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Mock Interview Competition gives Mary Washington students jump start on life after college

Rebecca Barnabi
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A Mock Interview Competition at the University of Mary Washington last month preps students before entering the workforce and strengthens skills to land a job.

The competition is held every other year and encourages students on strategies and techniques to nail any job interview.

Organized by the Office of University Advancement and Alumni Engagement, the competition also allows students opportunities to meet UMW alumni who provide guidance on launching a career and life after college.

Aniya Stewart is a senior at UMW who participated in this year’s competition after researching how to answer the toughest questions. She was surprised when she was declared the winner of the competition.

“My shock wore off when the judges explained their reasoning and gave feedback,” Stewart, a mathematics major, said. “I was elated after that and called my mom to share the good news.”

Stewart is already looking for her first job after UMW and said she feels more prepared than ever after participating twice in the competition.

Sixteen students participated in this year’s competition, which was applying and interviewing for a fictional program assistant position with UMW’s Office of Student Activities and Engagement. However, as the competition winner, Stewart will receive a real recommendation from Vice President for Advancement and Alumni Engagement Katie Turcotte, as well as an overnight stay at a regional alumni event.

UMW Assistant Director of Annual Giving Cadiann Treviño Pinto ’22, who was a finalist in the competition during her senior year, serves as staff advisor of the SAA program, which fosters relationships between alumni and students.

“I provide pointers like ‘dress to impress, come early, and look for verbal and nonverbal cues,’” Pinto said.

College of Business Dean Filiz Tabak, who served on a panel of alumni, faculty and staff judges who evaluated the participants over two rounds, said the competition is “an essential experiential learning opportunity for UMW students, preparing them to succeed in the real world.”

All the students were “well-prepared, personable and professional,” Tabak said, but Aniya’s confidence, authenticity and comfort with taking risks helped her stand out among her peers.

Michael Gilchrist ’20 also served as a judge and said that as a former finalist in the competition he is able to distinguish a good interview from a great one. His own mock interviews as a SAA helped him secure his current position as a global client and project manager at D.C.-based ROI Training. “Even to this day, I use the feedback I received to better position myself among other applicants.”

Junior Shadwick Yoder ’25 said that making it to the final round gave him the confidence he needs to pursue his future career.

“Being an SAA has given me many firsts in the realm of professional development,” Shadwick, a political science major and environmental sustainability minor, who applied to the program during his first semester, said. “All of the skills I’ve gained are extremely valuable, no matter what field I enter.”

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.