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New Leadership at Rutgers-Newark Career Development Center

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Dr. Bernadette So; photo of So by Blair Goodlin Jr.

Rutgers University–Newark (RU-N) welcomes Dr. Bernadette So as its new executive director of the Career Development Center (CDC). So joined RU-N on July 2, 2018, and succeeds Thomas Hopkins, who spent more than 30 years in the CDC.

With more than 12 years of experience in career development, So joins RU-N after recently serving as the director for graduate student career development at the Wasserman Center for Career Development at New York University (NYU). Prior to NYU, she worked at The Career Center at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign managing the services provided to students seeking graduate study programs or careers in health professions.

“After a national search, I am delighted that we could bring someone with Dr. So’s talent and experience to Student Affairs at Rutgers-Newark. Her hire is a further step toward our strategic priority to ensure that we invest in our students and provide support for them from recruitment to graduation and career success,” stated Dr. Corlisse Thomas, vice chancellor for student affairs. “I look forward to Dr. So’s leadership in providing cutting-edge career guidance and resources for RU-N students.”

“The diversity of the student population here at Rutgers-Newark was what initially attracted me to working here, but what fueled that interest were my conversations with staff and faculty. It was so clear to me how committed staff and faculty at Rutgers-Newark are to creating an inclusive community that supports that diversity. Community is such an important part of student success, and I'm excited to build communities on campus that support the career goals of students,” stated So, a Bergen County native.

Focused on developing comprehensive services and resources for students to enhance their career opportunities, one of So’s priorities will be to ensure undergraduate and graduate students are aware of the support offered to them by the CDC throughout their entire time at RU-N. To that end, students can expect to see So and her staff at on- and off-campus activities that cross all student experiences. They will provide students coaching on how to select majors and minors; write résumés, curricula vitae, cover letters, and personal statements; find volunteering, employment, and internship opportunities; improve interviewing skills; identify appropriate graduate study programs; and assess their personal identities.

“A career is not something that automatically comes with the degree; every experience throughout a student's education is a step toward a career,” So noted. “The Career Development Center can be a part of each of those steps, so that students can build and share the stories that will help them to achieve their goals.”

Similar to a student’s total life experiences, self-identity plays a critical role in evaluating post-college opportunities that are the right fit, according to So. While at the University of Illinois, she designed and implemented a program, “Your Identity @ Work,” that encouraged students to embrace their various identities, values, and perspectives, and apply them to their career pursuits.

“Students should be allowed to be their authentic selves and combine their individual identities with careers to optimize their decisions concerning employers, industries, work environments, or graduate programs,” shared So, who speaks from personal experience. She began her professional career as a molecular biologist but switched to career advisement when it became clear that research and grant-writing would not allow her to engage with students to the extent she desired.

So received her doctoral degree in molecular biology from the University of California, Los Angeles. She holds a bachelor’s degree in biology and psychology from Barnard College, a master’s degree in college student affairs from Eastern Illinois University, and a graduate certificate in academic advising from Kansas State University.

So has served on numerous committees for a variety of professional associations including the executive boards of the Central Association of Advisors for the Health Professions and the Midwest Association of Colleges and Employers. She also is active on the national level in the leadership of the National Association of Colleges and Employers. 

So maintains an open-door policy and invites all students to stop by the CDC (Hill Hall, room 112) to say hello and get acquainted with the many services and resources the CDC has to offer.