When Ryan Stalgaitis was an undergraduate student at Rutgers University, he had no idea he would become a career counselor and receive the “Practitioner of the Year” award from the New Jersey Cooperative Education and Internship Association (NJCEIA).

“What I thought I was going to do was marketing and sales and I did,” Stalgaitis said. After graduating with a degree in communication and sociology, he worked in a marketing and sales role.

“I knew I wanted to work with people. I wanted to get more out of what I was doing when working with people,” he said.

Stalgaitis went back to Rutgers to obtain his master’s degree in college student affairs. At that time it was a brand new program and Stalgaitis was part of the inaugural class. He said that the reason he decided to pursue that degree was that he remembered his struggles as an undergraduate. He specialized in career counseling, whereas other people in the program specialized in resident life and academic advising.

After graduating, he applied for a job opening at the College at Florham.

“It seemed like a great opportunity and it has been. I was looking for something in New Jersey because I love New Jersey and luckily there are a lot of colleges and universities here,” he said. About accepting the job at the College at Florham, he added, “It just felt right. I knew it was a right fit for me and that was very important.”

Stalgaitis counsels students from all majors within Becton College and said he tries to “help each student individually with anything career-related that they need help with.”

He said that it’s important to get students headed in the right direction with building strong resumes and cover letters, as well as developing interview skills.

“I try to teach them how they can do it on their own so they don’t have to solely rely on someone,” he said.

NJCEIA is a state-level organization of which he is a member. It is one of the two largest organizations in New Jersey for career services and career-related professionals like Stalgaitis. The organization holds conferences in professional development programs where career counselors learn how to better help their students.

“It’s a great organization to be a part of,” Stalgaitis said.

Although members have the option to self-nominate, Stalgaitis was nominated for the award by his colleague, Rosalie Sabatino, who is the associate director of career development.

He said it was “an honor in itself” for her to nominate him.

“Even just being nominated means the world to me,” Stalgaitis said. He added that he’s in an organization and area where “I’m surrounded by people who have more experience so to be nominated and to win something like this, it’s truly an honor.”

NJCEIA announced that he had won the award at a conference and Stalgaitis said that he didn’t even know what to say and that he probably still doesn’t even know what to say.

Stalgaitis said that he is at the College at Florham to help students; that’s his priority.

“I try to help out any student to the best of my ability and I have a good time doing it, and I think that makes a difference,” he said. “I just try to help [students] and smile along the way.”

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