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New director brings experience, leadership

September 23, 2010

After 18 months without a career director, Career Services chose Bridget Kenadijan out of 29 original applicants to be their new director.

Kenadijan has over 11 years of director and assistant director experience at the University of Minnesota, William Mitchell College of Law and Crown College.

Kenadijan said she was drawn to apply for the position at UW-River Falls because she felt it was a good fit for her personality, especially coming from a competitive campus environment at William Mitchell College of Law.

“I was really attracted to River Falls because of the culture,” Kenadijan said.”I saw that it was a really friendly, collaborative environment.”

Kenadijan said that the Career Services staff has been very welcoming.

“She’s a fantastic addition,” said Matthew Fitzgerald, Career Services Information Systems Professional. “I feel she brings the broad range of experience that is kind of lacking in our office.”

Kenadijan will bring her strengths in teambuilding and professional development to the department, said Senior Counselor Gretchen Link. It will help the staff to have a director and advocate to go to. But Link said she doesn’t know what Kenadijan will bring to the table when it comes to staff pot-lucks.

Before Kenadijan’s arrival last week, Career Services had been operating without a Career Director for 18 months.

Previously the Career, Counseling and Student Health Services department was co-directed by Carmen Croonquist as Career Director and Alice Reilly-Myklebust as Counseling and Student Health Services director.

Croonquist then moved to a position within the College of Business and Economics, and the Career Director position was displaced, leaving Reilly-Myklebust to direct the department by herself.

“It didn’t take long to realize that we really needed career director leadership in Career Services. The complexities of Career Services require deep knowledge of the field, and staff in our office were trying to make difficult decisions via consensus, and provide our recommendations to Alice,” said Fitzgerald. “Meanwhile, we were the only career office in the state of Wisconsin without a career director.”

The Career Services staff collectively decided that they needed a career director and chose to eliminate one of the career counselor positions in order to create the career director position.

During the time the staff was director-less, they divided the responsibilities of director among themselves.

“We as a staff were making director decisions, staffing decisions,” Fitzgerald said. “These were decisions that staff members shouldn’t be making.”

The lack of director and need for staff members to step up and fill those responsibilities created strong personalities within the office, Fitzgerald said.  Kenadijan is doing well by taking back those responsibilities tactfully without ruffling anyone’s feathers.

“We’ve been operating in ‘survival mode’ for the past 18 months,” he said. “It feels good to have someone come in and help direct the office.”

What he said he really looks forward to with having a new director is restoring a reasonable balance of work and home life.

The career staff outdid themselves in terms of adding programs and improving services without a director, Link said. Kenadijan is fortunate to have a creative and energetic team.

The staff is way overloaded in terms of workload and decision-making, Kenadijan said.

“[The staff] are such team players,” she said. “They’ve all taken on way more that what is normal for their positions.”

Part of her responsibilities as director will be to evaluating what the staff is doing now and how to redistribute responsibilities.  Kenadijan said she plans to first observe and assess how the office is functioning and what services are being offered before making changes. A challenge for the staff will be getting used to having a director again and changes to the way decisions are made, which won’t always be by consensus.

A few services for students that Kenadijan would like to focus on in the future are programs about building electronic portfolios and using professional social medial tools. She also said she wants to reach out and make sure that the department is reaching all varieties of students including introverted students or students with less popular majors.

Kenadijan also hopes to improve upon Career Services’ external relations with employers and alumni.