In a new one-credit course offered during the JTerm, students had a chance to shadow successful alumni and community business leaders in their professional settings.
Meaghan Haugh

Jessica Boccanfuso ’12 shadows Dana Lopes ’97, assistant director of Student Support Services at Rider University.

With almost one month off between the fall and spring semesters, Rider students have a chance to catch up with friends and sleep, and even make some extra cash. The winter break also affords students the opportunity to study abroad, take a class and gain professional experience.

Through IND 350: The Shadow Experience, a new one-credit course offered during the JTerm, from January 3 through January 20, 16 students partnered with successful alumni and community business leaders in the field. Offered by the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the elective course was open to students from all majors.

The Shadow Experience emerged from discussions between Dr. Jonathan Millen, associate dean for the Liberal Arts, and Terri Marriott ’03, M.A. ’09, senior academic coordinator for Liberal Arts and Sciences, who wanted to create a program that connects student learning in the classroom to the professional environment.

As part of the course, students selected a professional to shadow from a list of participating Rider Alumni. They were then required to take a three-hour pre-experience seminar online, log 20-25 hours of shadowing, keep a journal and attend a three-hour post-experience seminar.

Through The Shadow Experience, Rider students were able to develop meaningful mentoring relationships, connect classroom curriculum to applied practice, explore career possibilities and observe the daily realities of the working environment.

“What we are hoping is that the students will develop a real mentor relationship,” Marriott explained. “One that will provide them with an opportunity to network professionally and have an additional avenue for career exploration and development.”

At the same time, participating alumni were able to become engaged in the education of today’s students and maintain their connection to the Rider community.

“The shadowing program is a good way for the alumni to stay connected to the institution,” Millen said. “We’re responding to their feedback, finding more ways for them to give back.”

Millen and Marriott worked with Natalie Pollard ’93, M.A. ’98, director of Alumni Relations, to reach out to alumni through e-mail communications in the fall. In less than 48 hours, about 70 alumni and community members had responded to the e-mail expressing their interest in participating in the program.

“Being able to partner with the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences and our alumni on a program that benefits our current students is a win-win situation for all involved,” Pollard explained. “In a very competitive job market, it’s so important for our students to have the opportunity to gain meaningful, job-related experience prior to graduation. Our alumni are helping to support and promote this transition from education to the world of work through instruction and guidance.”

When Karissa Kozlak M.A. ’11 received the e-mail, she knew she had to sign up because of the mentoring she received as a student in Rider’s Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership program.

“I thought it would be great way to give back to Rider,” said Kozlak, nighttime assistant manager of the Brower Student Center at The College of New Jersey. “I’m a big believer in the mentor and mentee relationship.”

Kozlak mentored Cynthia Reyes ’12, a Journalism major, who is interested in pursuing a career in athletic training in higher education, and ultimately work for the NFL as a trainer. While shadowing Kozlak, Reyes helped write out contracts and train student workers, and attended meetings at TCNJ. Kozlak also arranged a meeting for Reyes to meet with David Ilaria, facilities coordinator, and Megan Guicheteau, head athletic trainer at TCNJ.

Reyes said the experience enabled her to see all aspects of higher education and reaffirmed her career goal. She made plans to work with Rider’s athletic trainers during the spring semester and began applying to graduate schools.

“I think that more people should sign up,” said Reyes about the Shadow Experience. “It’s a great way to spend your winter breaks instead of staying in your PJs. You could find your true calling.”

The School of Liberal Arts and Sciences expects to offer the Shadow Experience in the future.

“I’m getting tremendous feedback from student participants, who get to make connections between learning in the classroom and shadowing in a professional environment,” Marriott said.

The rest of the student and professional participants included:

Evan Bills ’12, an English major, and Megan Ptaszenski ’10, manager of special events for the American Cancer Society’s office in North Brunswick, N.J.;

Jessica Boccanfuso ’12, an Elementary Education and Psychology dual major, and Dana Lopes ’97, assistant director of Student Support Services at Rider University;

Alonie Choice ’13, a Spanish and French dual major, and Virginio Cavalli ’92, vice president of Business Development of Bankrate, Inc.;

Darren Durant ’13, an Accounting major, and Robert Paz ’81, managing director of Sax, Macy Fromm & Co.;

Cara Fiori ’13, a Marketing major, and Kathleen Fitzpatrick ’87, director of Human Resources at Johnson & Johnson;

Frank Garvey ’13, a Global Supply Chain Management major, and Lauren Deane ’07, senior supply chain planner at Johnson & Johnson;

Lisa Henderson ’12, a Journalism major, and Rob Reifenheiser ’91, executive vice president and  managing director of MediaVest;

Kristin Lopez ’13, an Entrepreneurial Studies and Management dual major, and Brandon Weinberg ’97, sales manager of Bankers Life & Casualty;

Stephanie Maestri ’12, an Elementary Education and Psychology dual major, and Sara Bosma ’10, lead preschool teacher at Catholic Youth Organization of Mercer County;

Jennifer Moscatelli ’13, a Public Relations major, and Jeanette Iverson Rattle, JEVS Human Services;

Chris Pierfy ’12, a Management major, and Teresa Spurrier, Bernhard Tax Service, LLC.;

Nicole Randazzo ’12, a Marketing and Advertising dual major, and Teresa Kane ’93, project manager of AT&T International;

Nikhil Sudhakar ’12, a Finance major, and Harold Laudien ’03, president & chief executive officer of Mercer Wealth Management;

Cassidy Troxell ’13, an Accounting and Finance dual major, and Cory Weiser ’02, financial advisor of Metlife;

Amanda Young ’13, a Marine Science major, and Jodi McDonald ’96, Project Management Operations Division of Army Core of Engineers