Spotlight – Marianna Savoca, Stony Brook University – SUNY
Director of the Career Center, Stony Brook University – SUNY
Marianna earned a Bachelor of Science from SUNY Binghamton, a Master of Science from Indiana University and is pursuing a PhD at Colorado State University. She has been with Stony Brook University for 17 years and in her current role for 13 years.
What was your career path to get your current role? After a variety of part time jobs in the corporate sector during college, my higher education career began in advancement & alumni relations. I moved into career development after earning my master’s degree, landing at a small private women’s college when CDC and then Internship Office were merged. It was an exciting way to begin my new career. A couple of years later my mentor from Indiana invited me to Stony Brook, where I started as Employer Relations Manager, progressed to Associate Director, and finally director, a position I have held since late 2000.
What was your first job? My very first paycheck came with my teenage working papers. I was a part time sales associate for a NYC museum gift shop. Fascinating learning experience – not just selling funky jewelry!
Why did you choose this career? Like many first-generation college students, I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing in college aside from going to class and studying. I fell into career development via the Federal Work Study program. I worked at the Career Development Center for four years and along the way did an internship as an academic peer advisor and became an RA. Experience helped me discover my calling!
What is the skill that is most important in your current role? That’s a toughie. There are so many. Most important? Communication. First listening – to clients, employers, my staff, my VP, administrators, faculty, and alumni. And the companion ability to reflect verbally and in writing my understanding of what I’m hearing while communicating my views / needs / concerns, etc.
How did you develop this skill and how do you fine-tune it regularly? The counseling background comes in handy, and beyond that, a sincere desire to understand and take the other perspective. Listening from the other’s point of view. Sometimes we get so busy we forget to listen carefully; that can lead to stupid mistakes, damage relationships and violate trust.
Did you have a mentor? I have had several mentors in my career. My first career development mentor was Tim Luzader, whom I worked for at Indiana, and who brought me to Stony Brook. Tim is an amazing role model – many in our profession know him and would agree. He gave me opportunities to stretch myself, work on important projects, and gain visibility on and off campus. Even though we no longer work together, Tim is still my mentor and a close friend. I am also incredibly lucky to have Dr. Rich Feller of Colorado State University as my academic mentor and dissertation advisor. With his help, and God’s, I hope to complete in 2015.
Did you hold any EACE leadership roles? I have worked on committees, chaired committees, and served a two-year term on the Board. EACE gave me opportunities to meet amazing professionals, build strong collegial relationships, do good work, get great ideas, and develop myself. I’ve also served on NACE committees, and currently chair the professional development committee of NSEE – the National Society for Experiential Education. It’s important to me to give back to the profession and pay it forward when I can.
What is your biggest career accomplishment? Another toughie because I don’t think I’ve done anything all that BIG. I am proud of the team I’ve built at Stony Brook over the last 13 years, and I’m proud of the reputation we’ve developed for excellence – among varied and ever-changing stakeholders including students, employers, administrators, faculty, and professional colleagues.
What is your advice to students looking for their first job? Do your research. Network. Over-prepare. Apply, apply, apply.
What is your advice to young professionals in the field who aspire to your current role? Be prepared for continuous learning, constant change and late nights. Totally worth it!
What was the best career advice you have ever received? Learn how to manage up.
What would you like colleagues to know about your organization? Stony Brook is an amazing institution – young in comparison to some of our benchmark research peers. Incredibly diverse and talented student body. The Career Center is well-known for excellent work, innovation, and client-focus. We work hard and have fun!
Marianna not only visited, but she worked in her career center while in college.