The Student News Site of Appalachian State University

The Appalachian

The Student News Site of Appalachian State University

The Appalachian

The Student News Site of Appalachian State University

The Appalachian

Newsletter Signup

Get our news delivered straight to your inbox every week.

* indicates required

Climbing the ladder: one grad’s story of leadership

Part+of+Eric+Hesslinks+position+involves+working+the+front+desk+at+the+Watauga+County+Recreation+Center+Jan.+25%2C+2024.+His+duties+include+answering+the+phone+and+managing+facility+reservations.+Photo+courtesy+of+Eric+Hesslink.+
Part of Eric Hesslink’s position involves working the front desk at the Watauga County Recreation Center Jan. 25, 2024. His duties include answering the phone and managing facility reservations. Photo courtesy of Eric Hesslink.

As App State students graduate, the task of navigating through the workforce as a member of Generation Z commences. One App State student is balancing grad school and a full-time leadership position. 

At age 21, Eric Hesslink is working toward his master’s degree in Public Administration at App State and also works full-time for Watauga County Parks and Recreation as a program assistant. Hesslink graduated from App State in three years with a bachelor’s degree in political science. During his sophomore year of undergrad, he started a part-time lifeguarding position with Watauga Parks and Recreation. 

Initially, Hesslink wanted to pursue a career in law and attend law school. However, during his experience as a lifeguard, he was able to interact and engage with the local community, leading him to change his career goals.

I wanted to be a lawyer so I didn’t have the intention of wanting to work in local government,” he said. “However, I realized that wasn’t the career path I wanted to go down.”

Within a year, Hesslink worked his way up to the position of aquatic lead at the recreation center. 

Cindy Brown Greer, a water fitness instructor at the recreation center, watched Hesslink climb the ladder from lifeguarding to aquatic lead. When Hesslink started to consider applying to his current position, Greer and Hesslink had many conversations about the promotion. 

“We talked a lot about whether he should apply for this job or not,” she said.

Greer said she enjoyed working with Hesslink, saying he was a reliable employee, and encouraged him to apply for the position of program assistant.

“He’s very personable,” she said. “You can count on him to do what he says and find out information.” 

Hesslink started his position on Oct. 1. His current roles involve overseeing front desk operations, managing the front desk and fitness staff and managing in-house facility reservations.

“It’s really hands-on,” Hesslink said. “You’re face-to-face with the community every day and it’s awesome to get to know people and help them out on a daily basis.”

Hesslink is currently learning additional leadership skills in his graduate classes which he applies to his position. 

“Learning those leadership skills in the classroom and then getting to apply them in my job every day has been very beneficial,” he said.

One class that has proved beneficial to Hesslink is PA 5260, titled Organizational Theory and Behavior. Hesslink said topics covered in his classes, such as budgeting, are preparing him for real tasks associated with the recreation center. 

Hesslink will graduate with a master’s in Public Administration while maintaining his full-time position with Watauga Parks and Recreation.

“It’s definitely a challenge,” he said.

Hesslink wants to continue to work his way up to become more involved in creating community events at the recreation center. Eventually, he wants to become a parks and recreation director or a county manager.

Hesslink said his experience of entering the workforce has taught him many life lessons, such as combating self-doubt. He said he would encourage fellow students who are members of Generation Z to manage their self-doubt and understand what they are capable of.

“Just because you are young doesn’t mean you can’t lead people who are way older than you, even younger than you,” he said. “Just be proud of the abilities that you possess.”

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Appalachian
$1065
$5000
Contributed
Our Goal

We hope you appreciate this article! Before you move on, our student staff wanted to ask if you would consider supporting The Appalachian's award-winning journalism. We are celebrating our 90th anniversary of The Appalachian in 2024!

We receive funding from the university, which helps us to compensate our students for the work they do for The Appalachian. However, the bulk of our operational expenses — from printing and website hosting to training and entering our work into competitions — is dependent upon advertising revenue and donations. We cannot exist without the financial and educational support of our fellow departments on campus, our local and regional businesses, and donations of money and time from alumni, parents, subscribers and friends.

Our journalism is produced to serve the public interest, both on campus and within the community. From anywhere in the world, readers can access our paywall-free journalism, through our website, through our email newsletter, and through our social media channels. Our supporters help to keep us editorially independent, user-friendly, and accessible to everyone.

If you can, please consider supporting us with a financial gift from $10. We appreciate your consideration and support of student journalism at Appalachian State University. If you prefer to make a tax-deductible donation, or if you would prefer to make a recurring monthly gift, please give to The Appalachian Student News Fund through the university here: https://securelb.imodules.com/s/1727/cg20/form.aspx?sid=1727&gid=2&pgid=392&cid=1011&dids=418.15&bledit=1&sort=1.

About the Contributor
Madalyn Edwards, Associate News Editor
Madalyn Edwards (she/her) is a junior English major from Mount Airy, NC. This is her second year with The Appalachian.
Donate to The Appalachian
$1065
$5000
Contributed
Our Goal

Comments (0)

All The Appalachian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *