This week for #CSAM15, the Learn Forward team took the time to talk with Cathleen Borgman, Director of the Career Planning Center at Fairfield University. We could tell it was going to be a fun interview right from the get go! Having taken somewhat of an unusual route to Student Affairs and offering some great insights for those in the profession, we likely won't be forgetting our conversation any time soon.
It’s so nice to meet you, Cathleen. Thanks for taking the time to talk with us today.
Please, call me Cath, only my mother calls me Cathleen.
Haha, okay then, Cath it is! You’ve been a higher education professional for quite some time. Can you tell us when you realized you wanted to pursue a career in higher education/student affairs?
Mine was not the typical career path into higher education/student affairs. Although my undergraduate degree was in Psychology and my last year was spent working with children with emotional and behavioral disorders, I needed to go straight to work following graduation because of the mounting debt I had accrued, so I went into sales & marketing with IBM. From there I went on to another firm selling education and training to Fortune 500 companies as a Major Account Rep. The money was great but I felt as though I was straying further from my original interest of doing something that would make a difference in someone’s life. So, one night in a hotel room while on a business trip I began combing job openings and found one for Fairfield University as the Director of Planned Giving. I applied for the position, although I knew nothing about Planned Giving, was hired and three months later was asked to be the Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations. I remained in Advancement for sixteen years before moving over to Student Affairs as the Director of the Career Planning Center.
Very interesting. How have you liked the transition to Student Affairs from Advancement?
Having the opportunity to move into Student Affairs within Career Planning has made a significant difference in my life. To know that I have made a positive impact in someone's life means the world to me. Working with students one-on-one has been by far the most rewarding experience of my professional life. While I have had several "careers" in my life, student career development is my passion. Utilizing my experiences to assist students in preparing for life after college and navigating the recruitment cycle is exciting and rewarding. Paperwork on the other hand…enough said.
Yes, paperwork is rarely a rewarding part of any job - especially student affairs! As someone quite established in her career already, where do you see yourself or hope to see yourself in the next 5-10 years?
In five years I hope to have established a Career Planning Center that everyone, regardless of their division, sees as an asset to the University and meets the needs of every one of its constituents. I want it to be innovative and attractive to students as a resource from the minute they step foot on campus so that they are truly as prepared as they can be by senior year to take the next step. In ten years I hope to be retired and reading about my replacement’s successes!
As a seasoned professional, what advice do you have for new student affairs professionals?
There is some value to understanding the lay of the land before jumping in and making mass changes no matter how anxious you are to make a name for yourself. Patience and a well thought out plan can take longer but eventually it can make a huge difference in the development of a robust program.
Great advice. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us today. We look forward to catching up again soon and hearing about the success of the Career Planning Center and eventually, your successor’s successes!
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