Professional Development Scholarship Recipient – Valerie Kielmovitch Mandel

I had the great pleasure of attending the 2017 CSI East Conference this past August at George Mason University. A few colleagues had attended in the past and came back raving about the experience and professional growth they experienced. Reflecting back on my involvement, they were definitely correct.

Right from the beginning, the conference had a different atmosphere than any other I have experienced due to the smaller number of attendees (around 70) and the friendliness of everyone there.  The conference started off with a panel of various recruiters from a variety of employers including EY, American Red Cross, Enterprise Holdings, Travelers Insurance, Citibank and MAXIMUS. They gave insights to all of us career professionals on some of the reasoning behind recruiting at specific institutions, advice for career services staff and their view of the future of college recruiting. We then had round table discussion time with the recruiters as well to ask more specific questions.

This was followed by Skill Sessions discussing topics ranging from embracing change, a behind the scenes look at college recruiting through the employer lens, assessment and finally talent disruption in the emerging workplace. All of these were very hands on sessions with lots of time for critical thinking and asking questions.

The unique aspect of this conference came later in the day when we formed our Job Alike Sessions which consisted of about 15 people with similar job types. We each had approximately 5 minutes to share a best practice from our office and give a handout to take back to our respective institutions. These were extremely interesting and well received. It was fascinating to hear what was going on at other institutions and how their best practices could be modified and implemented at my campus. We also had two faculties in the group, one a seasoned career services professional and one employer. They were able to give great insight and depth to our conversations.

There was plenty of time to network with other professionals and learn about each other’s institutions. Overall, this was a great experience and I left with many new ideas. I was very thankful to have been selected for the SoACE Professional Development Scholarship which allowed me to attend this conference.


Valerie Kielmovitch Mandel is the Director within the Career Services Office at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University- Daytona Beach. She has worked in the Career Services office at ERAU since 2010. She completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Central Florida and her Master of Education specializing in Higher Education and Student Affairs at the University of South Carolina. Valerie has a diverse background in the field of higher education from residence life to career services.

2017 Professional Development Scholarship Recipient – Donna Srader

I have worked in the Texas Tech University Career Center for three years now and anyone who has ever worked with Jay Killough, our director, knows his passion for helping his staff and our students identify their strengths. Two of my strengths are input, a desire for more facts and knowledge, and intellection, a need for intellectual activity. So when Jay urged anyone who was interested to apply for a SoACE scholarship, I jumped on it. I could learn something new and SoACE would pay! Win, win!

Because I am seeing more and more alumni who want to make a career change and current students unsure of their career objectives, I chose to obtain a Career Transition Certification through Career Thought Leaders Association. I gained new ideas, learned new techniques, and developed resources to help students and alumni work through the transition process in this self-paced program.

Of all the useful information I gained, the most valuable was learning to view the loss of a career or, for current students, the inability to complete a major they have worked toward for years, through the lens of the grieving process. This idea of grieving the loss of a job or the failure to complete a goal is not new. However, the suggestions for helping individuals through their grief will be invaluable in creating and implementing a structured process that is flexible enough to meet the in-depth needs of alumni while complementing the services we already offer to our on-campus and distance students.

Of the many different grief/transition models presented in the course, my favorite is the William Bridges Transition Model ( This model begins with the loss or ending which transitions into the Neutral Zone. Most of the students and alumni that I see are in the Neutral Zone between the end of the old thing and the beginning of the new thing. The transition from the old to the new, whether it be a job or a way of life, can be long, difficult, and psychologically distressing. People transitioning through the limbo must mourn the loss of something before they can be comfortable with the change, the new thing.

Working with a career coach to transition through the Neutral Zone can be an opportunity for creativity and development. That ability to help students and alumni through the limbo of the Neutral Zone is my biggest accomplishment in the completion of this certification. Along with a greater understanding of the process of grief and transition, I have gained tangible resources to assist students and alumni.

Over the past three years, I have come to rely on SoACE for exceptional professional development opportunities, from the webinars to the conference each December. Utilizing the SoACE scholarship has broadened my perspectives and strengthened my skill set.

I value the opportunities that SoACE provides for sharing my experiences and learning from others. And I am grateful that I was chosen as a recipient of the SoACE Scholarship in 2017 because I gained new tools, skills, and information that will benefit my colleagues, current students, and alumni. I urge every member of SoACE who is eligible to apply for the scholarship!

2017 Professional Development Scholarship Recipient – Stacy Shields

As an early career psychologist, I feel extremely privileged to have received the SoACE professional development scholarship to attend the 2017 American Psychological Association (APA) Annual Convention. It was exciting to participate in such an enormous convention while also heartening to find a smaller community of professionals who share interests in vocational counseling. Attending this convention reminded me of how important it is to connect with other professionals and to celebrate the work that is being done in our field.

My passion for career counseling began in graduate school, and I am currently a career counselor for first and second year students at the University of Houston – Clear Lake. Attending APA’s convention was one of the first times that I was surrounded by so many psychologists with similar interests. A colleague and I lead a conversation hour focused on the disadvantages of compartmentalizing career counseling from personal therapy. In addition to a discussion of the literature in this area, we specifically discussed how dismissing career issues in therapy sessions may neglect a large part of a client’s identity. We also highlighted ways of addressing the intersection of mental health and vocational issues through both general counseling skills and collaboration with other professionals.

One of the consistent themes throughout programming at the convention was a call to not operate in our own “silos” and to collaborate across disciplines. I know it is easy for me to keep to my own office and department in the midst of a busy semester. However, I was reminded at the convention that those outside of career services departments hold valuable knowledge. By working together, we can increase the impact that our work has on our clients and students. I was amazed to learn of how collaboration expanded the application of career theory and practice across populations and settings – from broadening career exploration opportunities for elementary-aged students to decreasing recidivism among prison inmates.

The largest takeaway for me from the vocational psychology programming at APA’s convention was the importance of recognizing the ever-changing world of work. It does our students and clients a disservice if we do not adapt and evolve. One symposium at the convention including work by Blustein, Kenny, Diamonti, Lent, Brown, and Savickas focused on the Psychology of Working Theory and the impact of precarious work on the services we provide to our clients. The future of work is uncertain, and they discussed the importance of helping our clients plan for both optimal and not optimal choices. This seemed well paired by another symposium presenting various work done by Whiston, Howard, Solberg, and Ali, which included information on changing career development paradigms and evidence-based practice. They discussed the critical ingredients of career choice interventions and job search interventions from research published in the Handbook of Career and Workforce Development (Solberg & Ali, 2017). This was a reminder to me that it is not enough for us to only feel that our work is having an impact, but that we need to remain current with the literature and intentionally assess outcomes – another thing to add to my task list!

Overall, the convention was a whirlwind of an experience. Despite being exhausted when I returned home, I left feeling inspired and invigorated to continue connecting with like-minded professionals (like you!) and to continue the meaningful work in our field.