Wednesday, September 25, 2019

My Path to a Career In Higher Education

My personal beginning was in a very close, conservative, religious home in New Mexico – my dad was a Baptist minister! After schooling in Santa Fe public schools, I received a scholarship to a college prep day school as a sophomore, which changed the trajectory of my life dramatically. My intellectual and cultural world multiplied and my curiosity and courage along with it – leading me to be the first in my family to leave the Southwest and to attend a non-religious college.

At the University of Puget Sound (Tacoma, WA) I discovered my love of the college experience – in the classroom studying English, history, and theatre, as well as being engaged in student government, campus radio, intramurals, acting in plays, and as a work-study student employee. It was multiple work-study jobs (managing athletic supplies, recording textbooks for a blind professor, being an orientation leader, and giving campus tours) that led me to imagine what a career in higher education could be! (My summer jobs working in a pharmacy, cleaning a conference center, washing restaurant dishes, and being a YMCA day camp counselor had also helped me realize what I didn’t want to do with my life.)

The campus tour guide job led to coordinating campus visits for the admission office, which inspired me to apply for an admission counselor position in the spring of my senior year. It was a perfect first career post for me – allowing me to continue my love of the college experience, while traveling the country to visit high schools, writing and editing publications (let’s hear it for English majors!), interviewing high school seniors, and sitting on the admissions committee. I was fortunate to advance through the office there over 10 years (as assistant, then associate director), then I left for graduate school in higher education student affairs at Western Washington University, up on the Canadian border.

25 years after finishing WWU, I have worked (and learned!) on six additional campuses (large and small, public and private, rural, suburban, and urban) as a dean or vice president in student affairs. I feel fortunate to have discovered my love for the college experience (and helping students succeed) in the late 1970s and am so thankful that I am still be able to experience it every day at Hofstra in 2019!

W. Houston Dougharty
Vice President for Student Affairs
Hofstra University

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