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By Melanie Conner, APUS Alumni Affairs Liaison, and Lindsay Vani, AMU Graduate
Lindsay Vani cares deeply about her community in her career and her volunteer work. She won the 2018 Public Service Award. This award recognizes alumni who dedicate personal time and energy to their community and who use their education and experiences gained at APUS to promote public service causes.
In 2009, Lindsay earned a bachelor’s degree in management. In 2011, she earned a master’s in business administration with a concentration in nonprofit management from American Military University.
Lindsay serves as a volunteer firefighter for Onslow County Fire Rescue Station 2 at Bear Creek in Hubert, North Carolina. She is a regular blood donor and a board member of the Jacksonville/Onslow County Crime Stoppers.
Also, Lindsay has served as treasurer and is now the president of the Onslow County Farmers’ Market. She brought the spirit of the university to her drive to provide public services protection, safety and access to fresh, locally grown produce in her community.
We connected with Lindsay to hear more about her current career and how AMU has helped to shape her career.
What have you been doing since you completed your master’s degree from AMU?
After completing my master’s degree from AMU, I worked for four years for Hertz. During that time, I continued to serve on the board for our local Crime Stoppers program and joined my local fire department.
In October 2016, Hertz suffered some setbacks and I was laid off with the option to return in a lower position. I used my time off to look for a career that was better suited to my talents.
I now work for the Onslow County Department of Social Services as an income maintenance caseworker. I interview and process new food and nutritional services and family and children’s Medicaid applications for county residents.
What inspired you to pursue a career as an income maintenance caseworker?
I have a strong background in banking and my MBA has a concentration in nonprofit management, which put me on a path toward helping people financially.
How did you prepare to enter this field?
Like any government job, your application and resume have to include keywords and skills needed to perform the job. You cannot have a “one resume fits all” approach. Once you are selected to continue the interview process, you have to complete online assessments that give insight into your personality, reasoning and technical skills. If you are among the most qualified candidates, you move on to the face-to-face interview.
Preparation for me was all about selling myself as the best-qualified candidate, as well as someone who is willing to learn and work hard.
Has the knowledge you acquired for your master’s degree assisted you in the field?
Knowledge that I acquired for my master’s degree has assisted me in my field by giving me a passion to help people. I spent over a decade working for a credit union, which instilled the “people helping people” mentality and pro-nonprofit attitude that I have today. There are also occasions where people don’t qualify for requested services, so it is good to have other nonprofit resources available to help fill in the gaps.
What are the biggest challenges that you face in your role?
I am both a taxpayer and an eligibility worker. I work with programs that have strict qualifications, so despite the perceived need for a service, people will either qualify or not, based on equally applied policies. Sometimes, you can want someone to qualify and they cannot; other times, you have to work with the fraud department to disqualify people who are defrauding the system.
What advice do you have to give to people seeking a career in your field?
This can be a tough job because you are often meeting people during their time of crisis – the loss of a job or family member, a medical emergency, or an eviction. You have to have empathy while following all program policies at the same time. You have to familiarize yourself with other resources and be a helpful caseworker.
What is your greatest accomplishment to date?
My greatest accomplishment happened by accident. I accompanied my boyfriend to a fire department meeting after encouraging him to participate and found myself side-by-side with him two years later as a North Carolina state-certified firefighter.
Originally, I encouraged my boyfriend to join the fire department due to the recent loss of his job. The department had sent letters to residents asking for volunteers. Even though they had been taken over by the county, volunteers were still needed.
My intent was for him to network with other volunteers and find out where they worked. I decided at the last minute to attend the meeting with him and we both joined.
While I don’t always understand why things happen the way that they do, I trust that it is for a reason. Less than a year later, our roles were reversed. I was laid off and looking for work.
The fire department gave me purpose and the fire that I deployed to tested me in ways that I hadn’t imagined. I have never, never, never met a better group of people than firefighters.
The experience provided me with so many opportunities. I became more physically fit, deployed to a wildfire and most recently earned an $8,000 scholarship. I’m taking some lower-level classes through my local community college to obtain a bachelor’s degree in fire and emergency services administration.
What do you do in your free time?
Free time? I’m just kidding. Most of my free time is split between my dogs and chickens, my boyfriend’s farm, relaxing in our hot tub, and the fire department. Once a year, we like to travel to the mountains and go hiking.
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