Thursday, March 13, 2014

My Salem State Story: What is Yours?

Salem State University's impact on my life has recently come into focus. This revelation is as my son enjoys his first year at the school. Over time the impact of graduation in 1989 blended into the fuzzy background noise of busy life. Jobs, family and community; the layers of life’s responsibilities dulled my cognition of what Salem State has made possible. Visiting the campus, participating in the parent’s council, seeing how the university is growing has caused me to reflect.

Graduating from Salem State opened doors for me that most likely would have remained barred. After high school like much of the country in the late 1970s I was on a wayward trajectory. My future as the economy seemed bleak. Jobs were increasingly scarce. Inflation was bad and accelerating. In the decade previous we had seen our military retreat, a president leave office in disgrace and the moral fabric of the country seem to unwind. When we looked for leadership, we heard words including “malaise” permeate the language of those who should have provided inspiration.

I had attended Salem full time for several semesters after high school. Recovering from an accident caused me to put my education on hold. I fell into a series of short lived jobs including pumping gasoline, working in retail, working in food services, and auto repair. Satisfying employment remained elusive.

One day I was contacted about a possible job by a friend with whom I had worked a summer during high school. Out of his favor I landed a full time position with a well-known regional company. The job was entry level. I spent my days stocking shelves in a warehouse. It was a great place to work. The job gave me solid wages and comprehensive benefits. The benefits included tuition assistance.

Here is where my path led back to Salem State. The warehouse was on Jefferson Avenue in Salem; figuratively and literally on the other side of the tracks from my future. A day came when I met the women who would later become my wife. Michelle was then finishing her associate degree at North Shore Community College. She planned to matriculate to Salem. It is said that behind every great man is a great woman. In my case I will say that behind great motivation there is a great woman.

With a future with Michelle as incentive and with the financial help of the company I went back to campus and resumed studies. Nights, weekends, summers passed as I attended classes while upholding my work responsibilities. Working full time and studying part time stretched out my enrollment. Nearly ten years passed from the time that I had first studied at Salem State until that day when I proudly strode across that stage in the Rockett Arena to claim my diploma.

It was time to pay back the company for the money invested in my tuition assistance with effort and achievement. Things moved fast from that day. I moved from wearing warehouse coveralls to wearing a dress shirt and tie. The computer science skills I had obtained at Salem State served me well as I was given responsibility for the management of a region wide computer network.  My days as a supplies attendant were behind me. Other skills from my business administration major at Salem would soon take me further.

In the years since passed I have had many great adventures. I went on to study and graduate from an Ivy League university. I have had the opportunity to meet a president of the United States, celebrities and thought leaders. I have led teams paving the way to new uses of innovative technologies. I have testified before congressional committees and the Federal Communication Commission panel investigating the response to Hurricane Katrina. I have served on executive boards and joined with colleagues and friends to help people less fortunate.

Becoming reacquainted with the institution of Salem State University has caused me to wonder how many of these milestones may have been possible if not for the foundation laid at the school. Where would I be if not for Salem State?

My story is far from unique. For many Salem State alums the experiences, skills and knowledge attained have contributed to corresponding upward mobility and civic contributions. Curious about how big our impact may be I did some recent research on the professional social network, LinkedIn.

Among the nearly twenty thousand Salem State students and alumni who have LinkedIn profiles there is a spectrum of success stories. In the many thousands we Salem State Alumni list ourselves in the fields of education, entrepreneurship, government, healthcare, operations, sales and many other categories.

We are valuable economic contributors who span the country branching out from New England to every corner of the United States and internationally. We are professionals, civil servants, executives and leaders. We are in fields including finance, information technology, human resources, marketing, consulting, art, media and communications. We lead companies. We are members of congress. We serve in the military and in public safety. We shepherd agencies, bureaus and ministries.

Impressive as is the information from LinkedIn, it represents only a segment of the positive impact that Salem State contributes to our communities and our economy. Salem State has educated people for than one hundred and fifty-seven years. We are among over fifty thousand living Salem State graduates. The school serves over ten thousand undergraduate, graduate and continuing education students annually.

There are Salem State students who follow the traditional path from high school graduation to a Salem State degree. There are many like me who follow the less traditional path working full time while studying at Salem seeking to improve life for themselves and those who depend upon them. There are students who take advantage of Salem to pursue graduate degrees, to pursue their intellectual interests and to maintain their professional standing.

What has your Salem State experience meant to your life? Because of Salem State, how have you contributed to the world? Take a few minutes to tell your Salem State success story.

Ways to use social media to connect with Salem State and fellow alumni: