For Sharon Duffy, associate dean of students, event planning is a passion. Not only is she is a staple at student-organized activities around the Emerson campus, but also outside of Emerson, where she is involved in organizing activities in her Malden, Massachusetts, community. It was her love of events, in fact, that led her to pursue a career in student life. “I enjoy event planning because to me it’s not work, it’s fun,” she said.
Duffy realized she wanted to pursue a career in higher education when she was in college. She began her undergraduate studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass), majoring in psychology and planning to become a child psychologist. However, she soon recognized how much she enjoyed being involved in campus activities and organizations.
Her faculty advisor suggested that she could pursue this passion as a career. In order to make that happen, Duffy obtained a master’s degree in education policy and research analysis in higher education from UMass.
After graduation, Duffy took a position as assistant director of student activities at Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Georgia. She later moved on to Simmons College in Boston as assistant director of student activities. Eventually, Duffy found her way to Emerson in 2001 as director of the student union. She was promoted to associate dean in 2002.
In her current role, Duffy is responsible for student support and providing students with a “great college experience.” She helps students grow personally and professionally outside of the classroom. Duffy also assists in building community and school pride and guides students to become active, interested, and engaged alumni once they graduate. She finds her position fun and dynamic. “I feel like our students are out to change the world, and I enjoy being a part of that,” she said.
Duffy has facilitated numerous events at Emerson. In fact, her first day on campus was Commencement 2001. Other events that Duffy enjoys every year are Undergraduate Orientation and the ERA Awards. In addition, she planned the College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational in 2010.
Duffy appreciates the opportunities she has to work with departments across the College. “Emerson is a smaller school with a more intimate community, where I can be involved in all the happenings and work with multiple departments,” she said.
She enjoys her daily interaction with students and said she’s always learning from them. For example, students persuaded Duffy to take up social media. “Every day I learn something new, and I am able to teach students something, too.”
When she is not at Emerson, Duffy spends her time planning family and community activities with her husband and two children, such as an annual Thanksgiving Day brunch as well as the occasional summer barbeque with 200–400 attendees. She has also planned weddings, baby showers, and birthday parties.
“Whether at Emerson or at home, I enjoy bringing people together to share a positive experience that creates a positive memory,” she said.
Photo by Aja Neahring '13