Sam Ratcliffe, 2017 Southern Star Award Recipient

The Southern Star Award may be presented to a person or persons to recognize significant and outstanding contributions to the profession, to society, or to SoACE.  The Southern Star Award is a prestigious recognition of service and contributions exceeded only in significance within SoACE by the Founders Award. SoACE was proud to present Sam Ratcliffe, Director of Career Services at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI), with the 2017 Southern Star Award at the Annual Conference in December. This award was also presented to Kent Phillips, recently retired Educator Relations Manager at Disney World Wide Services, who will be featured at a later time.

When Past President Mary Mahoney presented Sam with the award in December, she stated from Sam’s letter of nomination that he “has a strong national reputation in career services leadership and expertise in many areas, including external review processes, professional standards, professional competencies, assessment, and accountability in career services. He was previously recognized by his national peers on the Ten Most Visionary Leaders in Career Services list for two years in a row… He has given countless hours to his profession over the years and is very deserving of the Southern Star Award.”

Sam Ratcliffe, Ph.D. is a consultant, researcher, author, and frequent presenter on key topics related to career services. Receiving the Southern Star Award for significant and outstanding contributions to the profession adds to a long list of accolades that he has received in the course of his career.

A former president of both the Virginia (VACE) and Eastern (EACE) Associations of College and Employers, Sam received the distinguished service award from both organizations. He has served on the board of the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) as College Director, Vice President-College, and President. Sam also provided career services expertise for ten years as a member of the board of directors for the Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (CAS). Sam has also been a faculty member for leadership studies courses and director of career services at VMI for many years.

Sam is a thought leader and influencer on multiple national issues including career competencies, ethical principles, accountability, external review processes, leadership development, advocacy, outcomes assessment, professional standards, and career services practitioner competencies.  He has been consistently recognized as a top visionary and forward thinking leader in the profession.

He is also one of 35 members of the prestigious NACE Academy of Fellows. This recognition is for his professional contributions to the advancement of knowledge, leadership, and excellence in professional practice.

The call for nominations for the 2018 Southern Star Award will be announced in the fall. When the time comes, please consider nominating a colleague. A list of past award recipients and selection criteria can be found on the Awards and Recognition page of the SoACE website.


Member Spotlight: Kelvin Rutledge

Kelvin Rutledge is currently the Director of Experiential Programs for the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at The University of Georgia and a third-year Ph.D. student in the higher education program at Florida State University. As an avid lemonade drinker and TGIT live tweeter, Kelvin enjoys finding the sweet intersections of life through interaction, conversations, and dialogue and seeks to find opportunities where career services and social justice intersect. Kelvin ultimately aspires to be a change agent in higher education and contribute to the field of student affairs through scholarship and research. Find him on Twitter @MrAbsoluteZero.

How did you get into the Career Services profession?

I started my career in the career services profession by becoming a Graduate Assistant in the FSU Career Center while enrolled in my masters program. I was fortunate to have an assistantship that allowed me to do career advising, experiential learning, employer relations, assessment, and student outreach and engagement.

Describe your SoACE Experience. How did you get involved, what do you do for SoACE, and how has that experience influenced your day-to-day work?

My SoACE experience has always been meaningful and beneficial. I first engaged with SoACE when I decided to submit a program proposal for the 2013 annual conference and it was accepted. From there, I was able to present, join the Diversity and Inclusion committee, and become a member of knowledge groups. From my volunteer activities, I was able to facilitate programs and presentations, engage at the annual conference, and widen my professional network. Most recently, I was able to step in and finish out a term as the Director of Diversity & Inclusion. I would say the biggest thread running through my SoACE experience has been the willingness to find a meaningful fit for me within the association and finding ways to leverage it. Due to that, I’ve been able to maximize the value of membership.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

I recently attended the ACPA—College Student Educators International Mid-Mangers Institute.  A faculty member shared with me the following piece of advice: “Trust your brilliance because it’s lighting a candle you are afraid to lead with at the moment.”

What is your favorite quote?

“The place in which I’ll fit will not exist until I make it. …You have to decide who you are and force the world to deal with you, not with its idea of you.” ~James Baldwin

What has been your greatest accomplishment to date?

My greatest accomplishment to date has been being selected to be the Career Development & Advancement Chair for the 2019 ACPA Annual Convention. With this role, I will help lead and cultivate an experience where professionals critically reflect and engage in how we discuss and forecast the future of career advancement for higher education professionals. I’m excited to incorporate the association’s strategic imperative on racial justice and decolonization into how the future of this work can and should be facilitated across identities, institutions, and the profession as a whole.

What is the secret of your career success?

A good portion of my career success has been rooted in the idea of utilizing an interdisciplinary perspective in how I approach the work of career services and higher education. While yes, I do think it it is important to ground our professional practice and the practices and standards of organizations like NACE and NCDA, I think it is also important to incorporate additional frameworks. My professional practice is informed by works and perspectives featured in queer theory, post-colonial feminism, and critical race theory. Because of these lenses, I think differently about how I see myself engaging in the work and bring a voice not necessarily featured in most spaces. I think career success can occur when you are able to challenge the current ideology, systems, and institutions and re-frame them to produce new ways of thinking and innovation.


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!