Inside Rensselaer
* Tom Tarantelli

Tom Tarantelli Set To Retire June 30

Acting assistant vice president for student life and longtime director of the Center for Career and Professional Development plans to retire in June

Tom Tarantelli, acting assistant vice president for student life and longtime director of the newly named Center for Career and Professional Development (CCPD), will retire June 30. A celebration to honor Tarantelli’s outstanding work and contributions will be take place on Friday, April 29, from 3 to 5 p.m. in the Russell Sage Dining Hall.

The Division of Student Life is planning a national search for a new director. In the coming months, more news on leadership, as well as longer-term plans, will be shared with the campus community.

“Tom has been a tremendous leader and advocate for high-quality professional development experiences for Rensselaer students,” said Eddie Ade Knowles, vice president for student life. “Many new initiatives were created during Tom’s tenure as director, and today the center is recognized as a national model of excellence. Tom’s long-standing belief in and commitment to professional development beginning in the first year of the student experience, whether at the undergraduate or graduate level, has become a hallmark of opportunity for Rensselaer students.”

Tarantelli received his Ph.D. with distinction from the University at Albany in educational administration and policy studies. He also holds an M.Ed. in counselor education and student personnel from Penn State University, a master’s in international relations from Boston University, and a bachelor’s in political science from the State University of New York at Fredonia.  He also served as senior data analyst in the United States Army, and was stationed in Heidelberg, Germany. He has received awards from several academic and professional associations for his work, has published articles, and has appeared as a panelist for local/regional and national organizations.

Tarantelli joined Rensselaer as assistant director of career planning and placement in 1983, and was appointed center director in 1995. He says that he was attracted to Rensselaer not only based on its stature and recognition as the world’s oldest technological university, but also due to the national prominence of the Institute’s career center, which continues to hold true today. Since its inception, the center has played an integral role as the university's most important link between a student and employer. Knowles noted that with Tarantelli at the helm for more than 27 years, the center has continued to serve as a catalyst in the development of Rensselaer students to become world leaders in a technologically based global economy.

“Tom has been a loyal, dedicated professional in service to students and the many graduates who’ve benefited from his counsel. They continue to seek his advice even after graduation.”
— Eddie Ade Knowles

Tarantelli’s life-long dedication to the career development field stems from a deep-seeded desire to help students achieve career success. Prior to Rensselaer, some career achievements include: launching the first career center at a small community college located in Franklin, Va., building a prison college transfer program, and writing a state grant to fund a career program for rural residents in southeastern Virginia.

Tarantelli is often heard saying that the terms “career” and “professional development” are more descriptive of what Rensselaer’s center provides for undergraduate and graduate students in its expanded role to support student satisfaction, retention, and career success.

Tarantelli and his staff have created various programs and events for employers to develop relationships with administration, faculty, and students in an effort to increase opportunities for Rensselaer graduates to make great strides in discovering and clarifying career choices, and to teach them to manage their careers effectively. Programs include: career counseling, resume writing workshops, interview preparation, legal advice regarding employment offers, experiential opportunities, and networking events involving alumni and employers.

Earlier this month, more than 2,000 Rensselaer undergraduate and graduate students attended the annual Spring Career Fair. Despite the challenges and changes in recruiting on university campuses, more than 370 representatives — including alumni — from more than 150 public and private-sector employers participated.

The center has focused on building relationships with a broad range of employers that represent the Institute’s initiatives and offer recruitment opportunities in the areas of information technology, energy, government and national labs, biotechnology, and media and the arts. All of the companies, which came from more than 30 states, were seeking students from all majors for a variety of positions that ranged from internships and co-ops to full-time employment — a true testament to the dedicated efforts of Tarantelli and his staff to support Rensselaer students’ career and professional development pursuits, Knowles noted.

In 2008, the center received the General Electric (GE) Partnership Award, honoring Rensselaer for its efforts in building corporate relationships and recruiting. The Institute was also recognized as among the best of 40 elite executive schools selected by GE as top developers of talent and company placement.

Additionally, when it comes to identifying, planning for, and achieving career goals, sophomore students at Rensselaer are getting a head start. In 2007, the center won a National Association of Colleges and Employers Excellence Award for developing its “Sophomore Career Experience” program. The award, presented recently, recognizes the best educational program related to career development or employment targeted to students or career center/college recruiting staff. The distinction honored Rensselaer and four other institutions dedicated to developing programs to support the successful transition of college students to the workplace.

Last year, Tarantelli received the 2010 Distinguished Service Award from the Eastern Association of Colleges and Employers (EACE) — the largest regional college and employer network in the country. The award honors members “who have made outstanding and lasting contributions of such magnitude and quality to both EACE and the advancement of the field at large as to merit public recognition and acclaim.” This special award honors member(s) whose leadership, literary, and/or scholarly contributions have an impact nationally or internationally. Said one nominator, “Tom is what EACE is all about! His many contributions over the years and leadership have helped to move our organization forward in so many ways.”

In June 2009, Tarantelli was appointed as acting assistant vice president for student life. In this role, he has had primary responsibility to provide leadership and oversight for the Office of Residence Life, including implementation of the CLASS initiative, programs, and services, as well as staff supervision. Additional responsibilities have included assisting with the implementation of the Division of Student Life Performance Plan initiatives, and managing Residence Life on-call and response to emergencies.

“Over the years, serving on the Student Life Team with Tom has been a wonderful experience,” Knowles added. “On a day-to-day basis, Tom’s unbridled enthusiasm, sense of humor, and willingness to take on new challenges has served to energize the center’s staff and other members of the Rensselaer community who’ve worked with him. Tom has been a loyal, dedicated professional in service to students and the many graduates who’ve benefited from his counsel. They continue to seek his advice even after graduation.” 

While at Rensselaer, Tarantelli received the Athletic Department’s Tom Sheehan Award, the Director’s Award from the Rensselaer Alumni Association, and was inducted into Phalanx and the Order of Omega, Greek Leadership Honor Society.

Reflecting on his time at Rensselaer, Tarantelli says that Rensselaer students have always been the highlight of his day. “Every student is unique and this is what makes each day different. That is what has made working at Rensselaer an exciting place to work and play!” After all, it was a Rensselaer student who helped him to obtain his pilot’s license through his association with members of Rensselaer’s Aeronautical Federation, a student organization. Tarantelli also recalls his first day on the job when then President George Low said hello to him and wished him well while he was having lunch in the Rensselaer Union. Most of all, Tarantelli says that the students, his staff, and others that have supported the CCPD, will always have a special place in his heart.

“I have worked with the best team of people in the CCPD and Residence Life, which has made my time at Rensselaer more rewarding.”

Following retirement, Tarantelli plans to spend more time with his family and three grandchildren, travel, and work on his garden. He also plans to pursue a career in consulting and teaching.

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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 5, Number 4, March 4, 2011
©2010 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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