40 under 40 - Andrea Nerlich '98, G'00
How has having a Springfield College degree impacted you professionally?
I don't think that I would be where I am today without the connections that I made at Springfield. When it was time to pursue a Ph.D., I relied on Dr. Stano and Dr. Mike Accordino (who had just started when I was in graduate school) to provide insight into programs. I have contributed to several texts that Dr. Stano has edited, and we are under contract together for a new text. Dr. Accordino and I are involved in the National Council on Rehabilitation Education, both on the board and in the planning of the annual conference. At the conference each year, Mike and I coordinate a Springfield alumni dinner of grads who are either in doctoral programs or teaching at universities in rehabilitation counseling programs.
Rehabilitation counselor education is not a large field, with only about 85 programs around the country. But there is a strong Springfield College presence. If we know there is an SC alum who is a doc student, we will seek them out at a conference, invite them to join on a project with us. For those who are newer faculty, we will look out for and mentor them. It is a really great circle for me knowing that I was afforded so many opportunities because of the SC connections and mentoring, and now that I have a veteran faculty, I can pay it forward to the new doc students and professionals in the field.
At Hofstra, my colleague and now Vice Dean, is a Springfield College graduate. Despite the different times that we went to Springfield, you can tell that the SC values never change and she is so great to collaborate with.
Who influenced you when you were a student at Springfield College and explain the role they played in your life?
The first person that had a genuine impact was Dr. Raymond Berte. By the end of freshman year, all I wanted to do was create a life around improving the lives of people with disabilities.
As I got into my undergrad studies, Dr. Berne Graney was a great adviser and always took time out for me. I feel like the whole RHDS faculty took an interest in me and encouraged me to apply to the graduate program. Dr. Joe Stano was the person who really challenged me all throughout and held the bar so high that I had no choice but to reach it. He trained me to be an evaluator and see the world with an analytical eye. He was able to open up my mind to the possibilities in this field. I knew by the start of my junior year that I wanted to get a Ph.D. and teach—I don't know how many 19-year-old know that!
Coach Dottie Zenaty really challenged us and expected excellence from us. Most importantly, she was very keen on developing respect for traditions and a professional comportment among all of her players. You dressed neatly for away games, were courteous to the schools and towns where we were guests, and always sang the Alma Mater in the van rides back, as soon as we were reaching campus.
The best part about SC is that care is taken from one generation of student to the next to pass along tradition, the love, and respect that is fundamental to being part of the Springfield College legacy.
If you could share one piece of advice with today's current Springfield College student, what would it be?
Don't be afraid of the uncomfortable and unfamiliar. Take the risk on the unknown because you are going to surprise yourself. Since graduating high school, I have moved to four totally new places for school and career. Each time I went, no one came with me and I knew no one—up to Springfield, to Maryland for work, to Michigan for school, and to New York for my current job. I now have experiences that people can only imagine because I had to be adaptable, creative, and outgoing to make it work. And I have friends all over the country now—and all my family still back in Massachusetts who love me (as long as I don't become a Yankees fan!).
Who you want to thank personally for the role they have played in your success?
First and foremost, my parents—especially because of the sacrifices they made to get me to Springfield College. My college roommates, Ally and Kelly, because no matter where I go, nothing has changed between us. The amazing faculty at SC, especially Joe Stano and Mike Accordino for continuing to be partners in my success. All of my field hockey teammates who made four years of sweat and tears seem like four minutes, especially Lizzie, Steph, SK, and Rosie.
My mentors at Michigan State University, Drs. Leahy and Kosciulek, for instilling in me the purpose of stewardship for our profession. Dr. Darlene Groomes, for helping me keep my sanity during my doc program, making me into a Wonder Woman—and for the friendship we still share. My colleague and friend Dr. Jamie Mitus. In academia, you see so many varying levels of collegiality among faculty. Jamie makes what we do so worthwhile and it is truly a partnership, in our program of two. My colleagues, Drs. Katie Sell and Sage Rose, who remind me to laugh even when it gets ridiculous.
There are too many friends to thank over the years for supporting me in my ambition and making sure I didn't take anything too seriously, especially my club hockey and triathlon teammates. They know that if I don't sweat I get cranky.
My son Wyatt keeps me grounded and lights up my world--he is my true measure of success. And lastly, my husband Carl—not because he is an afterthought, but because he is the most important thing. Without him, none of this makes sense or matters. Having two successful professionals can be a struggle (especially with a kid, a dog, and 6 chickens!) and time is a valuable commodity. He takes care of so much so I don't have to worry, respects that I am driven, and tries his best to understand this crazy life I lead. Life is an adventure, and it's better with a fun crew!