College is a time for chasing your dreams. But there’s also the reality of balancing your dreams with the realities of finding a job. We asked the five deans at St. Edward’s University how they encourage students to follow their passion, while also planning for life post-college.

Be open to adventure.

“I work with students to see how we can make their dream a reality. I will help them outline the steps required to achieve their dream, but I also tell them that they may be surprised to stumble upon a new dream through the process. I encourage them to work for what they want, but I also tell them not to become so focused on doing this one thing that they miss out on the adventure. I use myself as an example: I never thought I would be a dean in academia. But because I was open to changes along the way, I am in a career I enjoy. Finally, I try to help students set appropriate expectations. The likelihood is that they won’t land their dream job straight out of college. If they do, great! But allow for a few different turns along the way — that’s life. It may take awhile to get where you want to be.” 

—Brenda Vallance, dean of the School of Behavioral and Social Sciences

Headshot of Brenda Vallance, dean of the School of Behavioral and Social Sciences.

Look to failure to find success. 

Headshot of Sharon Nell, dean of the School of Arts and Humanities.

“I always tell students that the sky is the limit. I think we best serve our students when we tell them they can achieve their dreams, but we also have to be straight with them. It’s not always going to be easy. We have to remind them that they’re going to experience failure and will have to look for the lesson in those setbacks. There’s a lot of literature on the ways failure leads to success, so I think we have to continue to encourage students to keep trying. Failure doesn’t mean you should stop chasing your dreams, but it may mean you need to chance your tactics or approach and try again and again and again. 

“I used to keep a file of rejection letters from article submissions or applications. I would take the rejection letter and put it in the file and move on. If the letter gave me a reason for the rejection, I would learn from it and try again. You may not get that great job the first time, or you might not get into the graduate school that you wanted. But that doesn't mean that your dreams aren’t going to come true. It just means that you have to be flexible and resilient and open to what comes next.”

—Sharon Nell, dean of the School of Arts and Humanities

Do what interests you.

“I’m not a big fan of saying ‘chase your passion’ because passion alone doesn’t provide you access to resources. Instead, I encourage students find a career and work that interests them. Find something that you can continue to learn and grow in, but don’t confuse vocation with passion. In a perfect world, vocation and passion line up, but sometimes you have to take a job that may not be your passion but that help you get the resources you need to have a great life.”

—David Altounian, interim dean of The Bill Munday School of Business

Headshot of David Altounian, interim dean of The Bill Munday School of Business.

Never give up on your dream. 

Headshot of Glenda Ballard, dean of the School of Human Development and Education.

“I pursued what I was passionate about, which was education, and I can honestly say I’ve never been bored a single day in my life. I would think anyone who is lucky enough to be working in a field that they’re passionate about would feel the same way about their own experience. I honestly believe chasing your dreams is one of the keys to happiness and success. If you enjoy your job and get up every day excited to go to work, that’s where you’ll feel most at ease and most comfortable being yourself. I think that, in and of itself, is worth never giving up the dream.”

—Glenda Ballard, dean of the School of Human Development and Education

Ask yourself: What do you want to do? 

“St. Edward’s is a great place to chase your dreams. We guide students through a challenging curriculum to succeed in areas and ways that, as they came in as freshmen, they might not have imagined themselves accomplishing. We provide a lot of support and opportunities for students to explore their interests and find their path. We ask: What do you want to do? How can we support you to get there? I think St. Edward’s has proven time and again, with the right support structure and the desire and hunger on the part of the students, they can achieve their dreams and maybe more than they ever thought possible.” 

—Gary Morris, dean of the School of Natural Sciences

Headshot of Gary Morris, dean of the School of Natural Sciences.