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Wilder School Spotlight

Meet Shajuana Isom-Payne

Shajuana Isom-Payne
Shajuana Isom-Payne

By Tiffany Murray-Robertson

Shajuana Isom-Payne, director of student success at the VCU Wilder School, has a message for students: It’s a new brand world.

“To prosper in today’s world of work, students must become the architect of their own brands. We’re not talking about simple marketing — we are talking about constructing a set of experiences that will better position students to be compensated by their passion. It’s not enough to have a stellar academic record or to be attractive on paper: Our graduates have to be able to tell their story with confidence and conviction,” Isom-Payne said.

We want students to see our office as a resource that they can utilize from the moment that they register. That’s because what we do in the broadest sense is help students to explore their interests and construct a path towards professional fulfillment. That kind of engagement occurs most powerfully during a student’s first year.

– Shajuana Isom-Payne

The good news — and it is good news, she believes — is that everyone has a chance to stand out.

Isom-Payne joined the Wilder School in October. She brings more than 15 years of progressive leadership experience to the Office of Student Success, a unit that oversees a range of programs for undergraduate and graduate students — from internships and career development, to study abroad and student research. In collaboration with various partners, the OSS provides comprehensive experiences for outside learning and supports the successful transition of Wilder School students both academically and professionally.

“We want students to see our office as a resource that they can utilize from the moment that they register. That’s because what we do in the broadest sense is help students to explore their interests and construct a path towards professional fulfillment. That kind of engagement occurs most powerfully during a student’s first year — not in their junior or senior year — when the student needs assistance with an internship or resume,” Isom-Payne said.

To connect students to the OSS and its continuum of services, Isom-Payne is piloting a series of initiatives this spring. This includes a career counselor-in-residence program that enables students seeking assistance in choosing a major or exploring a career to receive individual career counseling and assessment in Scherer Hall. Other offerings include regular internship orientations (now available every: Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 1:00-1:30 p.m.), a series of professional development workshops and monthly on-campus employer visits designed exclusively for Wilder School students.

“We are especially pleased to introduce on-campus employer visits as a vital element of our new programming. Visiting recruiters will conduct information sessions about opportunities for internships and entry-level employment. In some cases, recruiters may even attend certain classes,” Isom-Payne said.

The OSS will host three employers through visits this semester. The first visit will be from Target Corporation.

It’s all part of an effort to expose students early and often to the job search process and encourage participants to become more intentional in their extracurricular pursuits, said Isom-Payne.

Isom-Payne has held a variety of positions in higher education among them executive director of academic advising, executive recruiter, assistant director of career services and career counselor. A former recruiter for Fortune 500 companies such as Target and Kelly Services, she understands the importance of developing external relationships and working closely with Wilder School faculty, whom she describes as “uniquely embedded” in their fields.

No stranger to VCU, Isom-Payne attended the university as an undergraduate and met her husband of 19 years, Baron, during the first semester of her freshman year. The couple are active members of the university’s African American Alumni Council and the proud parents of two children: Nick; a budding filmmaker and freshman at Virginia Tech and Hailey; an avid swimmer and high school sophomore.

Next year, Isom-Payne will receive her Ph.D. in counselor education from the VCU School of Education. She also holds a Master’s of Education degree in counselor education and a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the university.

In addition to the OSS initiatives scheduled this spring, Isom-Payne oversees the school’s flagship experiential learning programs, Virginia Capital Semester and the Wilder Graduate Scholar Fellows program. She is also charged with developing new OSS programs that promote student engagement, support academic success and develop student leaders throughout the 2016-17 academic year.

Isom-Payne grew up in Saginaw, Michigan. As a teenager, she relocated to Virginia where she attended Louisa County High School. When she is not hard at work or spending time with family, Isom-Payne enjoys cheering on her favorite NFL team—the Detroit Lions.

“VCU has always been a place of opportunity to me and I look forward to maximizing the development of our students through the OSS. The dedication of the Wilder School’s advising and academic units, which work closely to provide a holistic experience for our undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students, is impressive. I am thrilled to be a part of this exciting enterprise,” she said.