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Life After Bing

Jessica Stanis 15: Director of the Binghamton Rescue Mission

In our “Life After Bing” series, we bring you quick interviews with alumni who are leaders in their fields, trail-blazers. Find out how these alums got to be where they are now, and how Binghamton shaped their lives.

Our featured alumna is Jessica Stanis, MSW/MPA ’15, director of the Binghamton Rescue Mission. A first-generation college student with parents who immigrated to America from Trinidad, Jessica worked hard to earn her master's degrees and obtain a job right out of graduate school with the College of Community and Public Affairs (CCPA). Two years after graduating, Jessica spotted her dream job listed online, one that she saw herself taking in about ten years time. Filled with apprehension, excitement and “what-ifs,” Jessica faced her fears and obtained the job eight years ahead of the game!

1. When did you realize you wanted to go into this field?

My parents are immigrants who came over from Trinidad, at a very young age. They faced a lot of adversity and challenges, many of which I witnessed growing up. Luckily, they had many friends here and a support system that helped them succeed. Because of this support system, my siblings and I were able to go to college (I’m a first-generation college student) and go on and get our master's degrees. One thing I learned is while they faced these challenges, this support system they leaned on was a big part of their success, where others weren’t as fortunate. As an adult, I knew I wanted to return the favor and be a support system for those who might not have one. Without the support others extended to my parents, who knows where my family or where I’d be today. That’s how I knew I wanted to go into social work.

2. Do you feel like Binghamton University prepared you for the workforce?

I think a lot of the courses I took while I attended Binghamton helped prepare me for where I am right now, the role I am in and what I’m doing at the Binghamton Rescue Mission. Binghamton University helped me gain the skill set I needed to learn how to work with people, but not only that. The MPA program also helped me learn how to manage budgets and collaborate with different people. Overall, the biggest takeaway I learned from CCPA was the importance of leadership, collaboration and civic responsibility. I was always very involved in college and graduate school, and Binghamton really made me realize the importance of volunteering.

3. Who would you say had the greatest influence on your career -- teacher, colleague, boss, family member -- and what did you learn from that person?

My parents had the greatest influence in my life and my career. They came to the United States as teenagers and worked hard to provide a decent life for my siblings and me. They taught me many values that define who I am now, including values of integrity, perseverance and hard work. Growing up, they challenged me and encouraged me to aim higher and higher. Luckily, my parents never pressured me to pursue a certain career. Instead, they were always supportive of my education and the path that I choose for myself.

4. What is the biggest piece of advice you have for a student interested in this field?

Any advice I give would be the same as I gave my undergraduate students as an advisor at Binghamton; that advice is don’t let fear control you. I think it’s so easy to let that happen, but it’s important to realize everyone is afraid of something; don’t let those fears get in your way. When I first came across the opportunity for this job, it was a position that I saw myself having in 10 years, and it came up just two years out of graduate school! I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. I was looking for all of these reasons not to apply. My “what-if” thoughts were non-stop. But the thought of not going for it was far worse than my fears of applying, and I couldn’t let myself be controlled by that. Now I’m seven years ahead of the game and working in my dream job, at a really established company for a great cause. It is so easy to talk yourself out of your dreams, to think of everything that can go wrong. But you can’t let those negative thoughts talk you out of something you want.

5. Are there mistakes you’ve made during your career and, if so, what lessons have you learned from them?

Everyone makes mistakes from time to time. It’s not about your mistakes, but how you learn from them. One of the biggest lessons that I’ve learned over the past few years is the importance of speaking up. When you’re in a large meeting or new to a team, it can be tough to speak up about your ideas. I was afraid to share my thoughts, with the fear that they would be undervalued, overlooked or ignored. I’ve learned the importance of speaking up as soon as an idea arises to minimize the time that my brain has to kill the idea with endless excuses or worries. When you wait, you are deliberately convincing yourself that “now is not the time” or “this feedback isn’t important.” You are doing a disservice to yourself and limiting your ability to succeed. The next time you have a great idea or an instinct to speak up in a meeting, trust yourself enough to act on it.

Carolyn Bernardo is the Strategic Communication and Marketing Manager for Binghamton University's Alumni Association. As a Binghamton native, she is passionate about the area and about the University.

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