Andrea Staskiel was a “non-traditional” student by definition and her experiences have been rather non-traditional as well. Before beginning her college education at RCC in January 2010, Andrea spent the first part of her professional career working in the insurance industry. She worked her way up and was made partner and vice-president of a large independent insurance agency in Virginia. With a commitment to providing the highest levels of customer experience and a passion for serving others, Andrea was nationally recognized as a leader in the industry.
However, Andrea began to feel like she was missing something and wasn’t being challenged enough in her career. She began to regret having not gone further in her formal education. She thinks it may have been around the time her children started asking where she went to college.
“So one day I walked in and sat down [in RCC counselor Sandy Darnell’s office] and started asking questions. I was skeptical as to whether this would be a good choice for me for many reasons but Sandy was very reassuring,” says Staskiel. “I visited another community college before I made my decision but the small, personal feel of the RCC campus was exactly what I needed to get a good start.”
Staskiel thrived in the confines of the RCC structure, taking as many as 21 credit-hours a semester, which is no small feat. As she took on this incredible schedule, she juggled the responsibility of school while she and her husband were raising two small children.
“I didn’t have much time for anything else!” she laughs about those times. Though she was busy, new doors opened for her. She was part of a student trip to Richmond to meet some of Virginia’s state representatives, and this experience influenced her opinion on the community college network in the Commonwealth.
“I feel very strongly that the community college system deserves more funding and I am anxious to share my beliefs and reasoning with people who can help influence those decisions,” she adds.
While her class schedule might have been tremendous, she uses words like “engaging” and “interesting” to describe her courses, comparing some of her RCC professors to those who teach at the College of William & Mary, where she would eventually transfer under the Guaranteed Admission Agreement.
“Sandra Caballero in Spanish was phenomenal,” says Staskiel. “[She was] always willing to take extra time to work with you and help as needed. I also enjoyed the distance learning classes and going at my own pace.”
Andrea graduated RCC Summa Cum Laude with the Arts and Sciences Transfer Degree in the summer of 2011. In the fall of 2011, Staskiel was accepted into the Mason School of Business at the College of William & Mary and began her coursework. She took on a similarly rigorous schedule at W&M as well, working through her course load and 62 credit hours in just over a year.
Andrea majored in marketing and minored in psychology and has a concentration in management and leadership. She graduated from William & Mary Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Business Administration in December of 2012. “I was extremely proud of myself!” says Staskiel.
“It’s interesting” she says “I was nervous when I started school at RCC but was not nervous at all when I started at William & Mary – and that school should be intimidating.” She noted that she felt very well prepared for W&M and her confidence in her ability to do well was strengthened by her time spent at RCC.
Andrea noted that there were no surprises but she did indicate that there was an interesting stereotype associated with “transfer students”.
“It is important that transfer students be prepared to defy the stereotype that you are less than worthy” she says. You can only do that with your actions and the reputation you make for yourself. Andrea was able to maintain the same standard of excellence from RCC to W&M and now again in the working world by having a plan and sticking to the strategy.
In her current role, she is the director of marketing and sales for Warwick Forest, a retirement community under the Riverside Health System umbrella. In addition to directing the tactical marketing efforts, she is also involved with the day-to-day operation and management of the community. She says that her goal at Warwick Forest is to “help more people enjoy a retirement lifestyle that is rich in all facets of life that make them feel happy and fulfilled while eliminating as many headaches and stressors as possible.”
Andrea would recommend RCC to anyone, especially those who think that college might not be an option. “I give a lot of credit to the staff and faculty at RCC for helping me achieve my goals.”
“The people who come to [RCC] — must learn how the system works and they need to have a plan,” she says.
“To be successful in achieving your goals you must be strategic and fully understand what it takes to achieve what you want on the path that you are on,” she says. “Evaluate if there are other paths that are more suited for you to achieve the goal.”