The Defectors: Jamie Piperato, JPHigherEd

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Today’s Defectors post highlights the entrepreneurial journey of Jamie Piperato, who drew inspiration from a leadership session and used its fuel to create her own destiny. She speaks eloquently about how refining her own goals has helped her better serve the professionals and students around her; I must confess, the way in which she does business has inspired me to tighten up my own practices! So appreciative of your attentiveness to that speech at the NAACP that day, Jamie- who knows where you’d be without it?

Not sure what we’re doing here yet? All is revealed here.


In 2015, I attended South Carolina’s NAACP College and Youth Division Conference as an advisor of Coastal Carolina University’s chapter. During one of the sessions, a man stood before the students and said, “Stop making someone else’s dream come true. Go out there and make your own dreams a reality.” This message was not intended for me (for multiple reasons); however, it couldn’t have come at a better time in my life.

Shortly after the conference, I made one of the scariest decisions of my career. I made the decision to leave my full-time position as Assistant Director of Multicultural Student Services to pursue opening up my own higher education professional development company (JPHigherEd.com). I made the scary leap into the unknown and started on the path of ‘making my own dreams a reality.’

Many factors played a role in this decision. In my experience, I found that a common narrative for folks who work in identity offices is that they are underpaid, undervalued, overworked, and over regulated. [Side Note: I recognize that this is a common thread in most functional areas but a simple glance at budgets usually differentiate the experiences significantly between offices.] In addition, while working in the field, I was noticing disparities in my colleagues’ knowledge and skills around working with marginalized students on campus. These factors, coupled with my aspirations to open up my own business, invited me into the world of defectors.

This journey has been one unbelievable ride that has challenged me in new and exciting ways. I have learned lessons about what I didn’t know about marketing, what it means to network across industries, what is important to me as both an employer and employee, and how perceptions of what is important can be skewed due to the environments we work in as professionals. As a result of living and breathing the defector life, I have been able to revise my mission, vision, and values in life; and, ensure that my time is spent on achieving my goals.

One question that I receive all the time from folks in higher education (in more traditional roles) is, “Will you ever go back?” My answer to this question will always be, “I never left.” I think it is important that we transform our thinking about what it means to be a higher education professional (in both traditional and non-traditional roles). Many people in higher education work in more non-traditional roles. Many of these people are “defectors” themselves due to factors such as burnout, inadequate pay, or unhealthy working factors.

Now, with regards to ever working in a more traditional role again, I will let ‘future Jamie’ decide that one for me! As of right now, it is plain and simple. I love what I am doing. I have embraced the ‘defector life’ and I wouldn’t want it any other way!

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