Nadirah Pippen

August 24, 2020

Three months into her job as director of the UNCW Career Center, Nadirah Pippen faced one of the most difficult challenges of her nearly 20-year career.

COVID-19 tested the flexibility of her staff, the strength of the team and Pippen as a leader, she said. Pippen and her staff quickly shifted normal day-to-day services to virtual offerings, including one-on-one appointments with students, presentations to classes either live or through virtual recordings, and hosted a Virtual Career Week webinar series for graduating seniors.

“As most have experienced, there were no protocols in place. We had to build them as we went,” Pippen said. “We had to rethink what we knew about career and professional development as well as student development, all while fighting for virtual space to reach students who were already burned out from being in their classes virtually.”

Another challenge for Pippen was staying connected to her team. “My leadership style is consistent interaction with my team members so I can help bring out the best in each one,” she explained. “What I can say with confidence is that I have an amazing team and we navigated these new waters together. I was able to see how flexible they were and their creative ideas flourished.”

The Career Center is well-poised to continue offering virtual services and work with students and faculty who may have in-person needs, Pippen said. “At this point, we are ready to approach the semester with vigor and ready to see how our students engage.”

Education and helping others find their paths have always been a personal passion for Pippen. While working with low-income families after her undergraduate studies, Pippen saw how not furthering their education affected so many aspects of their lives, she said. She often encouraged them to pursue their GED and consider a college degree.

Pippen was later recruited to work at a community college assisting workers who lost their jobs due circumstances beyond their control with retraining. Her interaction with the workers inspired Pippen to seek a master’s degree in counseling and to work in higher education. She began researching careers and discovered job opportunities within university career centers.

“Learning about this changed my whole trajectory, as it perfectly meshed my love for career and professional development and higher education,” said Pippen.

In 2018, Pippen joined UNCW as associate director of the Career Center. She had previously worked for East Carolina University and Edgecombe Community College. A year later, Pippen was named director of UNCW Career Center, following the retirement of Thom Rakes.

One thing that excites Pippen about her job is knowing that students who come to the Career Center have a “better chance of being confident in their decisions,” she said.

“I want students to know they have choices for life. I want them to march into their destinies with gusto and confidence and keep that same energy as their destinies change and unfold before them.”

-- Venita Jenkins

*Please note that campus COVID-19 health and safety guidelines were observed when the photo was taken.