1. Describe your role as Assistant Vice President for Career and Personal Development at Golisano Institute.
I have an exciting role that includes the academic side of our operation as well as our administrative side. A significant part of my role is developing the curriculum for, as well as teaching, our career development courses. Students at Golisano Institute are required to take career development courses in addition to courses in business and entrepreneurship, which is unique to our program. At a typical college or university, career services are often on the side. Students will come and see career services when and if they feel like they should, and oftentimes later than recommended. Here, we introduce career development courses as early as the first quarter.
On the administrative side, I’m thinking about how we are preparing students to be business world-ready and to be prepared for any one of the three pathways that we have: continuing education, employment, or launching a business. It’s making sure we, as an institution, are creating opportunities for experiential learning and recruitment for employment, putting the resources and systems in place to support those operations, and looking at the data surrounding student outcomes.
2. Where did you get your spark for working in education and the career preparation space? How has it evolved over the years?
I always knew I wanted a career in education. I studied chemistry in college, and my goal was to become a college professor because I loved my professors. I learned so much from them, and I just had a tremendous respect for them. Fast forward a few years, and I was teaching in K through 12, working with high school students. A lot of juniors and seniors were thinking about what they wanted to do after high school, and I enjoyed playing an active role in those conversations. We’d talk about what was next for them and what they were thinking about when it came to continuing their education and career pursuits. That lit a spark in me.
I made the move from teaching to working in higher education admissions because I wanted to continue helping juniors and seniors think about what was next for them. Eventually, I moved to career services and was driven by the fact that my own career path wavered. I was one of those students who didn’t know how to take advantage of carer services in college and didn’t know how valuable that help would have been when it came to navigating decisions. I wanted to change that for others.
3. Having worked in admissions and the career services space, what are some of the unique challenges you think that students face today, specifically in business and entrepreneurship?
One of the biggest challenges that students face is the pace at which the workforce and workforce needs are changing. The rate at which technologies are advancing is unprecedented. Right now, the big topic is Artificial Intelligence. So, what happens when that disrupts the workforce? There are specific jobs that are going to be nonexistent in a short amount of time. On the flip side, there will be new jobs created that we’ve never seen. So, how do students navigate that change in a way that they can respond to it as quickly as those changes are happening? Our students must be adaptable, resilient, and able to navigate change. They need to be ready to pivot and open to continually learning throughout their career. At Golisano Institute, we’re mindful of this as we prepare students to think about their career paths, even building their own businesses. We’re preparing them to ensure that their business or career is resilient and adaptable.
4. What’s your favorite aspect of teaching at Golisano Institute, and what can students expect from you as a faculty member?
The best part about teaching here is the students. They’re all unique in their own ways and challenge me every day in terms of how I think about things. Our teaching model emphasizes active and applied learning, so whenever I’m designing and developing lesson plans, it’s focused on how I create activities for students to start working on something immediately when they get into the classroom rather than listening to me lecture. That’s the beauty of the Golisano Institute curriculum and educational philosophy – everything students learn must be applied, and it’s all integrated with their other courses. So, what they’re learning in Business Math is connected to entrepreneurship courses and so on. I had a student say to me once, “I can’t pinpoint exactly where I learned this concept because I’ve heard it in multiple places, in multiple courses.” That is so powerful and makes for a much richer learning experience. We’re not just covering the theoretical; we’re engaging with content that is immediately relevant and applicable to students’ lives. So, students can expect to get hands-on in my classroom, whether working independently or in a group.
5. As a Rochester resident, what do you think makes our location unique?
I love this question! I was born and raised in Rochester, though I left for several years to live down South. Part of my decision to return was family, but it was also because I love Rochester. It has so much to offer as a mid-sized city. What’s so great about the location of the Golisano Institute is how baked in innovation is to our historical roots. If you look at the companies that have come up through Rochester, you’re talking about some of the biggest names—the Kodaks and Xeroxes (and Paychex!) of the world. We also have a high percentage of small businesses in our city, so the environment is perfect for those who want to be surrounded by innovators and entrepreneurs.
6. In all your years working with students, what overarching lesson or message do you hope your students take away from their interactions with you?
Everyone’s going to have a different pathway to their goals, and they’re going to be on different timelines along those pathways. Your own unique journey starts wherever you are, and there are tools and resources to help you. It makes me think about the Life Design framework we teach in career development courses. The phrase “design your life” means developing and building a life in which you ultimately will find satisfaction, meaning, happiness, and success for yourself. So, start wherever you are. Whatever’s happened in the past, no matter where you’ve been or where you are, you can always start where you are today. You can make decisions, and you can use the tools that you’re being given to help yourself create the future that you want.
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"The opportunity is out there. You just have to find it."
Tom Golisano, Founder