From Panther to Scottie Dog: How Leaving My Comfort Zone Is Empowering Me to Grow By Meghan Boehm

University of Pittsburgh's Panther

The University of Pittsburgh holds a special place in my heart. I remember going to Oakland to visit the Carnegie Library and the museums with my parents when I was a kid and staring adoringly at the Cathedral of Learning. The gothic skyscraper just simply amazed me, and it still does to this day.

CMU's Scottie

When it came time to think about college, I knew I wanted to go to Pitt. I loved everything about being a Pitt student. I loved going to football games, wearing Pitt t-shirts everywhere I went, and truly enjoyed my classes. Pitt felt like home to me. After graduating from Pitt with my bachelor’s degree in psychology and a certificate in women and gender studies, I decided to take some time to gain additional work experience, save money, and evaluate my future goals before enrolling in graduate school.

I wasn’t set on what I wanted to study, but I knew I wanted to earn my master’s and I wanted to continue my education at Pitt. I worked as a therapeutic support staff member, a mental health therapist, and worked as a server to save extra money. After a year and a half out of school, I was ready to go back and began my graduate school career as an MPH candidate at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health in the Health Policy and Management program. I also decided that I should look for a job at the University of Pittsburgh, so that I could have the benefit of having tuition assistance to help me pay for graduate school.

Through Pitt’s temp agency, I started a job in the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center Development Office as an administrative coordinator. I was hired as a full-time employee a few months later. Although I began my time at the Hillman with the mindset that I would gain work experience but not necessarily make this field my profession, after a year of working in development I quickly realized that this was something I could turn into my career.

Four years into my time at the cancer center, I had been promoted twice, made valuable connections with corporations and community groups, and had raised a significant amount of money for cancer research and patient care, all while earning my master’s degree (and graduating with honors!). I was a part of an incredible team of people who I genuinely enjoyed being around all day, and I was very comfortable in my role. However, I found myself yearning for change. After four years of working at Pitt, I decided to accept a new role as a major gifts officer at Carnegie Mellon University.

This was not an easy decision. Up until this point in my career, Pitt had been my life. I grew so much as a Pitt student and a Pitt employee…who would I be at another university? Would I be successful somewhere else? Would I be able to learn everything I needed to know in this new role? Change can be scary, but leaving what is comfortable also can give you a new chance to thrive. I knew that if I wanted to continue growing, I had to try something new. I spent the majority of my time at the Hillman working with corporations and community groups who supported the cancer center through third-party events. I loved making these connections and am so grateful for the experience I had at the cancer center.

However, I knew if I wanted to grow as a fundraiser I needed to gain more experience in raising money from individuals. I needed to work on cultivating and managing individual relationships. I also wanted to explore a different facet of this field by transitioning my focus from healthcare fundraising to academic fundraising.

Even though I have been in my new role for only eight months, I know I made the right decision. The transition has been smoother than I originally anticipated, and I am enjoying my new responsibilities, my new team, and I am eager to learn all I can about Carnegie Mellon. I do miss my former colleagues, so I make sure to keep in touch with them as much as I can by going to lunch or having coffee with them. I also miss working with the community groups that I worked with at the cancer center, so I volunteer with one of the groups on a regular basis and support the others by attending their events or making donations to support their efforts.

Maintaining these relationships has helped to make this transition easier… and it doesn’t hurt that my new office is just a quick walk to the Cathedral of Learning so I can always stop by and visit if I miss my alma mater. The philosophy that helped me to make this career change is simple: “A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.” I keep this quote close by, as it is a constant reminder to try something new, say yes to opportunities that may seem intimidating, and that by fearing the unknown we may miss a chance to grow.

“See that flower? That flower was in a small pot in my living room but it outgrew its surroundings. So I transplanted it here in the garden. Now when I pulled it out of the small pot in my living room, it resisted a little. It tried to hang on by its roots. I had to force it out.'

'Because you thought it would do better out there in the world right?' -Cory

'No because I thought if I left it there… it would stop growing.”

— Mr. Feeny, Boy Meets World

Meghan Boehm is an Associate Director for the Parent Engagement & Development team at Carnegie Mellon University. In this role she travels around the country to meet with CMU parents to discuss philanthropy and involvement with the university. Meghan is also on the executive committee for Promise Legacy, which is the alumni group of The Pittsburgh Promise. She is a committee member for Pittsburgh Cure Sarcoma, a mentor for Strong Women, Strong Girls. Her favorite pizza place in Pittsburgh is Aiello’s in Squirrel Hill.

Meghan, all smiles after earning her MPH from Pitt and standing in front of her favorite building.

Standing at the Horsetooth Mountain Reservoir in Fort Collins, Colorado after visiting CMU parents this past summer.

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