Sue Valerio Sladen
She hit the ground running during her first semester as a Bear and quickly experienced the benefits of a small, friendly campus.
It was great to see the campus come alive with students, faculty, and staff in the fall. I was surprised at how quickly I started to recognize faces, which I think is one of the great advantages of being on a small campus and being able to share a friendly hello and get to know people just by taking a walk on campus. The CPD staff set out to get to know first-year students by visiting classes. We got a feel for the new class that joined us this fall and that helped us understand what they’re dreaming about and what they hope to accomplish at Ursinus. We use that as inspiration so we can be purposeful about our planning for those students.
She credits her graduate experience with helping her realize her own career path.
I received my master’s degree at Northeastern University, and that’s where I gained a deep appreciation for experiential learning—and its impact on a student—firsthand. I always knew I wanted to work in higher education, but it was through experiential learning opportunities that I realized I wanted to work in career development. Without those experiences, I likely would have graduated without really having an idea of where in higher ed I wanted to concentrate.
Sure, the Experiential Learning Project (XLP) is fantastic, but it’s what happens afterwards that really packs a punch.
One thing I’m trying to emphasize is the reflection component. When you look at an experiential learning cycle, you need to prepare students for the experience, then they have the experience itself, but the reflection—having a student really think about how that learning has impacted not just their future plans, but also their future academic course selection—is really where the growth opportunity lies for students. They can not only identify areas of development that they should focus on for the future, but also experience an affirmation of, ‘Oh wow, I can do this. I have this skill. I went and did it.’ That’s really great for their self-knowledge in terms of where their strengths are.
Collaborations with faculty are incredibly important in helping to connect CPD with students.
CPD has a really strong history of having great partnerships with faculty. We are very fortunate that the faculty see the value in what we do to support students, not just in finding a job, but in contributing to their learning while they’re here on campus. Faculty welcome us into their first-year classes and then invite us back into their senior classes in the spring. We also help students explore the four questions outside of the classroom. A question such as ‘What matters to me?’ is vital in thinking about your career choice.
Many students think her office can help only with jobs, but she wants them to know that CPD assists with much more, such as identifying a major and applying to graduate school.
We don’t want students thinking that CPD is a place for only seniors, but a place where they can start going right from the very beginning. They should engage with us early and often, even for major exploration. We don’t expect students to arrive to CPD with all the answers. If a student makes an appointment, and they select job search, it’s likely that we are going to have one or two appointments before we even talk about job search. We’re going to talk about their interests, skills, and values, and do some self-exploration.
Helping students get into graduate school is another huge part of what we do. We help with every part of the process, starting in the junior year. We coach them on how to identify colleges that are a good fit for them. We have a lot of great data on where Ursinus students have gone in the past, which is good insight and gets students thinking about their marketability and the desirability of the Ursinus undergraduate degree. Then we help with the application process, the personal statement for the application, and their resume. If the program requires an interview, we prep them for that as well.
On campus, her favorite spot is the Berman Museum. Off campus, the Evansburg native and avid hiker finds joy at area parks.
I enjoy the five-mile Skippack Creek Loop Trail in Evansburg State Park. When I have more time, I will drive out to Green Lane Park and sit in a chair near the lake to watch the sun come down at the end of the day. I just really love being outside.
What she loves most about her job is helping people become more than they thought they could.
I love giving people the space to find where they fit in the world. We’re all so different and unique, with different backgrounds, skills, and gifts. I love being able to sit with a student and give them the space to really think about what’s unique about them, and then give them the tools to realize that there’s a place for them in this world where they can add meaning. I love seeing that lightbulb go off when a student realizes, ‘Oh, this is not just something I dream about. This is something I can envision for myself and turn into a reality.’