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Staff Snapshot: Andrea Birskovich, writer

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Andrea Birskovich, Assistant Director of Marketing and Communications, UC Santa Cruz Undergraduate Admissions

Andrea Birskovich is the assistant director of marketing and communications in the UC Santa Cruz Undergraduate Admissions Office. She’s also a native Californian and a newly published author who’s passionate about supporting students and sharing her life lessons on resiliency with others.

A mission-driven career

Andrea’s pathway to working in higher education is a bit nontraditional. Her career has always been focused on marketing and she spent the majority of her professional life before UC promoting products in the entertainment and food and beverage industries. A common thread though has always been her passion for supporting companies whose vision she felt aligned with in some capacity. “When I specialized in consumer products, I worked with a lot of mission-driven brands. My work at UC is similar in that we have a noble mission to serve students and make higher-ed accessible to all — specifically in the state where I was born and that I love,” Andrea says.

Andrea is motivated by her experience researching and applying to colleges. Her father was a college graduate but died when she was in elementary school. Her mother had not attended college and did not appreciate the financial implications of the private university that Andrea ultimately selected. Her post-graduate loans were a burden. “If I’d had real guidance, I would have understood that I should have gone to public school. There are many things I wish I’d known as a high school student and that motivates me to share the knowledge I have now with our students,” she says.

One of the main focuses of Andrea’s position is recruiting students from traditionally underserved backgrounds. She has found that reaching this population brings unique challenges; for example, limited access to technology. “I was creating a lot of digital assets and assumed that everyone in Gen Z had a smartphone in their pocket. But it became very obvious during the pandemic that they didn’t; that with schools closed, many students were sharing a computer in their home or didn’t have access to technology at all,” she says. “It’s not helpful to focus all our efforts on digital resources if the people we most want to reach can’t access them.” Knowing and considering factors like this have helped her team create more diverse touchpoints to connect with the students they hope to reach.     

Andrea is inspired by UC Santa Cruz students and her interactions with them. “They’re so eager and curious and willing to push themselves out of their comfort zone,” she says. “When I was in school, it seemed like we were all just trying to blend in and be cool. These kids do not care. They are very willing to share their weirdest, most off-the-wall thoughts and passions, and all the other kids are like, ‘That’s so cool!’ It’s really refreshing. When they tell their own stories, even when they focus on a particular identity thread like being first-gen, Latinx or something else, they have a sense of transparency that’s relatable and brings other students in.”

Writing towards resilience

In her spare time, Andrea is an essayist, writing experienced-based narratives that primarily focus on how she’s worked to process grief, cultivate self-resilience and become comfortable with being alone.

While working to cope with the loss of her father, brother and sister, writing — a practice Andrea began at 7 years old — provided an outlet for her to process her thoughts and express what she was feeling. Over time, Andrea realized that the insights and perspectives she was discovering and adopting to heal herself could help others in similar situations.

“It can be challenging to get to the point where you are comfortable with being alone, and not succumbing to grief or wallowing in that – adopting a perspective of being your own friend. Today, I’m one of those people who goes to a restaurant by myself without thinking anything of it; if I see an activity I want to do, I don’t necessarily need someone to go with me. But I wasn’t always like this. Being alone used to intimidate me. It took time for me to get to the point I’m at now, where I find joy in doing activities alone. Now, when I start to feel an overwhelming sense of grief, I try to move those feelings into action.”

One of Andrea’s essays was recently published in the anthology “Deserts to Mountaintops: Our Collective Journey to Reclaiming Our Voice,” compiled by Jessica Buchanan. “It includes 22 autobiographical stories about the writers’ transformative journeys, centered around the idea of reclaiming your voice. Although some of the situations that people describe overcoming are really extreme — one is about a kidnapped humanitarian aid worker — there’s something relatable to each of the stories that will resonate with most readers,” Andrea says.

Andrea credits the flexibility and boundaries of her current job with her ability to become a published author for the first time. “I’m so grateful that I’m at the point in my career, and in the culture of working at UC, where I’m able to carve out time outside of work to do this side project that’s been so meaningful and important to me,” she says. “It feels like this could have only happened in the unique position I’m in now, where I have the support and resources I need at my job to also have a life outside it.”

What’s next for Andrea? “I’m hoping to create an online course sharing these learnings and insights later this year,” she says.

Meet Andrea

Name: Andrea Birskovich

Title: Assistant Director of Marketing & Communications

Department/Unit: Undergraduate Admissions

Location: UC Santa Cruz

When did you start working for UC? November 2019

In five words or less, what do you do for UC? Promote UCSC to prospective students

Why do you love working for UC? Our mission to make higher education more accessible to first-year and transfer students is really meaningful. It feels purposeful when we focus recruitment on underrepresented and traditionally under-served populations, providing opportunities for social mobility.

What’s something people don’t know about you? I’m a writer, and I’ve been published for the very first time this year!

Who’s your dream dinner guest (living or dead) and why? My dad. He died when I was 11, before I was able to really get to know him as a person.

What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received? It’s better to ask for forgiveness than for permission.

 

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