We recently spoke with James, a Penn State World Campus alum, who shared how earning a degree helped him advance his chosen career of community and economic development.
Degree and graduation year: Master of Professional Studies in Community and Economic Development, 2011
Current hometown: Liverpool, NY (just outside Syracuse, NY)
Current career and workplace: Executive Director, F.O.C.U.S. Greater Syracuse,
What does a typical work day look for you?
Typical work day includes internal meetings with staff and external meetings with community & economic development organization partners, board members and other community leaders. I also spend time on organizational fundraising, program development, staff development and long-term strategic planning for FOCUS.
How did you get into the field you are currently working in?
I was introduced to the field of community and economic development is a previous job as the Director of Government Relations and Business Development for a for profit company. That introduction fueled my interest in the field and lead me to Penn State World Campus and the CEDEV program. After moving from the private sector to the non-profit field 5 years ago I then became aware of this new opportunity. So, one thing leads to another…
How has Penn State World Campus impacted your career?
Without the Penn State World Campus degree, I would not be in the career I have now. It provided me with the knowledge and credentials I needed to move in to the field of community and economic development.
What were some of the challenges you faced when you were a World Campus student? How did you overcome these challenges?
Major challenge was balancing WC work load with full-time job, and family and volunteer commitments. As many WC grads face, I was earning my degree while maintaining an active work and personal life. So, I don’t think my circumstances were unique at all. I was able to overcome those challenges by staying organized and committed to the goal of earning my degree in 5 semesters. I was given great support by my wife and my past employer was also aware of, and willing, to give me support in terms of copying and computer use.
Do you stay connected with Penn State? How do you stay connected?
I am still very much connected to Penn State as I am a member of the World Campus Alumni Society Board of Trustees and an officer in my local Penn State Chapter. I am an Alumni Ambassador and I occasionally represent Penn State at Student College Fairs in Central NY.
What is some advice that you would give to current World Campus students?
Stay focused on the goal you have set. If you work on your organization skills and make your WC studies a priority in your life, you will succeed, the time will actually fly by, and you will receive great satisfaction in knowing you were able to accomplish your goal while maintaining your other work and personal commitments. Quite gratifying.