Fast Five: Dr. Sharon DeVivo

President of Vaughn College

Dr. DeVivo began her career as director of public relations at C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University and then moved on to Fordham University where she served as public affairs manager. Her tenure at Vaughn College began as the director of communications. She was quickly tapped for advancement and took on the role of dean for college relations, followed by vice president of institutional advancement, vice president of academic and student affairs and finally senior vice president for the institution.

Vaughn announced the appointment of Dr. DeVivo as President following the selection by the board of trustees for the institution. Dr. DeVivo was unanimously chosen by the board and assumed her position on July 1, 2014. 

During her time at Vaughn, Dr. DeVivo, has been deeply committed to student success and creating a highly engaging educational experience both inside and outside the classroom. Her accomplishments include: increasing the six-year graduation rate for bachelor’s degree students from the low 30s to 57 percent over the past decade; raising more than $50 million to create top-notch learning spaces with the latest equipment; implementing two strategic plans that invest in new programs, facilities, and faculty; and working with a dedicated group including trustees, the president, the faculty and administrators who believe that Vaughn College truly makes a difference in the lives of the students it serves.

1. How do we keep locally trained students from leaving for opportunities outside the New York metro area?

Many of these students want to stay close to their families, in order to do so they need to see a career pathway that allows them to do just that. Some examples include participation in internships, shadow days and on-campus recruiting/connection events. If your company is interested in partnering, we might also add your representative to our various program-specific advisory councils. These are groups that look closely at our curriculum, and assist us in developing students who are ready for the workforce. Being a member also provides an opportunity to interact with faculty and staff who can help create deeper connections with our community. Becoming a professional mentor to a student is another powerful opportunity to create a connection to a student who may become your employee. Finally, given the financial limits of the students we serve we are always seeking new opportunities to make college affordable and recently set-up a new program called Income Sharing Agreements (ISAs). ISAs are future-facing financial tool that allows students to use a percentage of their future income to fund their college education now. Companies that are interested in creating connections with students now may be interested in providing funding through these emerging financial options.

2. How does Vaughn College reach young students, especially girls, to enlighten them on career opportunities in aviation?

Inspiring young women is absolutely something that Vaughn is committed to and we are so fortunate to have incredible ambassadors (our students!) to help us. We regularly host events on campus for the Girl Scouts and our Women in Aviation – International Chapter and our Society of Women Engineers Chapter are often attending events such as the Queens Girls STEM Day, the Maker Faire at New York Hall of Science, as well as hosting outreach workshops to middle and high school girls. The research tells us that girls’ interest in STEM drops off sometime in middle school. At the same time, we also know that girls are attracted to the STEM fields where they feel that they can make a real difference in world.  Institutions like Vaughn need to reach students early so that they consider the opportunity-rich world of aviation and technology.

3. What advice would you give to students interested in networking within the airport community?

The aviation community is passionate about their work and their customers, and eager to share that enthusiasm with new entrants to the employment world. One of Vaughn’s strengths is our ability to connect students to the larger aviation community. We do this through a variety of means including requiring students in their first year of study to take our mandatory career development course where they learn about creating a resume, interview skills and their profiles on social media, especially LinkedIn. We are also in the process of building a mentoring program, and have started a small pilot program this semester with those students who participate in our Leadership Academy, funded generously by the Aviation Development Council, and will eventually grow this into a program for every student. It is by having those connections during their college years that students can use once they are looking for that all important first job, and every job after, that serves them for a lifetime of success.

4. Has Vaughn College considered a satellite or remote campus in the New York metro area?

We would certainly consider additional campus locations if it made good sense for the institution. The demand for aviation professionals is strong worldwide right now and for the next two decades. We also work with institutions globally including the University of the West Indies, who send their graduates students to Vaughn for a week-long internship, as well as an institution in Shanghai, China. Jian Jiao University currently has 40 students enrolled at Vaughn who complete a bachelor’s degree in aviation maintenance in less than two years.

5. If you can achieve one goal in the next five years, what would it be?

My number one priority is always to serve students well, and to strive for continuous improvement every semester and every year. The population we serve is incredible—80 percent minority, mostly first-generation college students and first-generation Americans from limited means, and they have a dream for themselves, and their families, to achieve a college degree. The nature of higher education is changing and whereas a degree may have been the end of our education a generation ago, today’s students need a lifelong educational partner that provides them with “just-in-time learning” and reflects the changing technological landscape. Vaughn needs to develop strategies for every aspect of a graduate’s success—entry-level, mid-career and beyond—and to be a real resource of professional support. We know the transformative power of a Vaughn degree, and we need to add value that enhances every students’ education and opportunity.

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