Emerging Leaders Programs as well as the Peer Leadership Initiative. She focuses on developing student leaders and wants them to feel challenged, accepted and supported in all three programs, she said.
A native of Burlington, Vermont, Halligan graduated from Chatham College in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with bachelor’s degrees in music (vocal performance) and psychology. She earned her Masters in Higher Education Student Affairs Administration from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.
Halligan was living outside of New York when she and her husband decided to move to the Richmond area to be closer to their family.
Why did you decide to work with VCU?
I have always been in love with public universities and the access to education they provide for students. Luckily for me, VCU had a few positions open and I applied quickly. I was hired to work as a student leadership coordinator in 2014, and although it was a step back in my professional career to make this move for my family, I loved the transition to VCU, the community and students. VCU is a special place. That’s what kept me here for eight years.
What do you like most about your job?
Working in higher education in student engagement is rewarding because it is a cornerstone of student success in college. An engaged student will be a successful student. I enjoy spending time engaging and supporting students in our programs, challenging them in the classroom, and helping them apply their leadership knowledge to their activities outside of the classroom. What I enjoy most about my job is seeing our students graduate and knowing that we were a small part of their future success.
What does a typical day look like for you?
No workday in student affairs is typical. My team oversees three top-level programs, and we spend a lot of time supporting our students both in person and administratively. On a normal day, you will see me in the classroom teaching our “Foundations of Leadership Studies” course (UNIV270) to our first-year students in the Emerging Leaders program. Ultimately, I plan programs, support our team of assistant directors, work on recruitment efforts, connect with alumni, and find ways to strategically position our programs for expansion and more. great successes.
What part of your job can be difficult?
As we continue to adapt to the ever-changing pandemic environment, it has been difficult to anticipate the needs of our students. Some students have spent the past two years in high school with varying levels of engagement or access to in-person activities. Our upper class students have had a variety of experiences and are adjusting to a more “normal” experience as a student. We’ve found that students are still in survival mode and engagement outside of the classroom is less of a priority than before…and I get it. It’s hard to commit to something when you don’t know what the next few months will bring. It has been a challenge to engage students in programs that might take longer, despite knowing the positive impact. Changing our programs to accommodate the changing priorities of a VCU student during the pandemic is exhilarating and exhausting. I am grateful to have the time and the platform with our students to engage, learn and adapt as needed.
What motivates you?
Personally, I am motivated by my daughters. Every day I hope they see me authentically and that as they get older they are inspired to have a career-focused mother who balances more than I sometimes think is humanly possible. Professionally, I am motivated by my students. Our VCU students are some of the brightest and most inspiring students I have ever met. I don’t know if people tell them enough – if not, I hope they read this. I am motivated that the work I do to support student leaders will benefit us all in the future, as I am convinced that our VCU students will change the world.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
My mother always taught me to be a good human and above all to be kind. It’s something I’m proud of. In this often conflicting climate, benevolence allows us to continue to maintain a human connection with each other. It refocuses self-awareness and encourages self-care and self-kindness. For me, I value people and relationships and this manifests through my interactions and priorities by providing non-judgmental, compassionate and supportive environments.
Who is your dream table companion and why?
To be honest, it would be a dream to have dinner with my maternal grandmother, Angie. I was blessed to have her in my life until I was 90, but I wasn’t shrewd enough during my time with her to appreciate her power and wisdom. She was an immigrant from Slovenia and her story is one of resilience, perseverance and strength that comes from a long line of stubborn matriarchs. I see myself in her a lot now and wish I could hear her stories again of where I am now in my life.
What is your favorite movie and why?
My dad is a retired film teacher, so I grew up watching foreign films, black and white classics, musicals and blockbusters. If I had to choose my current favorite film based on the impact it has had on the current stage of my life, it would be “Arrival” by Denis Villeneuve. I’ve always been drawn to science fiction and this film was an exploration of language, perception and human relationships. The movie touched on a deeper question that my family struggled with, which is, “If you could see your whole life from start to finish, would you change things?” We had to ask ourselves this question the hard way in 2016 when we welcomed our beautiful second daughter, Maggie, into the world and lost her 11 days later. The film question helped us reframe our trauma and allowed us to search for meaning and meaning. We have observed the immense level of impact of his short life, the relationships we have built during our time at VCU NICU, and the gratitude we have for our ability to share his story. One year to the day after Maggie passed away, we welcomed her younger sister into the world. “Arrival” asked us if we would change things if we could see our life and know the outcome, for us the answer is no. We are grateful for our journey through loss, the incredible connections we have made, and the perspective it has given us on the meaning of life.
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