Sofia Abreu spent the last 10 years making a career out of career education—serving as a Career Counselor and Event Planner at Temple University, Assistant Director for Career Development at Villanova University, and Manager of Career Services at Rowan College at Burlington County—before landing her current role as the Director of Career Education & Development at Stockton University. Fueled by her experience as a first-generation student and expertise as a career services professional, she places innovation, collaboration, and equity at the forefront when supporting college students. While helping students achieve success is the goal, Sofia’s approach to that work can be best described by her favorite quote: “Success is its own reward, but failure is a great teacher too, and not to be feared.” – Sonia Sotomayor
Read on to discover how Sofia and her team are democratizing access to opportunities at Stockton University.
As a seasoned career educator, can you tell us more about your role at Stockton and how Handshake fits into your workflow?
I provide direction for career services programming, collaborate with faculty and staff to integrate career education across campus, and engage with employers and alumni partners to create professional opportunities for students and alumni. Handshake streamlines collaboration across my team of directors and students by serving as a central location for managing appointments, events, fairs, and employer engagement.
How are you utilizing data from Handshake to support your community and report programmatic success to leadership?
We use Handshake data to evaluate program effectiveness, identify trends for student engagement, analyze student outcomes, and set goals for the department. For example, we are currently utilizing Handshake’s First Destination Survey (FDS) tool to track post-graduation data and identify students that need additional support post-graduation, which we then report monthly to leadership. Handshake gives us the information we need to continue to advocate for career readiness initiatives across campus and ensure that we are meeting goals established by leadership in addition to departmental goals.
What is one of your favorite events or programs that you or your team have implemented on your campus?
One initiative I find impactful on our campus is the new student orientation program in which the program director collaborates with our office to introduce first year and transfer students to Handshake. The session is called “Invest in your nest”, led by Stockton’s Transition Activity Leaders of New Students (TALONS). Students gather in a computer lab and are guided through activating their Handshake accounts and navigating the platform. Since the initiative’s introduction in 2021, first-year and transfer students are connecting with our office earlier thanks to the early exposure to Handshake.
What are the biggest challenges your students face when it comes to professional development and career exploration? How do you and your career team help solve for them?
Many of our students are unsure about which career they want to pursue and feel overwhelmed by the amount of choices that are available to them. One way we are helping to alleviate that anxiety is by training our Career Ambassadors to facilitate 30-minute “All About Handshake” appointments. These sessions help students review the platform individually, refine their profiles, and gain relevant resources early on to jumpstart their job and internship search.
What is one of your favorite student success stories?
I am very pleased to say that two of our Career Ambassadors have accepted summer internships! It’s been a pleasure getting to see them develop new skills under the guidance and mentorship of our Assistant Directors of Career Education and Development, apply what they’ve learned, and articulate their new skills to secure new opportunities.