Behind the Scenes: Exploring careers & experiences working in higher education with Sandy DerGurahian

Have you ever thought about working in higher education? Excelsior Life sat down with Sandy DerGurahian, who has worked for the College for over 35 years. DerGurahian shares her experience, memories and reason for considering a career path in higher education.Sandy Career Timeline


Excelsior Life: When did you start working for the College?

DerGurahian: My first day was January 28, 1980.

Excelsior Life: What did your first job at the College entail?

DerGurahian: I was a typist for Eileen Young (who is the Assistant Dean in the School of Business & Technology) and she was a “transcript evaluator” for the Business program. I typed status reports, letters, memos, copy things, and did mailings. Sometimes I had to go to the 3rd floor of the building because that’s where the copying machines were located. We shared the machines with other state offices. Sometimes you sat in this copying room for hours waiting for your turn to copy your status reports, letters or whatever you were sending to the student that had to be kept in their paper file. So you brought a good book with you to read while you waited.

Excelsior Life: Explain how your job has transitioned over time from when you first started to where you are now.

Sandy DerGurahian Updated PhotoDerGurahian: I graduated from the College in December 1979 and started as a “typist” in the Registrar’s office for what was then called Regents External Degree Program. The salary for this position was $7,500 a year. There was no such thing as a computer. You heard the clicking of typewriters all day long. After 2.5 years I became a transcript evaluator and I think the starting salary was $10,500. There were only 3 phone lines in the Registrar’s Office and we made calls out to students. All 13 transcript evaluators had to watch the phone so when the light went out that meant the line was open so you could make your phone calls. You had a time frame to complete all your returned calls so watching the phone line to accomplish that was what you had to do over other responsibilities. There were around 75 people in the whole college at that time. I have seen a lot of growth and changes in this organization from people to technology to our business operations.

The technology is the biggest change from typewriters and the many manual process to the technologies we have today. It was a simpler time. In the ‘80s, we finally we got a computer – one per office. We’d stand in line to get our chance to look up information on that computer. Today we have information at our fingertips. That definitely has made things easier and so much more efficient. I am thankful for having had the opportunity to experience all of it.

I was fortunate to change roles since I began in 1980. From typist to transcript evaluator, to academic advisor, to academic evaluation specialist, to director of advisement and evaluation to my current title of assistant dean for academic advisement and outreach. My jobs have transitioned greatly over the past 35 years.

Excelsior Life: What is one of the best things about working in higher education and for Excelsior College?

DerGurahian: I enjoy working with students and helping them achieve their academic goals. I also enjoy working with other people throughout the College and being part of new initiatives in both the development and implementation of the initiative. I enjoy being part of the growth of the College.

Excelsior Life: Do you have any favorite memories that you’d like to share?

DerGurahian: I have a lot of favorite memories. There are some great memories from the early days as there are from the days after that time. Sometimes when those of us who worked at the Cultural Education Center get together, we talk about the old days and all we do is laugh. You probably would have a hard time believing some of the things that were done back then.

I have met and worked with some remarkable people and continue to do so. The changes I have seen are over the last 35 years are truly amazing. I think the biggest game changer for the College was the hiring of our first Provost – Paula Peinovich. She really took the program and made it a college. I was amazed with her intelligence and her ability to make us a true college.

Excelsior Life: Do you have any advice you could give to someone who is working toward a career in higher education?

DerGurahian: Have a passion for what you do. That is what a career is all about. If the career is just about the money, you will not be satisfied or happy in your career.

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