Four high achieving Brookdale graduates returned to the college on Nov. 1 to offer advice and support to current students as part of the biannual “Career Connections” program, sponsored by the Brookdale Alumni Association, Career and Leadership Development, and the Office of Student Life and Activities.
Licensed psychologist Dr. Madine DeSantis; employee benefits consultant Jack McNamara; Rockin Country Thunder 106 community manager Kevin Moedt; and matrimonial paralegal Michelle Mulkerin joined to host a panel discussion in the Student Life Center, offering current students the benefit of their own Brookdale experiences and passing out business cards during a lunchtime networking event.
The panelists described their unique paths to and through Brookdale, and provided a number of tips and strategies to students who are hoping to follow in their footsteps. The main theme, appropriately enough, was connection.
“You have a lot of support, a lot of mentors available to you here,” said DeSantis, a 1992 graduate who now serves as Clinical Director at IEP Youth Services in Freehold. “I highly recommend that, if you have instructors you get along with and you like, get to know them and allow them to get to know you. If you do decide to move on, or if you go out into the workforce, they are good people to have behind you, to support you and advise you.”
Like most of the panel, DeSantis was not a “traditional” college student when she enrolled at Brookdale. After graduating from high school and spending 11 years in the insurance industry, she decided to return to the classroom to pursue a new career.
Arriving with more than a few questions and concerns, DeSantis said she found answers in the faculty and support staff she saw every day. Later, after transferring to Monmouth University and earning a bachelor’s in psychology, she returned to work alongside those employees as a Brookdale learning assistant.
Today, after earning a doctoral degree from Hofstra University and beginning private practices in Freehold and Highland Park, DeSantis credits her early success with the support and encouragement she received on campus. She encouraged the students in attendance to reach out to faculty as well, and make the most of the connections they forge at Brookdale.
“I looked up to a lot of faculty who I really felt mentored me and supported me and helped me find my way,” she said.
Mulkerin shared a similar story, describing how she returned to college after a difficult divorce and in need of a new career path.
“It had been so many years, and it was such an insane time in my life,” said Mulkerin, a 2010 graduate who now works for Ansell Grimm & Aaron, P.C. in Ocean Township. “It was scary. Neither of my parents even graduated from high school, let alone college, so even things like the financial aid process were foreign to me. But the faculty and staff here got me through it.
“My professors and my learning assistant were so supportive and understanding,” she added. “And my classmates were so diverse – people who were both much older and much younger than me. There was this sense of community, like, ‘We are all in this together.’ I connected with them, and I still keep in touch with them. I felt like I made lifelong connections.”
McNamara, a 2004 graduate who now works at one of the nation’s largest benefits specialist firms in Corporate Synergies, and Moedt, a 2014 Brookdale graduate who serves as the public face and community liaison for Thunder 106 radio, echoed those recommendations, encouraging students to make connections with their classmates, instructors and staff, who can ultimately serve as lifelong mentors and provide valuable assistance long after graduation.
“I’ll never forget attending my first college event as a Brookdale student: a Halloween party,” said Moedt. “It was the first time I decided to take a chance and get involved, and from that moment on my college experience just opened up. There was this blanket of support from everyone, from every department. Administrators, teachers, advisors – there are too many people to name. The opportunities that were given to me, and the support they are still giving me, it has just been invaluable.”
Also in attendance at the event were Lauren Watson, president of the Brookdale Alumni Association; Timothy Zeiss, executive director of the Brookdale Foundation and Alumni Affairs; Career Services and Leadership Development director Sarah McElroy; SLA interim director Lauren Brutsman; and representatives from the Brookdale Student Life Board.
Learn more about the Brookdale Alumni Association and its exclusive member benefits here.
Check out more photos of the Career Connections program here.