Devoted to creating a positive impact within Geneseo and fostering student success, Interim Director of New Student Programs Heather DiFino ‘08 lives and breathes her career. As a proud alum, DiFino has made it her mission to give back to the Geneseo community.
Upon receiving her master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling from Syracuse University, DiFino engaged herself in fieldwork at nonprofit mental health clinics before finding herself drawn back to Geneseo.
“Geneseo is home—as cliché as that sounds,” she said. “I never wanted to leave; I always loved it here.”
DiFino’s position on campus has changed throughout her years. She has evolved from Resident Director to Office of Career Development Career Counselor and, finally, to her current position, which she began at the start of December 2015. As Interim Director of New Student Programs, her work involves both incoming freshmen and transfer students.
“I’m excited in this new role. Having experienced what it felt like to go here, I have the opportunity to continue traditions while also making changes and serving our students to the best of my ability,” DiFino said. “Generations entering college are changing and we want to make sure they have the best resources so they can go out and be successful.”
Programs that DiFino oversees include incoming student orientations for both the fall and spring semesters, Phi Eta Sigma—a freshman honor society—and the Adirondack Program—a pre-fall program that allows new students to earn INTD credit by doing work in the Adirondacks during the summer leading up to their start at Geneseo. She is also the faculty advisor for Sigma Kappa.
DiFino added that she is also starting to work on establishing a women’s mentorship on campus for students, faculty and staff that she hopes will take flight in the next year or so.
“I really feel that I have a strong understanding of the ‘whole’ student and hope to serve as a resource to connect them to the campus and community for them to achieve their personal success,” DiFino said.
Frequently asked to conduct seminars and workshops regarding leadership and career planning for various campus organizations and events, DiFino is steadfast in her passion for facilitating students realizing their potential and cultivating their talents.
“I want to help students have that ‘aha’ moment where they know they can succeed,” she said. “That’s my goal: to empower students and ignite that flame in them.”
One of DiFino’s most notable projects from her work as Career Counselor is Encore. The initiative created a “career closet” resource for students from which they can borrow business or business casual clothes for professional events, interviews, networking endeavors and more.
“My thinking behind Encore was that a lot of the events I was working on required dress that students didn’t always necessarily have,” DiFino said. “I felt we should offer the service because we shouldn’t hinder anyone from getting a job or starting a career on the right foot just because they forgot something at home, it no longer fits them or they can’t afford it.”
Encore has proved to be a tremendous success, increasing from two closets of available business attire to three—and it is still growing with the help of community members and their generous donations of clothes.
A fun fact about DiFino is that she appeared on the television show “House Hunters.” Transitioning from living on campus for her Resident Director position to moving into the greater area for her career counselor position in 2013, DiFino’s ceaseless drive led her to opportunity-seek online, where she stumbled upon the application to be featured on the show. She applied and was accepted, bringing the program to Geneseo. The episode aired in January 2014.
“I love the show,” DiFino said. “I got to work with some students—as well as some faculty and staff—on that, which was a really great experience.”
In her present-day role in the Geneseo community, DiFino’s enthusiastic commitment is an invaluable asset to the school. She is persistent in applying innovation and precision to her various programs and initiatives, striving to create an environment and resources that support student prosperity.
“Geneseo has given me so many opportunities. I feel like I’ve won the jackpot,” DiFino said. “I feel lucky to be able to serve the wonderful students here and I just hope I can continue doing that.”