The SoACE Conference Moment That Woke Me Up

During the final day of the SoACE Conference in Fort Lauderdale, I remember feeling tired and ready to relax. As a member of the conference committee, I had numerous duties and responsibilities, and frankly had hit my wall. As I reviewed the last set of sessions for the day, I seriously considered heading to my room to catch-up on sleep.  As I took one last look at the session offerings, I noticed that my neighboring colleagues at the University of Texas at Austin College of Liberal Arts Careers Services Office were presenting “Rainbow Road: Paving the Way for LBGTQIA+ Student Success.” As an openly gay man for my entire professional career in career services, I mistakenly thought I knew this topic well.  Despite my fatigue and misplaced confidence of knowledge on this topic, I decided to attend and see if I could learn something new.

By the second slide of their presentation, I realized there was so much I did not know and how I missed the opportunity to push for professional education on this topic in my own office.  My biggest takeaways were:

  • The importance of personal pronouns and the number of pronouns I did not know.
  • Many individuals are not fully aware that sexual orientation and gender identity are separate terms, and separate challenges, with different meanings.
  • Published advice on “dressing for success” on career services department websites and social media platforms may inadvertently exclude students that do not identify exclusively as a male or female.
  • The fact many of our colleagues, despite their careful and helpful intentions, are still struggling to assist students that identify as LBGTQIA+ through the job and internship search process. Many staff in non-urban and non-diverse cities may struggle because they have limited access to resources on assisting students that identify as LBGTQIA+.
  • Many assume that LBGTQIA+ individuals are protected by federal law from workplace discrimination because of recent Supreme Court decisions and executive orders by the previous presidential administration.  When in fact, these actions only prohibited discrimination for these populations at federal government agencies and businesses that contract with the federal government.
  • For most attendees, this session was not nearly long enough to address all of the content in their prepared presentation slides nor to adequately respond to the number of follow-up questions that were asked.

As I walked out of that session, I realized we all have knowledge on a number of issues related to diversity that we need not keep to ourselves.  If you have valuable insight and knowledge in any area of diversity, I strongly encourage you to submit a proposal to present at the 2017 Conference, author a blog, or join a Diversity & Inclusion Committee.  As members of a diverse and supportive community such as SoACE, we have a great opportunity to share our differing perspectives and learn from each other so we are better equipped to guide our students.  


Andrew Harper is the Manager of Employer Relations in Career and Professional Development at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas.  Andrew serves as programs chair for the 2017 SoACE Conference and represents Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas on the Cooperative Education & Internship Association (CEIA) Board of Directors.  He also previously served as president of the Texas Cooperative Education & Internship Association (TxCEIA). You can connect with him on Twitter or LinkedIn.

College Member Spotlight: Melissa A. Forges


Career Center students and staff.  Melissa Forges

Melissa A. Forges is the Assistant Director, Engineering Employer Relations & Recruitment Services at Florida State University. Connect with Melissa on  Twitter @MelissaForges or on LinkedIn.

1. Describe your career path up to this point.

My career has been on an interesting ride! The path I have taken has been unpredictable at times but has been fun, lesson filled and rewarding. I have remained connected to education whether it’s in the secondary or post-secondary arena. I have had the opportunity to have been a high school teacher, worked alongside my husband in a campus ministry leadership role and worked in career services in technical trade schools in addition to traditional higher education universities.

2. Why did you choose this career?

This career chose me!  Upon entering my graduate degree for College Student Affairs at Nova Southeastern University, I knew I wanted to work with students in higher education and make an impact – I just didn’t know in what particular department.  Being able to work as a graduate assistant in the Office of Career Development solified where I wanted to focus my talents, education and skills.  The opportunities affored me exposure and experience with employers, events and students and it was then that I knew I needed to choose what had been placed before me.

3. What is the most rewarding part of your job?

The core of my character finds true enjoyment in helping people.  I find gratification in being able to help students and help employers reach their desired goal whether it be to find an internship or find the right student for an internship.  Overall, I want to have lasting impact and knowing that I made a difference, if even in a small way for a student or employer – then I know I have done my duty and that is what is most rewarding about my job.

