Gatepost Interview: Dawn Ross – Outgoing Director of Career Services and Employer Relations

Leighah Beausoleil / THE GATEPOST

How long have you worked at FSU?

Eighteen years I have worked at FSU. It just seems like it went by in a flash.

What is your educational and professional background?

My educational background I will talk about first. So, I earned both degrees from Framingham State. I got the liberal studies degree, where I mostly took business and psychology classes. And then I have my master’s degree in human resources from Framingham State. I also went to three other colleges, too. So, it took me 17 years to get three degrees. I got my associate’s and I am a first-generation student as well, but I went to college first for 17 years to get those three degrees. I was in the Navy for eight years as well, and I also worked at Coastal Carolina University, which is in South Carolina, and I was kind of one of the event coordinators. I worked my way through school and started working right when my son was 4 months old, so he grew up at Framingham State. I really love my job, and with COVID, I figured it was time to move. I was going to retire probably next year – I just sped it up a little bit.

 What career accomplishments are you most proud of?

I would always say I created the Suitable Solutions Program that provides stipends and career advice for [students’] professional career development. We’ve had over 500 students who have done it, and I heard great feedback about it. I created the fund in 2010, and basically you know how you leave and the school wants you to give back and the University gives out scholarships like that? So, I created this fund for students, and even if they are not in the program, they can apply for a $50 stipend. But the ones in the program get a $100 gift card. Now, we used to take them to do all that with them [shopping for professional clothing], but with COVID, everything is online and they can just order their clothes online. We are still doing it this semester, so it’s the last one. I would also say I was promoted five times there, so I think I would say I am proud of my promotions [and awards], such as the 2018 Alumni Achievement Leadership and Service Award and the Suitable Solutions Nominated for Regional Program of the Year in 2017. Also in that year, I won the 2017 Athena Award. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts State Senate Official Citation was given to me as well. … I also participated in the Town of Framingham Veterans’ Council as a member. Then in 2013, [I received the] Unsung Heroines of Massachusetts Award and won the FSU 2018 Recognition of Achievement and Merit Award (RAM Award) – in 2017 as well.

What initiatives or projects do you hope to see your successor continue? Suitable Solutions?

I definitely think that it is a great program and I would like to see it continue. It’s made a difference in a lot of students’ lives and it also brings alumni back to mentor our students.

What advice do you have for your successor?

I would say it is really important to collaborate, everywhere and anywhere. The most important thing that I have learned is that with collaboration, our office was more successful. … Across campus, off campus, and on campus with faculty and with student groups and we just collaborated really well with everybody and we have to. And the person will have to be a good networker and for my staff, they would like a caring, considerate supervisor.

What advice do you have for FSU students?

I would definitely say utilize the career services, and we encourage students to come their first year and up to their alumni status. We have so many resources and we will help students make connections because networking is such an important part of the career search and career development and learning those networking skills. A lot of studies show that 80% of students get internships and jobs through networking. Another thing we call them – common soft skills – career competencies for students who develop those throughout their years at FSU and to be able to articulate what skills that they would bring to a career and employers because that is really important. I have done a lot of presentations on that – soft skills – and it’s so important, the majority of employers – some up to 90% – say they can teach students technical skills, but they really want the students to have developed soft skills. It is imperative that our students learn and they might have them but they are not able to talk about them, so to work with us to talk about them more is helpful for future employers.

Wendy Davis is your assistant/right-hand woman – are there any memories in particular you hope to keep with you after you’ve retired? 

I will tell you I love my team, but there was a special bond with Wendy. There is no one that can work harder than she did. We were such a good team because we kind of read each other’s minds and we were kind of like soul sisters. There is just nobody that can be as loving, kind, and pleasant to work with than her. She was my right-hand person and always with a smile and her personality just sparkles. We did so much work there – the team did all the work and the office was in awe with the amount of events and employer connections that we had, and other colleges asked how we were doing all this and Wendy did it all. She did it with a career-nurturing attitude and hard work. I know I will see her again and keep our friendship even though I am moving to South Carolina, … and next week is my last week. We plan on going on Zoom every day. She’s the best! I’ll tell you, the best hire I have ever made in my life and I have hired thousands of people throughout my different jobs that I have had. There are no words to say what a great employee she is or her work ethic.

What are you going to miss the most at FSU?

I am going to miss everything about it – of course the students. I have worked with thousands of students and I am still in contact with a lot of them. I am going to miss my colleagues at Framingham State and of course my amazing team – I always brag about having the best team on campus! We are small but mighty. I have been the main employer and relations person for almost 10 years and a lot of relations with people in the community, and I am going to miss them. So, it is a combination of my colleagues, the students, my staff, and my employer partners. It’s mind-boggling the extent of my network because you say in your 18 years you gain more people in your network, and I’ve been really blessed because so many alumni have come back for help or for jobs to help other FSU students. I was also very involved in the MetroWest community and I have a lot of connections there.

What kind of message do you want to leave the FSU community?

I want to sincerely thank everyone, and I am so grateful to be given the honor of working there and no words can convey my sincerest appreciation of the numerous opportunities for career success, professional growth, and personal development that I have had at FSU. I will depart with the knowledge that my body of work was appreciated, respected, and cherished by colleagues, alumni, community leaders, and friends. My career services “career” was the most fulfilling and rewarding that I have ever experienced in my 45 years of varied military and civilian employment. To be able to retire from FSU with pride and a sense of accomplishment is a true blessing that I will treasure always. While I look forward to enjoying my retirement in South Carolina, I want to acknowledge the positive impact you all have had on my life! I wish you all the best this life has to offer and please know you made me a better person! Love, respect, and hugs always!