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Student Turned Staff Member Alyssa Caliguri '13 Continues to Learn at Western New England

By Kenneth Stratton '19 SUNDAY, JULY 7, 2019 - 12:00 PM WNE100

Not every student who shows up on campus in their freshman year can expect to stay there for ten years - most college degrees take only four to complete, after all. But what if those ten years were more than just an education inside the classroom, and a learning experience as a professional as well?

That was the question Alyssa Caliguri ’13 considered when she decided to return to Western New England University after the completion of her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology. But she almost never even came to campus at all.

“It’s kinda funny, I didn’t even know this school existed, but my family friend’s son went here, and they told me, ‘I think you should really check it out,’” Caliguri explained. A native of Long Island, for a long time she expected to be going to school in Florida, in an effort to escape the winter weather. But fate had different plans for her.

“I stepped on campus and fell in love with it, even though it was raining on the tour,” she chuckled. Caliguri knew the community atmosphere and small class sizes were perfect for her, and with a little encouragement, found herself wrapped up in extra-curriculars.

Describing herself as shy and quiet in her first year, Caliguri jumped into Freshman Council, unsure of what to expect. But she found support in Kerri Jarzabski, Dean of First Year Students and advisor on Council, who challenged her to do more.

“I hated public speaking…I hated the attention, I was a more kind of one-on-one type of person, but she just kinda threw me into it,” Caliguri laughed. Today she works right down the hall from Jarzabski, and is thankful for the Dean’s efforts to get her into more leadership style positions, as it helped prepare her for the future.

In her years as a student, Caliguri was also an Orientation Group Leader (OGL), Peer Advisor (PA) and First Year Seminar Assistant (FSA). Initially an Elementary Education and History double major, Caliguri switched to Psychology, and after four years, completed her degree.

That summer following graduation, Caliguri became the Graduate Assistant of SOAR, the Summer Orientation and Registration program at Western New England. Expecting to leave once that experience was over, Caliguri shifted her plans when a job opened that summer.

She took classes at Springfield College part-time, eventually earning her Master of Education degree, while working at Western New England full-time. To Caliguri, the decision to stay connected with the University was an easy one.

“I just believed in what Western New England was as a community,” Caliguri said. “This is where I’m going to learn the most, I’m gonna grow the most from,” she explained, recounting her thought process at the time.

Much of her early work was in the Sophomore Career Connections program. Today, she’s the assistant director for first year student success, back doing hands-on work in the First Year program.

Caliguri’s projects throughout the year include, but are not limited to, putting together the Freshman Focus series, organizing the Transitions programs and working with PAs to make sure they are working well with their hundreds of first year students.

Thinking of her time with OGLs over the summer, with PAs in the fall, and those everyday casual encounters in her Campus Center office, Caliguri appreciates Western New England’s student body, which she believes is the cream of the crop.

“Our students are some of the most committed and selfless individuals,” Caliguri said fondly. In her line of work, she gets to see students grow and learn from one another, which she says is one of the most rewarding elements of the job, even if it keeps her very busy.

“It’s like you’re going a thousand miles a minute but it’s good and you get to work with all these amazing students,” the student turned staff member said.

As for what comes next for Caliguri, she’s unsure. As she explained, anything can happen in a year, so she plans on taking life one step at a time.

“I’ve grown immensely from [this position] and learned a lot about myself and a lot about the student affairs profession,” Caliguri said. “I’m still learning, but I do like where I am right now,” she said with a smile.

All across campus, Golden Bears are learning – from each other, from professors, and from professionals like Caliguri. As she embodies, just because you stop being a student doesn’t mean you ever have to stop learning.