Moving to Higher Education Ground

Solomon Abrams takes a bold move to reinvent his career

Solomon Abrams based a mid-career move into higher education because of his existing rapport with students throughout his volunteer work. “I wanted to take that connection, and I wanted to move forward with it into something that I really enjoy doing and believe in,” he shares.

That connection to students arises from his own lived experience. He dropped out of school at 15, but luckily had the support of several mentors who encouraged him to sit for—and pass—the California High School Proficiency Exam, which is the legal equivalent of a high school diploma. Solomon then immediately started full-time work with a leasing corporation in the SF financial district as a litigation clerk.

During that time, Solomon also dabbled in college, taking courses at City College of San Francisco. “I wasn't a very serious student,” he admits. “I knew that college was important, but I didn't really understand my place in college.” That uncertainty, combined with his full-time working schedule, led to a—drumroll, please...—a straight C average.

A move to Arizona and a few years down the line, Solomon found that his desire to finish college was still there. He was more driven than before and placed that eagerness to excel at school. After getting an associates degree in business administration from Pima Community College, Solomon embarked on a long and successful real estate career.

Still, that desire to pay it forward stuck with Solomon, and he began to work managing Graduate Houses, specifically in recovery residences for people with disabilities. He balanced management of these properties with working as a residential property manager.

And Solomon’s devotion to his studies paid off. He finished his undergraduate education with a bachelor of science in business administration from the Eller College of Management, University of Arizona.

Career Change Into Higher Education

Now knowing that he wanted to move into a career in education, Solomon realized that he needed an advanced degree. To jumpstart that transition, he began to look into certificate programs.

While he reviewed many programs, what made our Certificate Program in Student Affairs and Higher-Education Administration stand out was the option to transfer credits from the certificate directly to a graduate degree. By completing the certificate, Solomon was able to transfer 12 academic credits to University of San Francisco’s Master’s in Organization and Leadership. That meant Solomon only had to complete an additional 18 credits to earn his master’s.

Use the Library!

During our conversation, Solomon gave plenty of helpful advice for subsequent students. It’s clear that he’s temperamentally and intellectually suited for a career in higher education!

One of the additional benefits of taking our program for Solomon was access to the UC library system. “The library was really important because, as soon as I got access to the library, my work got better,” he shares. “Because I had the resources, I could pull articles, I could pull books, I had PDFs that weren't available in class but that were relevant to the topics we were discussing. I was actually able to be more prepared for class and writing papers and so forth.”

Expert Teaching

It wasn’t just the tools that Solomon appreciated during his studies with us, but the level of instruction also impressed him. He particularly liked that the instructors were working professionals with direct knowledge of the subject matter.

Dr. Megan Fox—instructor of our Student Development in College: Theory to Practice course—was the director for Student Government Advising and Leadership Programs; associate director, LEAD Center when Solomon took her course. She is now the director of Residential Experience at UC San Diego.

Solomon shares a bit about his experiences in her course, which he calls “probably the most rewarding.

“When I first got into her course and read the syllabus,” Solomon continues, “I’m like, ‘Wow, this is a lot of work!’ There was a lot of reading and communal work.

“That course gave me a lot of information on how to work with diverse students, and I really appreciate that and see myself using some of those student-development theories. How can I talk to the students and encourage them to see through their own personal experience and not through a deficit lens?”

On a broader scale, Solomon was able to understand the totality of the student affairs field from his class work and instructors.

He took Academic and Student Affairs Organizations, one of the core courses in the certificate, from Dr. Stephen C. Sutton, vice chancellor of the Student Affairs Division at UC Berkeley.

Solomon was impressed by the scope of Dr. Sutton’s experience and knowledge. “He's very knowledgeable in student affairs,” Solomon states, “obviously, because he is a leader in student affairs on campus. But he also works with the administration and faculty, so he's very knowledgeable in faculty relations.

“That class shed a lot of information on the system in higher education, where it's not just the administration side that makes up the roles. It's more of this tripartite system where the administration, faculty and students all work together to make the academic experience better for all involved.”

Career Success in a New Field

With the boost from the Certificate Program in Student Affairs and Higher-Education Administration, Solomon has since completed his master of arts in organization and leadership from USF and has entered the doctoral program to continue his studies.

While balancing his studies, Solomon has already hit the ground running in the higher education field. He is the site director at Gateway Middle School through the Boys & Girls Club of San Francisco, which in many ways is a tribute to the help he got during his own adolescence.

Solomon feels that he has landed in the right place at this stage in his new career. “[Gateway Middle School] really takes a look at students,” he shares, “looking at what are their strengths and how we build on those strengths to help them achieve. I really appreciate that and it's really noticeable at the school.”

Solomon is frank about the benefits of his education. “I would say that I probably more likely than not would not have gotten my position without the formal education from UC Berkeley Extension and USF.”

We look forward to hearing more from Solomon, and it’s rewarding to have helped just a bit on his career transformation.

Start your own new education career with the Certificate Program in Student Affairs and Higher-Education Administration!