The phone rings at the Student Affairs office front desk, and Suffolk University alumna Helaina Polito is equipped to answer it. Just more than a year after graduation in 2013, Polito was hired for the job aiming to pursue her interest in higher education.
“My desk is right at the front, so I get the initial student contact, I help the staff members in the office as well as the Dean, I schedule appointments, and help supervise work study,” said Polito in an interview Thursday explaining her job description.
To paint the picture of Polito’s success with the university, she first had to describe her history of involvement through the course of her four years at Suffolk.
The lighting was dim and the atmosphere was quiet in the Sawyer Library, but it seemed as if nothing would stop Polito from eagerly telling her story.
After growing up in Tewksbury, Mass., she decided to enroll at Suffolk because it was the best fit for her. “I think just being in Boston was a huge draw for me, it’s a place with so much opportunity being right in the center of the city,” Polito said.
Right away, Polito began to get involved outside of the classroom. She was a part of the Journey Leadership Program, which is designed to build a student’s leadership skills throughout their years at Suffolk. She was a member of the Global Leadership Exchange, and was able to travel to Barbados and Ireland.
Polito stepped up her leadership status when she became the president of Program Council her senior year. “Those were my most memorable experiences in my involvement,” she said nostalgically.
She declared her psychology major and education minor, and in her senior year completed an internship at Judge Baker Children’s Center in Boston. “There, they test and treat children for different childhood disorders,” Polito said. “It was a wonderful opportunity to intern there and see and help those children.”
Right after graduation, Polito got a job at Bright Horizons as a toddler teacher. “Education has always been a passion of mine, I just never knew what capacity I wanted to go.” Polito began her career with early education, then discovered she wanted to pursue higher education.
By working in the Office of Student Affairs, she aims to become more aware of how to help students and what resources are provided from a staff member’s side as opposed to being a student. “It’s been really eye opening to see exactly how the university helps students with different concerns they might have.”
Polito is now able to see a new perspective through Student Affairs, explaining, while gesturing with her hands, that she can see the whole picture.
“I’d like to pursue a career in higher education, I’m currently taking one course, and I’ll be applying for the Administration of Higher Education program here.” By doing this, she hopes to fine-tune a direction to go within Student Affairs. “There are so many directions to go in higher education, and I definitely want to be able to work directly with students,” whether this is mentoring, counseling, or advising. “That’s the great thing about the Student Affairs Office, you get to see all the resources that are offered to students, and to figure out where I want to be in higher education.”
One of the things Polito values the most from her education at Suffolk was her involvement, and getting involved on campus seemed to be what made Polito discover herself. “I think my involvement was crucial in my own personal development, it’s something I definitely would encourage students to do,” Polito said with utter confidence.
Through those experiences, she was able to meet faculty members and make valuable connections that lasted past earning her degree. “The skills that you develop through those opportunities allows you to fine tune your skills that you are able to transfer into the workplace. As much as you learn in the classroom and your education is important, I found that those skills helped me in my current job.”