Around the Quads

Jason Collado, Assistant Dean, Academic Success Programs, James H. and Christine Turk Berick Center for Student Advising

Jill Shomer

What drew you to advising in higher ed, and when did you start working at Columbia?

I was always interested in education and providing support to students. I attended graduate school at SUNY Albany, which is where I trained to become a New York State-certified guidance counselor. While there, I worked for its counseling center supporting, supervising and instructing undergraduates. I fell in love with the work. Since then, I have been working in higher education, currently at my third university. I’ve been involved with leading the Academic Success Programs (ASP) for 15 years.

I read that you focus on “opportunity programs” and supporting under-resourced students. Tell me about that.

I have the best job on campus! ASP is supported by both CC and SEAS and a Higher Education Opportunity Program grant from the New York State Education Department. Our students receive financial support, and in general we provide a life- changing experience for them by helping them to succeed while at Columbia. All participants arrive early to take part in an intensive, pre-first year Summer Bridge Program that provides academic preparation and college and campus readiness, and introduces them to the Columbia community. From there, our comprehensive support continues through all four years.

What’s a typical day for you?

There is no typical day — I know that’s a cliché answer, but supporting College students, especially those in ASP, makes my job different each day. And that makes the work truly exciting and enriching. From organizing a seminar series, to connecting students to supportive resources, to helping students navigate their Columbia experience in and out of the classroom or their work on required state reports, our team of six is flexible and ready to help when and where needed.

What’s the best part of your job?

That our work has an impact. My favorite day of the year is the first day of the Summer Bridge Program. It is also usually the busiest and most stressful, but the most rewarding, as we witness the first steps of a student’s journey. We watch our students arrive on and embrace campus, ready to learn and have an impact in many different ways. We have an opportunity to shape them, guide them and ensure they stay on the path of success until graduation, and sometimes beyond. I love when our alumni come back to meet with our current students and share their knowledge, wisdom and experiences. It is amazing to see ASP alumni grown and successful, even though they will always be ASP students in my eyes. I fondly recall their success stories and all the meaningful advising conversations we had.

What’s one thing about yourself that would surprise readers?

While in college, I hoped to pursue a career as a baseball coach. In fact, I took classes to earn a certification in sports management, but the program was discontinued. I have more than 20 years of experience coaching baseball and softball on a variety of levels. Pre-pandemic, I was the manager for a Columbia College staff softball team and led it to our most successful (and fun) season ever. I have two energetic and active sons, aged 8 and 4. I coach both of their baseball teams, and coached three other teams this past fall. Our weekends were very busy.