For Jill Gugino Panté, providing exceptional service is part of her DNA.
“I’ve always had a service-oriented attitude,” Gugino Panté, director of career services at the University of Delaware’s Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics, said. “I got that from my family. Helping others and putting others before you and your needs has always been a priority for me. It’s ingrained in me.”
So it is no surprise that Gugino Panté was named the recipient of the 2019 John Warren Award. The award, created in 2011, recognizes significant accomplishments by supervisory staff at UD in the areas of leadership and service.
Steven Caufield, career counselor in the Lerner Career Services Center, nominated Gugino Panté. He compiled comments about why Panté should be nominated from colleagues at the Lerner College and the UD’s Career Services Center. In his nomination letter, Caulfield said it would not be possible for Lerner’s programs to be so successful “if Jill was not effectively leading her team in a way that encouraged motivated and inspired them.”
Gugino Panté’s impact on UD has been overwhelmingly positive. During Gugino Panté’s time with the Lerner Career Services Center, she has created and built programs that address every quality of innovative leadership and exemplary service that the award committee was looking for. Most notably, these programs include The Lerner Executive Mentoring Program; The Road to Wall Street Program; and the Lerner Internship Edge Program.
“Compared to other regional business schools, our team is much smaller,” Caulfield wrote. “However, Jill has enabled our team to increase our student engagement through one-on-one appointments, classroom presentations and peer support through drop-in resume reviews as well as mock interviews every semester. Additionally, she teaches courses at the undergraduate and graduate level to bring professional development training to on-campus, commuting and online students. She has managed to keep expenses to a minimum, demonstrating responsible fiscal management of her department.”
Gugino Panté established a satellite career services office in Lerner when she served as assistant director from 2007 through 2016. In 2016 she was named director of the Lerner Career Services Center. Gugino Panté earned her bachelor degree in criminal justice from the University of Dayton and her master’s degree in college counseling at UD, while also serving as a graduate assistant.
Lerner sat down with Gugino Panté to talk about the award, her role and why she believes mentoring is important.
Q: How did you feel about receiving the John Warren Award?
Gugino Panté: It was really such a surprise. It is such an honor to receive this award. John Warren was so respected across campus and left such an incredible mark. To be considered in the same company is humbling and overwhelming. I am grateful to have such a great team to work with. The people who nominated me are selfless.
Q: Your entire career has focused on career services. What has kept you motivated?
Gugino Panté: I get to help a variety of people every day and I can have the most tangible connection through career services. I get to help students figure out what they want to do to improve their resumes, get a job or an internship. I get to help employers fill their positions and connect them to incredible talent. I get to work with alumni who want to give back and connect them through the Lerner Executive Mentors program.
Q: What makes UD the right place to continue your work?
Gugino Panté: I just love coming to UD every day because you always have somebody that’s going to be supportive of you and your ideas. We’re all working towards a common good and a common goal—it’s to help others and to elevate people.
In any organization, you’re going to work with people who you find challenging, and you’re going to have successes and you’re going to have failures. What I love about UD is that the teams I’m surrounded by continuously work to lift you up and move forward to the success of our students.
Q: What are your main goals for the Lerner Career Services Center?
Gugino Panté: Providing a support system that helps students discover their best professional self, prepares them for the future and helps them move forward in whatever direction they want, whether if that’s getting a job and internship, going to grad school, taking a year off or traveling overseas.
A second goal is also making sure that we are the connectors between students, employers, alumni and community members. We’re able to provide those connections to help the community grow.
Q: How did the Road to Wall Street, Edge and Executive Mentoring programs come about?
Gugino Panté: The mentoring program was already established when I joined Lerner, but not to the scale of impact we have reached over the past two to three years. We were also hearing from alumni and community members who wanted to become involved in different ways—that’s how the Road to Wall Street and Edge programs came about. We needed to be creative with our limited resources to help fill in gaps and provide students an enriching experience and engage our alumni and community members who wanted to give back.
All of these programs can provide full circle engagement.
Q: What is the most challenging part of your job?
Gugino Panté: The most challenging part of my job is working with a variety of constituents who all have different needs and trying to balance that. You have student needs, you have employer needs, you have mentor needs, you have alumni needs, you have staff and faculty needs. They’re all different. Some of them intersect, but a lot of them are different.
We try to figure out how can we intersect these needs even more so we’re all working together and we’re not going in a bunch of different directions.
Q: What are you most proud of in your career?
Gugino Panté: The team I’ve been able to build. We have each other’s back. It is a team that says, “No problem, what can I do? What can I help with?” The team puts in 120%, every single day. That’s the people I love working with.
Q: What is your vision for the future of career services at UD and Lerner?
Gugino Panté: I would love to continue to grow our team—we have more students to support every year. I’d also like to provide a mentor for every student who wants one. And I’d like to be at the forefront of integrating professional development into the academic curriculum. While students are learning Excel, marketing or operations, they are also learning how to elevate themselves professionally. It has to be hand in hand because students are so busy. If it is not part of the academic curriculum, it can be an afterthought.
This will also help us address the pocket of students we are missing. We work with students who are motivated or told to come to us. But for those students who do not have advocates or the initiative, they might be falling behind their peers. Integrating professional development in the curriculum would help differentiate the college and show students that professional development is a lifelong process.
Q: Do you have a mentor?
Gugino Panté: It’s important for people to have a mentor. I have a mentoring group. I have colleagues from different industries. We come together a handful of times a year and share what we are dealing with and discuss how to navigate issues and challenges.
Q: How do you maintain a positive attitude?
Gugino Panté: I look at the bigger picture. I do try to put myself in the other person’s shoes. I realize that everyone is going through stuff and I try to put that empathy at the forefront of all my conversations.
I also want to model that behavior not just for my staff here, but for my family and kids. It’s okay to have bad days but let’s try to always continue to move forward because we have a lot to be thankful for.