As an aspiring high school band teacher, Rachel Sullivan found exactly what she wanted academically in UMass Lowell’s music studies program.
And she found her place on campus through her student employment with the Office of Transportation Services.
“Working in this department has probably been the best three years of my life,” Sullivan says. “It’s such a great community and support system.”
Coming from a “musically inclined” family in Auburn, Massachusetts, Sullivan followed in the college footsteps of her brother, Chris, a music performance major in the College of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.
“I visited campus a few times and really loved the environment. I got to shadow a couple of classes in the music program and was really impressed,” says Sullivan, who plays flute and alto saxophone. “We have one of the best music education programs in the country — it’s very intensive — which is really nice.”
As a senior, Sullivan gained experience teaching in a local school — both online and in person. She began her spring semester working one-on-one with fifth-graders from Stoklosa Middle School over Google Meet, then transitioned to in-person instruction in March.
“It’s easy for me to relate to the students and what they’re going through. I’m fortunate to have them,” she says. “Even if they’re a little hyperactive — our class is toward the end of their day — I’m always able to get through to them.”
Sullivan began working for Transportation Services as a sophomore, again following in the footsteps of her brother.
“I made friends my very first day. I knew that’s where I wanted to be,” says Sullivan, who started as a driver for vehicles that hold up to 13 passengers. She then completed the commercial driver’s license training program — a paid opportunity allowing her to drive larger campus shuttle buses that hold up to 30 passengers.
Sullivan became a supervisor her junior and senior years, helping train new drivers and overseeing the dispatch office on night shifts. She typically works around 32 hours a week.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Transportation Services had to scale back routes, limit occupancy and implement new cleaning protocols. Some student drivers, including Sullivan, picked up shifts working at the university’s COVID-19 testing site at University Crossing.
Sullivan, who plans to continue working for Transportation Services while pursuing her master of music education degree, looks forward to the campus getting back to its pre-pandemic operations.
“I’ve made so many friends through this job. Even people who have graduated, I’m still talking with them and hanging out. I’m so glad that I’ve met them,” she says.