Interviewed by Heather Greaves, Marketing Specialist, Cancer Treatment Centers of America®
Director of Academic Affairs
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
Describe yourself in three words.
Curious, Introspective, Strategic
What drew you to a career in education?
I studied religion and philosophy at Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee and initially planned to pursue a Ph.D. and be a career academic. After getting my Master’s degree, I no longer saw the field as my long-term career trajectory. What appealed to me about the field was interacting with my peers and faculty members, and discussing ideas – like religion, and the role it plays in both society and individuals’ lives. I love learning and being involved in a process. I had a lot of experience as a graduate assistant and adjunct instructor while I was studying, and was able to parlay that into a career in higher education Administration.
What do you like most about your current role at The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA)?
I am very detailed-focused and enjoy managing the minute details of a project – the school budget for example. I also love the people. They are friendly and passionate about what they do.
You were born in Illinois, grew up in North Carolina, and studied in Tennessee – What brought you to Philadelphia?
I met my wife in college, and we moved to Philadelphia about five years ago so she could complete her Masters at Temple University. We have lived in a few different neighborhoods in Philadelphia but recently moved to Passyunk (proudly pronouncing it “Pashunk” like a Philadelphia native).
Any favorite spots in Philly?
There are a lot of great restaurants along Passyunk Avenue, such as such as Cantina Los Caballitos and Bing Bing, that my wife and I have been frequenting since our move a few weeks ago. There’s also a wealth of take-out and delivery options. We are still exploring the neighborhood. I like the uniqueness of the different neighborhoods – Old City, Graduate Hospital, Passyunk Square. A report from the Pew Charitable Trust on Millennials in Philadelphia cited Philadelphia as having the largest growth in 18 to 34 year-olds among major U.S. cities.
What made you get involved with YPN?
I got involved with YPN four years ago as a way to connect in a group of my peers and look for opportunities for professional development. I joined the Professional Development Committee after about a year.
What has been your favorite professional development event so far?
There was a workshop back in December 2012 called Maintaining your Personal Health and Wellness at the Chamber. I am pretty health-conscious and thinking that it would not be helpful to me, I almost did not attend. I remember Dr. Robert Bulgarelli, (Board Certified-cardiologist) talking about the importance of being health-conscious as a young adult. He said that 70% of deaths can be prevented with proper nutrition and exercise – that was eye opening for me. He went on to speak about the different predictors of longevity. It was really interesting and stuck with me.
Is there anything that has surprised you in your career thus far?
Life tends to be very surprising. I have never been able to predict anything really. I could never have guessed that I would like in Philly, or work in the oldest art school and museum in the country. I have accepted that I cannot accurately predict the future and that’s ok. My goal is to constantly be challenged and work with people who enjoy what there are doing in a collaborative environment.
Any advice for young professionals looking to further their career?
Your behaviors and habits today define the person you will be. The relationships you build are most likely those that you will have for the rest of your life. Everything you do is important; it is experience gained, and information received. Be willing to take on new things, have as diverse a sense of skills and experiences as you can. You never know when it will serve you in life.
Nathanael’s recommended read – The Defining Decade, Why your twenties matter – and how to make the most of them now by Meg Jay, Ph.D.