Patricia Imbimbo: Star of Baruch's Starr Career Development Center
Patricia Imbimbo has been serving the Baruch College community as director of the Career Development Center for 14 years, but the path she took to get there was not an obvious one. Imbimbo, who hails from Detroit, holds a bachelor’s degree from Oakland University, a master’s degree in education from New York University, and a PhD in psychology from Teachers College at Columbia University. She also spent two formative years with the Peace Corps, an experience she describes as “life changing.” It was through Teacher Corps that she got her first chance to work directly with students—the program is aimed at returned Peace Corps volunteers who wish to complete their master’s degree in exchange for teaching kids in critical-needs areas; Imbimbo did her internship at a junior high school in East Harlem.
Her career interests have always involved providing assistive services to others in one form or another, she says. After Teacher Corps, she spent several years as the director of an early childhood center, completed a clinical internship at a Veterans Affairs hospital, and worked at a community mental health center in the South Bronx. “I think that, through my several career changes, the theme has really been to be a helper, in the broadest sense of the word, and to work with working- and- under-class individuals.“ All of these experiences have helped shape the day-to-day operation of what is now the Starr Career Development Center (SCDC) at Baruch College.
About five years ago, Baruch’s Career Development Center received a generous grant from the Starr Foundation, the largest grant ever given to a college in the area of student affairs. “That changed the whole nature and character of the office," says Imbimbo. “We were able to ramp up our programs, pretty much doubling the workshops that we offered, hiring staff, and really providing a lot of soft skills support for students.”
Since then, Imbimbo has led the SCDC into becoming a multi-service operation for the Baruch community. “We work with students from the time they’re prospective through the time that they graduate, and we also have some services for alumni,” she notes. The Starr Sub Program, which launched two years ago, serves as a benefit to College faculty members, providing career-related presentations for classes when professors have to be out. Peer counseling, financial leadership training, and pre-law school assistance are also available through the SCDC.
The economic downturn has, of course, created new challenges for the SCDC. Imbimbo puts together an annual report on career trends for Baruch students and is seeing “more and more employers hire students for internships, rather than full-time jobs, even at the senior level. Employers aren’t sure how the market’s going to be, so they’re hedging their bets, and they’re making shorter-term commitments,” she says. But students are getting hired, and the SCDC is working to help Baruch stay ahead of the curve. Her main focus, she says, is to make sure that the College provides the best career services possible to its students.