IC Grads Succeed in Higher Ed Administration

A surprising number of IC graduates have gone on to careers in higher education administration, particularly student affairs. Some have credited Brian McAree, former vice president of student affairs and campus life for inspiring them to take that path. 

Scott Rappaport ’99 is a career counselor at the University of Delaware where he helps guide students toward a job that’s right for them, no matter which stage they’re at in their search. His own career path was made clear after he became a resident assistant (RA) as a second-semester freshman.

“I just loved it, and sometime during my sophomore year, a light bulb went off that I could work in higher education.” As a senior, he interned with the Office of Career Services and was inspired by many of the student affairs employees at IC including McAree and John Bradac, director of Career Services.

“I don’t believe anyone goes to college saying, ‘I want to work in higher ed after college.’ But the amazing people who work in student affairs at IC showed me just how rewarding the field can be,” he said.

His experiences at Ithaca taught him the importance of student involvement.

“I love helping students, especially in the career search because I feel the transition from college to the world of work is one of the most difficult transitions a person makes,” he said. “I encourage students to get involved because you never know where that involvement is going to take you.”

Although Jay Tifone ’03 studied journalism at Ithaca College, he found his passion for working in student affairs after taking a job in the Campus Center. His work at Ithaca led him to Syracuse University’s higher education master’s program. Now he works at the University of Sciences in Philadelphia as the associate director of student life, primarily looking after the 750 residents. Tifone has taken what he learned about teamwork, leadership, and character to help create opportunities for students to develop.  

“My mantra is simple: College can and should be more than just classes; time should be given to raising consciousness of self, building connections between coursework, clubs, and coworkers, and critically examining the world,” he said. “Career preparation may be the end goal for many students, but that needn’t exclude learning citizenship, civility, and community.”

Dan Tillapaugh ’01 is a faculty member at the University of Maine where he teaches master’s and doctoral students who are pursuing a career in student affairs. He also conducts research on student development, specifically with LGBT students. At IC, Tillapaugh was involved as an RA, an orientation leader, and in the Student Government Association. The connections he made with professional staff members set him on a track to explore career options in higher education.

“Through my professional life, I've gained a deeper appreciation for higher education, in general, and what an impact it can have on transforming students' lives in powerful ways,” he said. “I also learned a lot about myself through my work, including how I could articulate my own philosophy on leadership, grappling with issues of power, privilege, and difference and how that plays out within higher education, and how I could serve as an advocate for student learning and development.”

When he graduated from Ithaca in 2002 with a computer science degree, Murillo Soranso felt a bit lost as to his career. He had worked as an RA, was in SGA and in Created Equal, a student organization focusing on LGBTQ issues. After contacting the Office of Career Services, he was pointed in the direction of college administration. He now works as an area coordinator in University Housing at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

“What I gain the most is the satisfaction of helping someone through their college years,” he said. “My college years…were filled with so many influential mentors, teachers and administrators, that I strive to be just like them to the many students I serve.”

Kate Vermilyea ’01 found her place at Ithaca after getting involved as an orientation leader and a senator for SGA. As an art history major, she found herself working at an auction house, but wanted something more. She ended up studying college counseling and began working in college administration. She now works at the University of South Carolina Beaufort overseeing all programs and activities and coordinating the orientation program. Kate is grateful for the guiding experiences she had at Ithaca.

“I cannot explain how the job I got in the Student Activities Center under Mike Lindberg and Roger Eslinger changed my life,” she said. “It was a simple gesture for them to hire me, but I ended up working there all four years of my college experience, and truly use some of the information learned there today in my job as director.”


– Kristin Leffler ’14


1 Comment

IC is clearly doing something well. I have had the pleasure of working with both Scott and Kate and can say that they are dedicated and inspiring colleagues.