Roger Woolsey compares freshmen to start-ups.
They experience cognitive dissonance again. They learn to think and solve problems. They meet people from all over the world and learn to live on their own.
“It’s important for us to help accelerate or incubate a start-up and help them prepare for what’s beyond academia,” Woolsey said.
Woolsey is the new executive director of the Becker Career Center. He succeeds Robert Soules, who retired last fall.
Career guidance services are an essential component of the student experience. According to a recent study, the majority of students cite jobs and career outcomes as the main reason for going to college.
The demand for career center services has never been greater. In 2010, Becker arranged 2,038 student counseling appointments. By 2020, that number had skyrocketed to 3,154. In addition, the center typically runs 150 to 200 student appointments with alumni each year.
Woolsey wants students to realize that career counseling services are more than just a place to create or update a resume, or learn how to apply for a job. He wants career education to be a four-year endeavor, equipping students with financial literacy and other essential skills.
“We want to complement what happens in the classroom in a meaningful way through experiential learning and internships,” said Woolsey. “I want them to realize that we can help them connect with mentors within the alumni community and engage with parents in certain industries who are looking to mentor or hire interns.”
Most importantly, Woolsey aims to establish the career center as a place of empathy.
“We want to help students realize the importance of empathy,” he said. “Students who don’t know what they want to do are a prime example of empathy. We’ve all been there in our lives. What is my next career development? What do I want to do when I graduate because I have no idea? These are the students that I want to integrate into the career center as often as they want to use all our resources.
Originally from California, Woolsey has overcome significant challenges in her life.
Born with congenital cataracts, he is legally blind. Abandoned for adoption at birth, he spent his first four and a half years in foster care until he was adopted by a couple in Los Angeles. At school, officials tried to teach him to read braille. He was offered a cane and a guide dog. He resisted everything. Instead, he played football and wrote wrestling.
“My parents never raised me like I was disabled or had an eye problem,” he said.
One concession to his handicap is that he does not drive. During his visit to Schenectady, the entrepreneurial spirit he encountered while walking around the city center impressed him. He wants students to feed on this spirit.
“You go to a restaurant and you sit at the bar, you talk to developers, you talk to venture capitalists and you realize the growth of this city and the entrepreneurial spirit that prevails there,” said Woolsey. “I want to help our students be part of the change here at Schenectady, which would contribute to their resumes and their overall experience.”
Woolsey has extensive experience in higher education, having overseen career centers at Dartmouth College (2013-19) and Colby College (2008-13).
It launched a financial literacy and career preparation service in 2019, but COVID has hit, slowing business down significantly. He then spent a little over a year as executive director of the career center at Cal State San Bernardino. He was eager to return to the East when the union position opened.
“Union is a natural fit for me,” Woolsey said. “I am used to the liberal arts. This is where I belong.
“We are delighted that Roger is joining us,” said Fran’Cee Brown-McClure, Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students. “He has an energetic personality and a dynamic mind. His wealth of knowledge and experience at Dartmouth and Colby will benefit our students and alumni. We are delighted that he is part of the Union community.
Woolsey started at Union in mid-December. He follows what he calls his 1066 plan (the first 10 days, the first six weeks, and the first six months) before sharing specific ideas for the career center.
“I try to understand the culture of the campus, taking into account the perspective of my colleagues, faculty and staff,” he said. “I want to meet former students and local business leaders. I want to know the region. Then I want to start building the frameworks that I think will take us to the next level. “
Outside of the office, Woolsey loves to run. He is also a vehement reader, studying trends and changes in the labor market. He enjoys watching his 12 year old son Johnny play youth hockey.
Woolsey holds a master’s degree in marketing communications and management from Emerson College and a bachelor’s degree in communications from San Diego State University.
After working on several college campuses, Woolsey said he’s never felt more welcome than at Union.
“I want this to be the best version of my professional career,” he said.