Introducing Our New Teammates: Brandon, Jye, and Sonja

We know you don’t take the whole summer off, so neither do we.

In fact, starting today, we’re onboarding three new members to Team Presence. We’ve got Jye and Sonja adding fresh perspectives as Campus Outreach Coordinators and Brandon offering even more partner support as a Happiness Ally. That’s right: It’s a triple threat welcome!

They’ve come from near (just across the road in St. Pete and Tampa) and far (Tennessee) to join us in our mission to make student affairs dreams come true. This enthusiastic trio shares our company-wide love of cute dogs and good food, plus they’re curious lifelong learners. Jye and Sonja inspire to one day earn their doctorates and Brandon is already on his way toward a master’s in urban and regional planning.

So, without further ado, let’s hear straight from these three fine folx now gracing our… well, presence.

Here are Jye, Brandon, and Sonja!

Jye, Brandon, and Sonja

From left to right: Jye Foreman (Campus Outreach Coordinator, she/her/hers); Brandon Hernandez (Happiness Ally, he/him/his); Sonja Massa (Campus Outreach Coordinator, she/her/hers)

1. What lead you to Presence?

(Responses are ordered left to right with the image above.)

Jye: As a recent graduate, I was looking for some alternatives to working in a traditional higher education setting, while still remaining connected to the work that higher ed professionals do. I discovered Presence through a Facebook group. I thought it would be such a great place to work after exploring the company’s website and social media.

Brandon: I found Presence while searching for solutions to track engagement and learning outcomes for an internship for credit program I managed. Essentially, I was also looking for a way to take the 1990s paper coordination into the 21st century through an applicant tracking system.  That’s when I stumbled onto the careers page. As a career advisor, I was always on the hunt for opportunities for my students. I read the Happiness Ally description and found myself feeling like I hit the jackpot. I’ve always wanted to try working in tech, but found it hard to transfer my passion in student affairs to the industry.

Sonja: I was looking for a unique way to make an impact in higher education/ student affairs, and this was it! I have a passion for identifying gaps in the student experience, specifically the underrepresented student. Through working at Presence, I knew I could help connect institutions to a system that not only helps identify those gap areas but also allows you to stay student-centered. I also absolutely loved the energy and passion the team had. I knew it was a place I could be my authentic self as a professional.

2. How do you see this position fitting into your future career? What benefits or experiences do you hope to gain from working at Presence?

Jye: I am thrilled to see how technology can be used to alleviate the most pressing issues in our field and to connect with professionals across the nation. I think all that Presence has to offer will make it a great first step into the world of higher ed.

Brandon: I think this position is a combination of my passions in student affairs, technology, and urban planning. On one hand, I’ll be on the front lines helping our campus partners develop data insights for their students. This allows our campus partners to educate students with informed decision-making regarding their engagement and career readiness, which has a huge impact on their local/regional workforce upon graduation.
Plus, I love technology. If I’m not on Engadget, I’ll be on TechCrunch. I’ve always considered myself tech savvy, but I’m looking forward to honing in further on those skills!

Sonja: This position will enable me to interact with student affairs through a new lens and ask all the untraditional questions. I know that, in an evergrowing field, this experience in combining tech and higher education will be useful. I also know that storytelling through data is vital in our field, and I’m really excited to help prospective clients envision new ways of data collection!

3. Where did you attend school? What was your major(s)? Were you involved with any co-curricular or extracurricular activities?

Jye: I attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga for undergrad to study early childhood education. While there, I thrived off of student involvement and served in a few capacities: Homecoming Committee, Campus Activities Board, Women Investing in Student Empowerment, and Student Alumni Council. I also interned at Chattanooga Autism Center. I attended Middle Tennessee State University to pursue a master’s in administration and supervision with a specialization in higher education. I also served as a graduate assistant for the Office of Student Organizations and Service.

Brandon: My first choice school was USF St. Petersburg. I changed my major three times but landed on interdisciplinary social sciences. (Best decision ever!) Throughout school, I worked as a career peer advisor in the USFSP Career Center. I was also involved with some of the student organizations, primarily S.E.A.S, the Student Environmental Awareness Society. Outside of school, I completed an internship with the EDGE Business District Association. It was a great way to meet the faces behind some of the best small businesses in St. Pete.

Sonja: I attended the University of South Florida for my undergraduate and graduate years. My major in undergrad was health sciences and I was on track to becoming a physical therapist. I was definitely involved! I joined my sisterhood, Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, Inc., and was very active in Greek life. I was also involved in our Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement Office. The love I had for involvement and how it shaped me as a first-generation Latina student is what led me to pursue a master’s degree in higher education.

Jye riding a camel at the Memphis Zoo, Brandon looking stylish with a friend in St. Pete, and Sonja enjoying the Cliffs of Moher during her internship abroad.

4. Why are you excited to be a part of the Presence team?

Jye: The energy from everyone during my in-person interview is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Everyone was so friendly and genuine, so I’m most excited to build collaborative relationships with and learn from my coworkers.

Brandon: What excites me the most is that I’ll be on a team of people who come from completely different backgrounds but share a common experience: Working in student affairs. Also, all the dogs that I’ll be working with too!

Sonja: I am excited to be apart of an intersection of technology and student affairs! I can’t wait to see what I will discover along the way. Most importantly, I am excited to just be a part of the community Presence has built. After my interview day, I kept referring to my experience there as a breath of fresh air. Everyone I met was so welcoming, and the energy was so high. I look forward to striving with such a passionate team!

5. What do you like to do outside of work?

Jye: I enjoy shopping for clothes (more than I should) in my spare time or relaxing at home with a face mask and Netflix. I’m excited to be living in a new city and discover all of the best breweries and vineyards as well.

Brandon: I love trying new foods. Not only because of the great eats you can find in St. Pete, but because eating food brings people together. You can also find me in the darkroom at the Morean Arts Center every now and then. I’m a part-time dog sitter but I consider it more of a hobby. Cooking is also one of my hobbies. I love introducing my friends to Ecuadorian and Cuban family recipes. Beyond those things, I enjoy listening to music scores from movies and walking by the bay.

Sonja: I love boxing and weight lifting. It’s a huge self-care and all-around fun time for me! I also enjoy being outside in nature and, recently, have begun running in nature trails. I’ve never been a runner but I’m building a love/hate relationship with it! I’m also a huge foodie and a dog mom.

6. What is something you’ve always wanted to try? What are some goals you have in the future you’d like to accomplish? Why?

Jye: Now that I’m living near the beach with beautiful weather year-round, I’d love to try parasailing and jet skiing. In the near future, I aspire to return to school to pursue a doctoral degree.

Brandon: I’ve always wanted to try 3D Printing. I find it fascinating. 
My long term goal is to work with my community to implement and enhance green spaces within urban areas. I’m pursuing my master’s in urban and regional planning and will most likely finish a few years down the road! My short-term goal is to finish a series of black and white photographs printed on postcards showcasing a variety of St. Pete spots.

Sonja: I would like to get actively involved with a non-profit and mentor youth. Mentorship is a huge value of mine and there’s so much advice I would give my younger self if I had the chance. In the future, I hope to obtain my doctorate. I’m just not sure what in yet; I’m still exploring life! I just know I want to create pathways and help people.

We’re so excited to have this tremendous trio on board Team Presence!

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Jodi Tandet

About the author: Jodi Tandet loves writing about the magic of campus life as the Lead Storyteller at Presence. She's also passionate about baking, mental health advocacy, her Presence teammates' dogs, and her ever-growing podcast collection. Learn how we can help get your students involved.

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