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Studets in professional development session

James Higginbotham Legacy Fellows Program

Launched as part of the College’s 130th anniversary, the James Higginbotham Legacy Fellows program provides world-class professional development for talented Gordon students during their first year on campus, connecting them with a campus mentor and providing them with career readiness for the rest of their life.

The program, which guarantees a professional role on campus as well as participation in a biweekly professional development seminar and an immersion trip sponsored by the Career and Connection Institute (CCI), offers incoming students vocational exploration and professional development opportunities that typically come much later in most College students’ experience. With these accelerated opportunities, Higginbotham Fellows will not only secure strong earning potential through campus employment and a professional mentor who will catalyze the student’s success, but will have the chance to work within a cohort on a year-long strategic project as part of GordonWorks, the elevation of campus employment and recognition of the contributions students are making in most campus departments. This, in turn, will open up doors of opportunity for summer internships and, eventually, opportunities for employment following Gordon.

In essence, this program will give Higginbotham Fellows the opportunity to advance professionally and develop vocationally much faster and more intentionally under the supportive framework of Gordon’s highly regarded Career and Connection Institute which is accelerating early career preparation for all students through innovative and intentional programming.

HEAR FROM ALUMNI

What do Higginbotham Fellows do?

Each Fellow will be placed in an on-campus role with a campus supervisor who is committed to mentoring the student professionally and vocationally. In addition to earning hourly income that can support the student’s educational costs during the academic year (paid at least $12.00/hour), Fellows receive priority consideration for fulltime hourly roles on campus during the summers or coaching for finding a paid internship that will continue to their professional skills and experiences while providing additional earning opportunities. These campus roles involve substantive projects that make a difference to the department/office to which the Fellow is assigned, helping the student develop highly marketable skills for additional professional opportunities. This is in addition to the intentional mentoring with the supervisor, which is holistic in nature—meaning that the mentoring occurs not only in the context of the workplace role but also through regular interactions between the Fellow and his or her supervisor. In essence, Gordon is committed to the Fellow’s complete development—intellectually, spiritually and vocationally.

In addition, Higginbotham Fellows participate in a cohort which will work on a year-long institutional project that will raise the Fellow’s understanding of strategic planning and will provide a valuable tool (a project, program or resource) that will benefit the Gordon campus.  Together the cohort will participate in biweekly professional seminars and hear from guest speakers who will focus on a variety of professional topics. Among the issues to be addressed in the program are the following:

  • A comprehensive career assessment and self-understanding for each Fellow
  • A theology of work and professional vocation
  • Ethical frameworks to address workplace challenges
  • Leading through influence (from the middle)
  • Leading with authority (from top institutional roles)
  • Cultivating and deepening relationships in the workplace—with peers, supervisors and organizational leaders—and finding mentors
  • Positive contributions to a diverse workplace
  • Navigating the world of internships
  • Contributing to culture change through work
  • Developing a professional narrative—communicating skills and examples of work to potential employers and other professionals
  • A Christian approach to managing conflict in the workplace
  • Exploring occupational opportunities

In addition, Higginbotham Fellows will have a guaranteed spot in a unique CCI immersion trip in the greater Boston area, providing each student with the chance to visit exceptional employers in sectors such as software and technology, entrepreneurship and social enterprise, sports management, as well as civil and corporate law.

What are examples of cohort projects?

There are a range of ways that Higginbotham Fellows may expand GordonWorks, a newly expanded version of traditional on-campus student employment. Among ideas currently being considered are the following:

  • Developing a student employment manual for all student employees on campus (which represents close to two-thirds of the undergraduate student body).
  • Creating a guide to workplace ethics through interviewing Gordon alumni and friends of the College about ethical challenges and opportunities they have faced at work. This will become a resource with relevant case studies that will be used for professional ethics training in the GordonWorks program.
  • Building an employer relations outreach program (in partnership with CCI) to invite internship and job postings, performance feedback for internships, as well as coordination with employers to participate in on-campus and virtual recruiting events. A focus will be on cultivating new employer relations and strongly maintaining existing relationships with a broad sector of employers.

Who directs the program?

Pam Lazarakis, director of professional and career development, has dedicated her professional life to advancing the lives of Gordon students. She leads the James Higginbotham Legacy Fellows program. As a Gordon alum, she has worked in the field of career services for over 20 years and has taken courses at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in leadership and business ethics. She is especially interested in helping students succeed vocationally—from finding effective strategies for presenting their credentials to employers in cover letters, resumes and interviews to helping students connect with Gordon alumni for career advancement. She previously served as Gordon’s dean of admissions.

Who was James Higginbotham?

The namesake of this flagship program, James Higginbotham was a Gordon College student in the 1940s. At the time, Gordon was located in Boston, close to Fenway Park. After World War II, the College had outgrown its facilities with a surge of new students, including Higginbotham who also served as the part-time pastor of Wenham Neck Baptist Church on Boston’s North Shore. One of his parishioners, Frederick Prince, was the wealthiest man in Massachusetts and had explored selling his picturesque Wenham estate to Harvard or to the United Nations (the final site for which was still being determined at the time). Each week, as he traveled to the church, Higginbotham passed the gorgeous estate, which included a polo field where Theodore Roosevelt regularly played.  

After prayer and thoughtful consideration, Higginbotham approached Mr. Prince to ask if he would consider selling his estate to Gordon. A series of conversations ensued, and in the end, Prince agreed. Gordon relocated to the North Shore in the 1950s, due in large part to the initiative and hard work of James Higginbotham. It was the most strategic “ask” a Gordon student had ever made for the institution, but Gordon has a legacy of talented students who demonstrate professional courage and godly discernment. It is, therefore, fitting that this flagship program for promising first-year students be named after one of Gordon College’s most remarkable alumni.