A Dedication to Lifelong-Learning and Mentoring
On a path from mentee to mentor, Alfreda S. James has aided thousands of students to take flight. She has dedicated most of her life and career to the pursuit of knowledge and research while guiding Stony Brook students in their career development. Her presence and influence is felt strongly in a wide array of departments including the Career Center, the Department of Political Science, Center for Inclusive Education, Graduate Career Association, the Graduate School and many others.
James completed her undergraduate degree at the College of William and Mary, where she also earned her master’s in higher education administration. She then earned a PhD in American history from Stony Brook University. Since beginning her career at Stony Brook in 1988, James has used her academic background to support international students and graduate students whether it be with career counseling, student visas or experiential opportunities.
James is an unforgettable mentor to many students and colleagues. She consistently established meaningful connections with others and provided personalized insight. Jinelle Wint, a former intern and now assistant dean for academic affairs at the Stowers Institute for Medical Research, worked alongside James, described her impact: “In every interaction I’ve had with her, I’m always amazed by her grace, wit, knowledge, humor and wisdom. In her engagement with students, she can simultaneously empower them while also having them realize the path they would like to take … I’m happy for this next phase in her career, but I know that her absence will be felt widely.”
James established the first Graduate Career Service where she “charted a new path for the campus to envision career development as part of a PhD student’s experience, co-authored our first experiential course for graduate students, and been a mentor and guide to literally thousands. She has left an indelible mark on the institution,” said Marianna Savoca, assistant vice president for Career Development and Experiential Education. In that role James also teaches CAR 551: Career and Life Design for Graduate Students, where students learn the four stages of the career success roadmap using the design-thinking process. Students engage in a series of discussions, personal reflections, and ideations to prototype and prepare to pursue career options. They clarify their work-life values and develop workplace essentials. Graduate students have flocked to the Career Center in the last several years because of Alfreda S. James’ outreach efforts to GPDs, GPCs and individual faculty. In fact this past year she saw a 33 percent increase in requests.
James is also known to be a worldly woman. She is well-versed in global cultures and keeps herself updated on industry trends. She shares her knowledge by being a co-organizer and former communications chair for the Graduate Career Consortium, a national network of professionals who support graduate career and professional development, where she has been involved since 2003. She also contributes to the national conversation around graduate student success by writing articles and blog posts for InsideHigherEd and CarpeCareers.
She empathizes with the efforts of international students to carve out career paths for themselves in a foreign environment. She learns from their culture and their perspectives and creates a safe space in her mentoring. Her curiosity around cultural practices prompted her to nurture a close relationship with the Visa and Immigration Services (VIS) team and with the China Center. She collaborated with their staff to organize career and professional development programming, and engaged VIS to ensure that students knew the ins and outs of employment paperwork.
Trista Lu is the current interim director of the China Center. Before that, she had previously met James as a young professional in 2015 and described the impact she has had on her career trajectory: “She welcomed me with open arms, respect and support … She was willing to spend the time to get to know me as a colleague and as a person. We built our collaborative relationship from our first mini-workshop project into many new large/small-scale events … She is a true professional who’s shown by example that excellence is something to aim for daily. Dr. James, thank you for everything you have contributed to this community.”
Alfreda S. James’ tireless efforts have shaped positive life trajectories for many. Thousands have found careers with purpose and personal satisfaction in line with their talents. Her work and impact have been recognized with a Student Affairs Distinguished Service Award for Student Development and a SUNY CDO Award for Excellence in Programming. She took on many roles during her time here — learner, analyst, strategist, mentor, connector and writer. No matter what task she took on, she made it a labor of love. Her achievement and accomplishments are more than well-deserved. To the Stony Brook University community, Alfreda S. James is irreplaceable! Thank you for 34 years of service and for the authentic love you invested in your work and your students. Happy retirement!