Gatepost Interview: Felicia Riffelmacher, Director of Development

Corey McFeeley / THE GATEPOST

What is your educational and professional background?

 I was a late bloomer, which is why I love this University. I was able to go into a community college in later years. I started in Job Corps and I worked for Amtrak for 10 years as a car attendant, and I was a waitress. Then, I worked for Verizon as a call center rep, and while I was there, they paid for my education. I got my bachelor’s from Becker College, and I got my MBA from Suffolk University. When I got out of grad school, I started working in nonprofits. MBAs have a reputation for being a little money-hungry, so when I was in grad school, people kind of turned their noses up at nonprofit. But when I got out, I realized I could do anything I wanted to do. What I wanted to do was something that was meaningful to me, and I brought some type of service to others, and so I found my way into community-based organizations, and then I started adjunct teaching. I taught nine years [as an adjunct] and I realized I had this love of fundraising and higher education, and then that’s how I ended up here. I worked at Anna Maria College and Clark University – and now I’m here. 

What kind of work do you do at FSU?

I’m the director of development and I do a lot of different things, but my main charge is to help the department raise funds so that students like yourselves will have programs and tuition support, and there are so many funds that we have. If you have a passion, there is a fund here to fund it, so if you like athletics, if you are into the sciences, if you are into the humanities, there are just so many ways that people can support. I usually go out and I speak to alumni, and I get them to rekindle their thoughts of FSU – or their Framingham College – days and find out what they are doing. We want to stay connected with them – try to find meaningful engagement, so they can come back and mentor you guys. And then ultimately, we hope they see the value in that andthat they become donors.

What is your favorite thing about FSU?

I love the diversity. Coming from a background where you know there wasn’t a lot of opportunity for people who grew up economically like I did to have opportunities for higher education – that’s why I went to Job Corps. I just love that there is so much diversity here. I love that the staff and faculty all the way up to the president … are so committed to students and not just their education, but their needs. … When I was interviewing with President Cevallos at my second interview, I said, “Well, what do you want me to raise money for?” And he said, “I have students here who are food insecure. And I want to make sure that students have their needs met, so they continue their college education.” And I went, “Sign me up.” The other thing about the students that I love is that this University seems to have students who are hardworking and they are either the first generation, or they just come from backgrounds where they support their own education. A lot of students work. A lot of students commute. … The students are very motivated to get their education done because they have a career path in their sights, and it’s just great to see that.

What is one thing you would change or do differently if you could do college over?

I would start earlier. I would have more money to start. I would want to know more about financial aid. I was an independent student at the age of 17. I was totally out of my parents’ house. And I did not go to college because I didn’t know where I was going to live in the summer. So, I got accepted to the University of Missouri – I’m from Missouri – and I kept thinking, “Well, where am I going to live in the summer?” I wish I would have just stepped out on faith and did it.

What are your hobbies?

I am a theater junkie – a Broadway junkie – which is why I’ll be working until I’m 90. I already spent my retirement money on Broadway tickets. So, I am a big musical theater fan. I love going cruising, and I know this sounds funny because I don’t consider myself old, but I think younger generations find this funny: I love my Beats headphones and listening to music. They’ve got to be Beats. So, I will tell my family, “It’s 9 o’clock – I’ve got to go listen to my music.” It just makes me very happy.

What is one piece of advice you have for FSU students?

Enjoy the journey. It’s not just about the grades. This is going to be a time in your life that you’re going to think back on many times. And connect with your faculty members – they really do care about you, and they are going to be a great resource for you when you start your career.

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