Coming Full Circle
Alumni returns to the classroom to make a difference
"Sonoma State changed my life and that's why I give back to the university. It's responsible for where I am today," Sanford Bressick explained. A New York Life agent for 29 years, Sanford (85'), is teaching Sales and Marketing for the School of Business and Economics, and has been for the past three years.
From being involved with fundraising for the Green Music Center from day one to volunteering his time to teach for Sonoma State University, Sanford is giving back to his school in every way possible.
"Sonoma was very different and very small back then," imagine Sonoma State surrounded only by fields, the only living options were Zinfandel and Verdot, and the student population was 3,500.
When Sanford was attending Sonoma State, he dreamed of making a difference in the classroom. He was inspired by his mother who worked in child care. Later in life he created the Joyce H. Bressick memorial in her honor, a scholarship for Hutchins majors who have a child at the children's school on campus.
As time went on during his academic career he saw that teaching was not the right path for him at that moment. As a student, Sanford was well aware of how the resources on campus could help him get ahead. He started his work experience at Sonoma on Sundays in the Cafeteria, better known as the "omelet guy." He then used the University to find the perfect career; it was at the Career Fair that he met his future manager at New York Life.
Although he did not teach for many years, he took many of the skills that he learned in the Hutchins School with him into the professional world. "Something I believe that contributed to my success today, in my nonprofits and professional practice, is that I was able to grow and develop here." In the small, personal environment, he learned the excellent communication skills that he uses every day.
Sanford has truly come full circle in his life. He is not only successful in his profession, but also brings the tools that have made him successful to his students. The Sales and Marketing course is very hands on, bringing students out of their comfort zones and into the real world.
One assignment is to attend a Chamber of Commerce Mixer, meet three people from the community, interview them and write a paper about their experience. "There is a lot of anxiety about this assignment, but we talk about their concerns in class." He explained that some students even reported extreme nausea before the event.
The second major assignment in his class is to shadow someone in a profession that the students are interested in. Sanford has seen students who go from shadowing during his class to employees after graduation. He also helps students obtain internships which later turn into careers.
Sanford receives multiple emails from students each semester. These students express to him that he has changed their lives. By giving back the skills he learned in his time at Sonoma, his students are learning how to be successful as well. The positive feedback and jobs that he has helped his students to acquire keeps him coming back for more, "How can I stop?" Even when there wasn't enough in the budget to pay him, he kept right on teaching as a volunteer.
"My goal is to touch as many lives as possible, be it through volunteer work, personal monetary investment or teaching." While Sonoma State may look very different from the time he was attending classes, the goal to make successful students remains the same, and Sanford is helping to make that happen.