An Integrated Social Sciences Student Finds Courage and Confidence

Zugeil BenitezZugeil Benitez tells us about her unique career, challenges she has overcome, and her advice to current students. She is in her second semester at Penn State World Campus, pursuing her bachelor’s degree in integrated social sciences, and is a member of the Student Advisory Board. 

What is your hometown?

My hometown is Carolina, PR, but I currently reside in Horsham, PA.

What/where is your current career and workplace?

At this moment, I am in a transition. I worked for Lands’ End shops at Sears as a “sales leader” (also known as store manager) for 11 years. Sadly, I am preparing for our location to close. While I learned of the company’s decision not to renew our lease in our current location, I was recruited to Destination Maternity as a leased area manager for Pennsylvania. I am currently doing both roles for about another 2 weeks. 

What does a typical workday look like for you?

My day typically involves reviewing numbers, contacting associates, setting up visits, and going to store locations. In my Lands’ End role, my day would include customer service, cleanup and organization, scheduling of associates, keeping the team motivated, and keeping Sears management informed of any changes or high-level items they may need to be looped in about.

How did you become interested in the field you currently work in?

In 2005, I decided that I needed a change and was not interested in working for the casino industry. It was just too repetitive for me. At the time, my brother worked for Sears in Mays Landing, NJ. He was very well liked in the store and suggested that I apply for a seasonal cashier position. I was hired in November 2015 and have been with the company since. In August 2016, Lands’ End shops were launching inside of the Sears locations. I interviewed for the sales leader position for Lands’ End and was hired for the job. At the time, I didn’t have any management experience, but I was determined to master all of the required job functions. What I enjoyed most was the ability to help others feel good about themselves and the quarterly visual floor changes.  Working with Lands’ End allowed me to develop my business acumen while inspiring my creative side — developing my merchandising skills in the shop. It satisfied many of my interests.

How has Penn State World Campus impacted your career?

I am in my second semester at Penn State and, so far, it has made me view my career differently by allowing me to be more attentive to detail and have the courage to ask challenging questions.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced as a Penn State World Campus student? How have you overcome these challenges?

One of my challenges has been time management because I am a full-time employee while attending Penn State World Campus. Having to relearn concepts (since I’m an adult learner) has presented itself as a challenge as well. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in the classroom. Staying confident has also been challenging; because there is no immediate face to face feedback in an online classroom. Given that I’m a visual learner, the online learning environment can be challenging. To overcome some of the challenges, I have found YouTube to be an invaluable source of learning and an added layer to emphasize what I’ve been taught. I also make it a habit to check the Canvas app on my phone daily to view deadlines, which helps me stay on track in my courses. My goal this semester is to complete as much of the lesson work as I possibly can at the beginning of each week for at least one, if not both, of my classes. I hope this will help ensure that I do not feel overwhelmed by the amount of course work I have been assigned to complete.

How do you stay connected with Penn State?

I stay connected by reading the newsletter that I receive via email. I plan on becoming more involved in the University and its initiatives.

What is some advice that you would give to a current Penn State World Campus student?

My best advice is to read and reread. We often ask questions that are already answered but remember that no question is stupid, so do not feel like you cannot ask. The professors are here for you and your learning. They are a great source of information and guidance. Also, build relationships with your classmates. It’s a great way to feel connected while you are learning online. Lastly, make sure you dedicate just as much time to your classes as you would to your social life. Never leave your schoolwork for the last minute!