October 15, 2019

Bianca Hightower: Career Creator

Bianca Hightower, assistant director of the Center for Career and Professional Development. Photo by Norm Shafer.

Bianca Hightower, assistant director of the Center for Career and Professional Development. Photo by Norm Shafer.

Bianca Hightower has several meaningful mementos and family photos decorating her office. But for the assistant director of the Center for Career and Professional Development, what reminds her most of why she loves her job are the signed business cards from UMW graduates she’s guided toward careers.

“I work closely with students to help them develop the skills and experiences they need to pursue their career goals,” said Hightower, who came to Mary Washington in 2013 and began her current role two years later. “I cherish seeing how successful they have become.”

Hightower oversees UMW’s Peer Career Consultant Program and helps students navigate the internship and job search, in addition to teaching a course that helps job seekers learn how to communicate their personal brand to prospective employers. One might assume that Hightower and the Career and Professional Development staff have downtime during the summer. On the contrary, the office is bustling with activity, especially after commencement, during orientation and before the start of the school year. In the meantime, the staff is busy preparing to help the next crop of students plan their futures.

If that isn’t enough, Hightower also supports teenagers throughout the region in finding pathways to success. She leads the James Farmer Scholars, a college access program for 250 students in grades seven to 12.

“Juggling these dual roles has certainly challenged me to grow as a professional,” Hightower said. “I manage by staying organized and being efficient. But I couldn’t do it without the people around me.”

 

Q: How did you come to work in this field?
A: I completed several internships during graduate school to discover my interests and career services was where I found my niche.

Q: What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
A: When students are able to define and reach their goals. Figuring out a career path is a daunting task, so I applaud students for working through the process.

Q: The most challenging?
A: Finding time in the day to fit it all in. Our office is small, but we get the job done.

Q: Tell us about Handshake and how it works.
A: It’s a platform that students use to connect with potential mentors and employers, track their experiences and keep in touch with our office. The biggest use is for students to search for and apply to job and internships posted in the system by employers.

Q: How will the James Farmer Scholars celebrate the 100th anniversary of James Farmer’s birth next January?
A: We are planning a reunion for past Scholars and special activities for current participants.

Q: What was your favorite summer job as a teen or college student?
A: Working as an undergraduate RA during a summer school session at Wake Forest University. It was a different dynamic than during the academic year and helped solidify my desire to pursue a career in higher education.

Q: What would people be surprised to learn about you?
A: I am obsessed with cheerleading! I recently had knee surgery after being on an adult cheer team, but it was worth it.