Gina Chase is the Interim Director of Career and Academic Services at SUNY Broome Community College and recipient of the 2020 Greater Binghamton Education Outreach Program HYPE award in the category of Education and Training.
We talked with Gina about how she started at SUNY Broome, her hopes for the future, and winning the HYPE Award for young professionals who are making a positive change in the Greater Binghamton community.
Tell us a little about what you do at SUNY Broome and what you are focusing on right now?
As the Interim Director of Career and Academic Services, I provide leadership to the Career and Transfer services department, the academic advising department, the academic coaching network, and our retention efforts. The big focus now is to amplify our efforts to help students on their path to success.
You were nominated for a HYPE award; tell us a little about what that means.
HYPE isn’t an acronym for anything, I’ve been asked that question before. The HYPE award is an award through GBEOP, which is the Greater Binghamton Education Outreach Program, an arm of the Binghamton Chamber of Commerce. And the HYPE award is an award that recognizes young professionals in the area and different industry sectors.
I was nominated by two people, a colleague at BOCES that I worked with to develop the SPARK event and by Dr. Penny Haynes, Vice President for Academic Affairs at SUNY Broome.
Talk a little about your professional history and how that led to you winning this award?
I’ve always worked in Higher Education. After I graduated from Binghamton University from the Student Affairs program in 2010, my first professional gig was at SUNY Oswego in Residence Life and Housing. After that, I moved back to the Binghamton area, I’m originally from the Binghamton area, and I started at SUNY Broome on a very much part-time basis working with the FastForward Program. That was when I had my first daughter, so the part-time job was a nice way to ease back into things. A short while later, the college began preparing to open the Applied Learning and Career Center. I was asked to step in and help out with some of the duties like planning the job fair and things like that. I was also working part-time with the FastForward program and that experience helped to develop a connection to the K-12 system. Then over time, my position evolved into a more permanent full-time job in the Career Center.
One of my favorite things about that journey and working in the Career Center was that I got involved with many different workgroups and committees in the community. Working with various committees like the Binghamton Chamber of Commerce, the Department of Labor, and Broome-Tioga BOCES Those connections are where the idea for the SPARK event began.
What is the SPARK event, and how did the SPARK event get started?
The SPARK event brought over 2,000 eighth-grade students, area teachers, industry partners, and BT BOCES teachers, and SUNY Broome faculty to campus. We all worked together to bring an immersive career exploration experience to these students in our region to learn about different career paths they might not otherwise be exposed to.
The idea for SPARK began with Danielle Britton, who worked at BOCES at the time and is now head of our Workforce Development. Danielle was the lead, and it was her, myself, and Matt Sheean from BOCES on the steering committee, and that’s where we started talking about how to make this event happen. Originally they wanted to have this event in a hotel downtown, and that’s when I said, “Why don’t we host it at SUNY Broome?” As soon as I said it, I thought to myself; this would be a fantastic opportunity; we have always wanted to have an event like this.
The SPARK event was such a large-scale collaborative event it took over a year of planning, and thousands of people were involved and impacted. I’m so proud of this event and our involvement and strengthening the relationship with the Chamber and GBEOP, and I’d say this experience was the highlight of my career at SUNY Broome.
Did you always know you wanted to work in Higher Education?
I had no idea what I wanted to do. I was the kid who knew they wanted to go to college, and I was packed and ready to go the week after my high school graduation, but I had no idea what I wanted to do. My major as an undergrad was economics, and I might as well have picked it out of a hat, and then after experiencing it, I realized that this major was not for me; I didn’t know what I would do with a degree in economics.
So, I decided to seek help from a career counselor on campus. It was through an opportunity in the career counseling center on campus that I was able to work as a peer advisor and this is where I realized that’s what I wanted to do. I found out I really enjoyed advising and helping students. So, it was really through the support of a career counselor and the experience that applied learning experience that I participated in that was the driving force behind me ultimately landing in higher ed.
Did winning this award open any connections between SUNY Broome, your department and the Chamber of Commerce?
I would say that the preexisting relationships we had with the community have definitely been strengthened and that it has opened doors for other opportunities to collaborate. We are looking forward to collaborating again for the next SPARK event when it is safe to do so.
What are working on for the future?
My hope for Career and Academic Services and the departments I oversee is to amplify and strengthen the way we support students and how we can meet student’s needs to ensure their experience is the best one that it can be. We want to empower our teams and students to guide them on their path to success.
I am also looking forward to continuing to strengthen our partnerships with community partners and stakeholders across the area.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Although it is a defining moment in my career, the HYPE award is really all about the teams – SPARK Would have never happened without the dedication of all the groups involved, the campus-wide support, and their willingness to do something that they’ve never done before. It’s about meeting a need in this area and we did that together.
Interested in Career Explorations and Planning, Transfer Planning, or Career Readiness & Professional Skill Development? Click here to learn more about the Career and Transfer Services Department and how they can help you get career-ready!