4. What is the most challenging part of your job?

The most challenging part of my job is being able to figure out what good thing to put into place! The career field has so many great trending items to continue making it better and better! I learn new things everyday from colleagues, webinars, articles, training, etc. and I Iike being able to implement new ideas into what I’m already doing to be current, effective and excellent. It’s an art to ascertain what needs to be changed, omitted or put into practice but it’s what makes things fun!

5. What would you like colleagues to know about your institution/organization?

Florida State University may be a large institution but you feel connected and cared about!  I appreciate the Division of Student Affairs in their provision of professional development, fun activities and connectedness for each employee.  The Career Center has so many moving parts to it and that’s what makes it unique and exciting!  From Career Advising & Counseling to Experiential Learning to Employer Relations & Recruitment Services and the Center for the Study of Technology in Counseling and Career Development, its no wonder that students, staff, faculty and community members receive top notch service from a world renowed Career Center.  Each person takes their role seriously and it shows in the work we do!

6. What is the best career advice you have ever received?

“Your reputation precedes you…and follows you!”

7. When you were younger (ages 5-12), what did you want to be when you grew up? What about that career appealed to your younger self?

When I was younger I wanted to be a pediatrician because I thought that was the major way to help people – when they were sick, especially little kids!  The medical field appealed to me because most of my family was in the medical field and I was repeatedly told that I would make a great doctor.  However, once I got to college, I realized there was more than the medical field to helping people, and my eye opening came at the right time, because chemistry was a tad challenging at the college level at 7:30am!


College Member Spotlight: Jay Killough


Jay Killough
Jay Killough

Jay is the Managing Director at the Texas Tech University and the 2014-2015 President of SoACE. He has worked in career services for 13 years. Connect with Jay on Twitter @JayTTU.





Describe your career path up to this point.

My career path up to this point has been a wonderful journey. When I graduated from college, all I wanted to do was work in the music industry. After interning on Music Row in Nashville, I quickly realized the music business was not for me. After some soul searching, I landed back at Texas Tech University as an Admissions Counselor, where I could use my strengths daily and make a difference. Having good mentors has also been key in my career up to this point. Without them, I would not have taken the chances and made the good choices I have made to stay in Higher Ed specifically the Career Services.

Why did you choose this career?

To be honest, working in the University Career Center was a leap of faith. I loved my Admissions job, but an opening came about in the Career Center and I saw it as an opportunity to grow, so I applied and got the position as a Lead Counselor.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

I would imagine like most people in this profession, I consider helping students and seeing them develop professionally is the most rewarding part of the job. Being allowed to serve students and employers on a daily basis, teach class, and present to large groups makes me wake up every morning and get to go to work, instead of “have” to go to work.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

The most challenging part of the job are those couple of weeks a year when the students are gone between semesters. Campus isn’t buzzing during this time and I miss it. I feed off the energy of the students, faculty and staff being on campus and being busy.

What would you like colleagues to know about your institution/organization?

After living in Lubbock for nearly 20 years, people’s first reaction is usually a quip or a joke about living here. What I’d like colleagues to know is that Lubbock and Texas Tech is a wonderful place to live and work because of the kind-hearted, West Texas people that live here. Plus, we have “rush minutes,” versus “rush hours.”

What is the best career advice you have ever received?

My father once told me, “Share your successes.” I’ll never forget that. It’s nice to be recognized for things, but it’s even better to give someone else credit for their hard work. Very little gets accomplished solo; but a great team can accomplish much. It takes a great team of people to accomplish great things. I also try and surround myself with others who are not like me to be a stronger team. One of my favorite quotes for my accountability when days get tough is “If everyone in this place was just like me; what kind of place would this be? I am my answer.” This helps me stay focused and positive.

When you were younger (let’s say ages 5-12), what did you want to be when you grew up? What about that career appealed to your younger self?

Between the ages and five and 12, I had no clue what I wanted to be. I loved playing outside, playing golf and basketball, and hanging out with friends. If you would have mentioned Career Counselor as a profession, I would have looked at you with a confused look, and asked, “What’s that?” All I knew between five and 12 is that I was very active and wore my parents out with the question, “What can I/we do next!?, let’s go, go, go!