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Cassandra scalon

Program Coordinator for the Office of New Student Programs at Rutgers University-Camden, New Jersey


How long have you been a Program Coordinator?

8 months.

What is the larger field or industry or line of work in which your job fits?

Higher Education.

What does your work entail?

I facilitate programs that help new students utilize University tools and resources to be successful. More specifically, I spend a great deal of time helping students with their placement testing, as well as assigning and overseeing their orientation program. While there are many other programs my office does, I think what’s most important is our policy to act as an unofficial hub of information for all new students. No matter what the problem, we’ll work it out together.

What skills have you acquired through your profession?

Since starting this position I have seen my Microsoft Excel skills certainly increase as I need to use it every day and constantly face new challenges. I help manage our student workers and delegate tasks to our orientation leaders. I have always been good with multi-tasking, but with an open door policy- and my belief in always being available to students- this has certainly reached a new level. I have also learned about the CAS Professional Standards for Higher Education and how to follow and communicate the FERPA laws that may prohibit me from talking about a student’s information with anyone but the student themselves.

What does a typical day at work look like?

It depends on the time of year! Right now, in December as the fall semester is winding down, I am prepping for Spring orientation. My morning is absorbed with scheduling newly admitted students for their orientation dates, distributing information about their orientation to them, and notifying them if they are required to take any placement testing. I also check to see which students have completed their placement exams. In between spreadsheets and charts, I am available by phone, email, and office hours for any student with a question to reach out to me. Since spring orientation dates are coming up, a lot of my day is spent making sure we have everything we need to make sure these programs run smoothly as well.

What are some of the skills that you learned through the study of English at Stony Brook? Do you find that you are able to employ the skills that you learned under the department in your job or day to day life?

After taking Honors Seminar courses and completing my senior Honors thesis project, I tend to approach problems from a research stand point. I craft my responses and solutions. I am, of course, a proofreader but I am also a content creator.

In your opinion, what is paramount about an English education? In other words, what makes an English education unique, and why is this important?

There is something inherently brave about choosing to pursue an English education.We are expected to be teachers or professors because as we are so in love with the written word, how could it ever be possible for us to stray from it? No one asks what makes us love it, what motivates us to dedicate ourselves to tomes. This is what makes an English education unique, the widespread assumption that it is an easy and direct path- it isn’t.

There is no clear trajectory because the skills you learn with an English education are too far-reaching. You are brave for choosing your passion in the face of assumption and unclear prospects. You are well spoken because you know the weight of words, but even more you know what it means to listen. You can write and communicate messages and ideas concisely, a skill you will not fully understand you have until you go out into the world and work with others who did not have these abilities fostered or encouraged. You know constructive criticism, how to give it and receive it. You understand that people are not flat surfaces, there is depth to every human being and every situation. You are brave, passionate, creative, as well as a capital communicator, a team player, a commander of constructive criticism, a ruler of researching, and someone with the distinct gift of empathy long before you ever cross a stage to accept a piece of paper that concludes your education. It’s important that there always be more of that, more of all of you.

What was your favorite aspect of studying at Stony Brook? Did you have a favorite subject, or text?

Becoming part of the English Honors Program completely changed my experience at Stony Brook. I was already happy to have switched from Computer Science to English, but joining the Honors Program challenged me in a new and exciting way. In one course taught by Professors Elyse Graham and Michael Rubenstein called “Digitial Media and the Meaning of James Joyce’s Ulysses,” I learned what the Digital Humanities are, that it was possible to marry my passion for Computer Science and Literature all while experiencing Ulysses for the first time. Professor Jeffrey Santa Ana taught a course on climate change literature that I was deeply affected by. I still talk about it and think about in my day to day life.

By far though, the opportunity to choose a subject and work on it for me thesis was one of the most brilliant and maddening experiences of my life. I adored watching my collection of books from the library grow taller, and I certainly loved that I was able to dedicate so much of my time and thoughts to a topic that I cared about. The most rewarding part, however, was that I completed a challenge I never thought I could. Professor Robert Kaplan, my thesis advisor, supported and believed in me and while I wish I could keep working on it forever I am so grateful that I had the opportunity.

What is the most frustrating or challenging part of your job?

The most challenging part of my job is trying to make sure that I am helping to create the best experience possible for incoming new students. This might sound silly, but different students have different needs or wants.We are constantly adjusting to make sure that while new students are happy, they are also provided all the tools they need to succeed.

What is the most satisfying or rewarding part of your job?

I applied to Rutgers University-Camden for a variety of reasons, one of which is that it was named a Purple Heart University and it always rated highly on lists of best colleges for veterans. This was important to me because I was a transfer and a non-traditional student, seeing these rankings meant that this campus cared about their students. Since starting my job, I have made an effort to build a relationship with the Office of Military Affairs not just because their Director Fred David is so dedicated to his students and dazzling to talk to, but because I wanted to be sure I could help every student equally.

For Stony Brook students interested in your line of work, what is your advice for what they should study or do at this point in their education?

I cannot recommend enough that students utilize the Career Center resources available to them on campus. Working with them, I got to know how much joy it brings me to work with students in Higher Education.

What would you look for if you were in the position to hire new graduates from Stony Brook?

I look for experience and motivation. I need to know what jobs they’ve worked before or what projects they’ve worked on. Everything you do in college usually relays some type of transferable skill. I also need to know their motivation, what makes them want to work in Higher Education? What makes them want to work specifically for Rutgers?

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