Spotlight – Nancy Dudak, Villanova University
Director of the Career Center, Villanova University
Nancy has a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Science in Elementary Education from Buffalo State College. Nancy also received her MS Ed in Student Personnel Administration from Buffalo State College. Nancy has been with Villanova University in her current role for 25 years.
What was your career path to get your current role? Elementary School Teacher, HR Manager for Sattler’s Department Store in Buffalo, NY Director, Career Planning & Placement at Ithaca College
What was your first job? Holiday gift wrap in a men’s clothing store.
Why did you choose this career? I was working in retail and realized that I missed working with students, but that it wouldn’t be with the younger ones anymore. I returned to grad school for the Student Personnel degree and it was there that it all came together. I did my practicum in the Career Development Center at Buffalo State and was mentored by two fabulous women – Cecile Biltekoff and Stephanie Zuckerman-Aviles. I love the variety of tasks and opportunities in my job and feel like my work makes a difference.
What is the skill that is most important in your current role? Managing the different personalities I encounter on a daily basis. Who responds best to data? Who requires some stroking? Who needs to be calmed down? Where do I need to be assertive, collaborative, humorous, etc?
How did you develop this skill and how do you fine-tune it regularly? My counselor education taught me to listen and observe. My retail experience balanced my softer side with a thicker skin.
Did you have a mentor? If so, how did that mentor help in your career development?: I’m very lucky in that I have had wonderful mentors and supervisors. Stephanie and Cecile taught about this profession and how to navigate the culture of higher education. Bill Alberta from Cornell University brought me into EACE (then MAPA), included me on committees and ultimately guided me onto the Board. My supervisors in the department store showed me how to maintain balance in my life and to keep a sense of humor when things get crazy. I think of all these people regularly and draw upon my experiences when I’m called to make decisions or deal with work situations.
Did you hold any EACE leadership roles? If so, how have they helped in your career? I’ve been there, done that 🙂 I’ve been on numerous committees, served as conference chair, Professional Development Director, President-Elect, President and Past President. I’ve enjoyed most the work around professional development. I’ve helped plan the annual conference, support staff workshops, and summer institutes when we had them. The biggest benefit to my work with EACE has been the colleagues I’ve met. Some have become close personal friends and others are wonderful to catch up with at conferences. We all help each other with benchmarking best practices.
What is your biggest career accomplishment? Being selected for the Fulbright US Administrators Seminar in Germany in 2009. The opportunity to share experiences with colleagues in Germany was amazing.
What is your advice to students looking for their first job? Use multiple strategies! Yes, the hiring process is managed electronically, but it needs to be balanced with face time. Do whatever you can to get yourself in front of the decision makers. Attend events, do information interviews, and don’t forget to send thank you notes.
What is your advice to young professionals in the field who aspire to your current role? My graduate school professor used to say “the cream always rises” meaning that opportunities will find you if you are good at what you do. Do what you can to expand your network outside of your current employer. Social media has made that easy, in that you don’t need expensive professional development events to reach an audience.
What was the best career advice you have ever received? This might seem silly, but I attended a NASPA conference while I was in graduate school. It was very intense trying to get to all the sessions and I wanted to bring value back to my office. I was introduced to Bobbie Friedman from SUNY Binghamton and we talked about this over lunch. She recommended that I step outside the conference hotel for a little while every day. She said not to feel guilty about leaving for 30 minutes or so and to use the time to collect my thoughts or just recharge. I have done this at every conference I’ve attended in the past 25 years, and I pass this advice along to new professionals all the time.
What would you like colleagues to know about your organization? While I have had bad days, I have never hated my job or wished I worked somewhere else. Villanova has a culture of community where we all work to create a meaningful student experience. As colleagues, we may not always agree with each other but we’ll always listen.