My Experience as an SBDC Graduate Assistant

by Cara Mia Manzella

Excitement, nervousness, and anticipation …. these were all feelings I experienced learning I had received the opportunity to be a Duquesne University graduate assistant. Although I am always up for a challenge, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t daunted by the thought of working 300 hours a semester, while in a specialized, accelerated MBA program, amid adapting to a hybrid learning environment due to the pandemic. Thankfully, my fears were quickly replaced with enthusiasm hearing I was assigned to work with Duquesne’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC).

The SBDC is an agency offering no-cost consulting and training services to entrepreneurs and start-up businesses, giving them the resources and tools necessary to develop and prosper. Having a natural entrepreneurial spirit, I felt I had found the most ideal place to be a graduate assistant, as giving someone the support necessary to let their business take off can be one of the most fulfilling feelings. Further to my delight, the team at Duquesne’s SBDC was so warm and welcoming, truly making every hour I worked an enjoyable experience.

Typically, my work involves conducting research enabling clients to utilize data to guide decision making and strategy development, supporting the SBDC marketing team, and analyzing industry trends and competitive landscapes… but the beautiful thing is no day or task is ever the same. Due to this, I have been given the opportunity to constantly learn and expand my knowledge-base, making this a truly invaluable experience. Although at times juggling my course work and graduate assistantship hasn’t been easy, it was one of the biggest blessings and rewarding experiences of my academic career.

The best way to grow is to face your fears, take risks, and be comfortable walking into the unknown. I will never forget this lesson, as it will make me a better and stronger person as I venture into the workforce full-time.