The best piece of advice alumnus Patrick Nobrega, BA ’12, ever received as a Suffolk student came from staff members who encouraged him to “get involved.”
Two words. One life changing moment.
“I owe much of what I learned about the professional world from the staff across Student Affairs,” he says. “They mentored me throughout my career at Suffolk and inspired me to step into student leadership positions.”
Nobrega shares a common thread with a number of Suffolk alumni, whose hands-on and positive experiences at the University motivated them to pursue careers working with students in the academic environment.
Among them are Samantha Hartlen, BA ’09, lead coordinator for clubs & leadership development at the University of Toronto; Aurelio Valente, MEd ’99, vice president for student affairs at Governors State University; and Elizabeth Cogliano Young, Med ’94, associate dean of advising and new student programming at MIT.
Today, Nobrega is an international student adviser in the Center for International Students and Scholars at Bentley University.
Nobrega: Study abroad leads to career
“My experiences at Suffolk, including the opportunity to study abroad, ultimately led me to pursue international education as a career,” he says. “Those experiences helped me form leadership and intercultural competencies that I use every day in my current job.”
Participating in everything from student leadership and involvement to orientation and new student programs at Suffolk, Nobrega gained experiences that he would find beneficial later on, such collaborating with co-workers, managing staff, and conflict resolution.
As a student leader, he also learned about the transformative quality of mentorship from faculty and staff. This was a valuable lesson, he says, “that inspired me to work in higher education and become a mentor for students myself.”
Hartlen: “The gateway to my future”
Hartlen, now working with student clubs and leadership at the University of Toronto, looks back fondly on her days at Suffolk, where she was a teaching assistant, orientation leader, and actively involved with the Performing Arts Office.
“Becoming an orientation leader allowed me to support and reassure students in their transition from uncertainty to comfort, and it changed my life,” she says. “This experience was the gateway to my future.”
Hartlen believes that her student involvement at Suffolk was instrumental in her pursuing a career dedicated to creating a challenging and supportive environment for all students.
“It was not only the enjoyment and overarching experience, but also the small skills I built that prepared me for my career,” she says.
Whether it was aiding new students with their transition into college or helping diverse students find their niche, Hartlen found it incredibly rewarding to connect with and assist her Suffolk peers.
“My passion for serving students was the driving force in my desire for a career in higher education,” she says.
Valente: Transforming a commuter campus
The same could be said for Valente, who shortly after graduating from Suffolk found himself working at his alma mater as associate director of Student Activities.
“The combination of an innovative workplace, a motivated and eager student body, a collaborative faculty and a global city made working at Suffolk an exciting experience every day,” he says.
Governors State University hired Valente to help transform the Chicago suburban university from an upper-division commuter institution to a four-year residential campus, largely based on his past knowledge.
“Being part of Suffolk’s growth to a residential campus helped prepare me for the experience,” he says.
Valente credited Suffolk’s longtime Dean of Students Nancy Stoll, who recently retired, with showing him the ropes.
“I learned not only how to lead a division, but also how to position the Division of Student Affairs as a significant contributor to the mission of the institution,” he says. “Without her mentorship, I would absolutely not be here today.”
Young: Lessons in patience and flexibility
Young remembers working as an office assistant in the Suffolk Law School alumni office as part of a higher education practicum course that required 300 hours learning about life in the real world of academia.
“The experience of working there allowed me to observe how staff, faculty, and students interacted with each other,” she recalls. “Being patient and having flexibility working with students were two skills I learned that would come in handy.”
As MIT’s associate dean of advising and new student programming, Young is responsible for overseeing the advising program for incoming students, training upper-class students to act as orientation leaders and academic peer mentors, and faculty engagement programming.
When faced with a challenging situation, Young recalls words of advice from Barbara Feinman, one of her Suffolk professors and advisers, who remains a mentor today.
“She let us know that no question was ridiculous and that we should question everything – even outside of the classroom,” she says. “I have been doing that ever since.”
Young’s learning/working experience while at Suffolk has come full circle because MIT is now a host site for Suffolk higher education graduate students’ practicum course work.
“It’s a very positive partnership,” she says. “Over time, we have even hired some of the Suffolk students to work here full time.”