the mock interviews and Resumania, the breadth and depth of career prep services available to me were unlike anything my friends had at other schools. And the quality of the business partners that recruit on campus was another big difference. They work closely with Harbert faculty and administrators to give us the insight we need to prepare for a successful post-graduation career.
HCOB: Your first job was with Brooksource, the information technology recruiting and staffing firm, can you tell us about your first day on the job?
Natalie: My first day of the job felt like I had walked into a new home. Part of that was because I was surrounded by several former Auburn students, but the main reason was all the preparation I had received while at Harbert. I hit the ground running; confident I was up to the task.
HCOB: We understand you moved on from your initial position at Brooksource in Atlanta to a new role at Stryker in Michigan – that’s quite a shift. Can you tell us what went into that decision?
Natalie: Again, I must point back to what I was fortunate to experience at Harbert – it really was the best preparation I could have received. I simply felt comfortable stepping out of my comfort zone again – just like I was encouraged to do at Auburn that very first year. I think it has a lot to do with maturity. My experience at Auburn – and at Harbert in particular – enabled me to grow, to mature much more quickly than I envisioned I was going to.
HCOB: One last question for you, Natalie ... if you were going to give one piece of advice to high school students considering Auburn, what would that be?
Natalie: Come visit Auburn – and make Auburn your first campus visit. That way, you’ll have a high standard against which you can compare your visits to other colleges. I don’t think you’ll find a better experience than you will at Auburn. And believe that what you see is what you’ll get – from day-one all the way through graduation. War Eagle!