Francine Varisco has been a professor of Business Management at Cazenovia College for 30 years. Her focus of instruction is the area of marketing and social media, and she coordinates all the business program internships. Varisco never intended to enter the field of academia; she got into education by chance.
“A friend of mine was running a large business program at another college and was in dire need of an adjunct professor,” recalls Varisco. “He pleaded with me to fill this position and once I did, I loved it.” Teaching has turned into something special for Varisco. “The opportunity I have to enrich the lives of students is one that I hold very near and dear to my heart,” stated Varisco. “I can give them opportunities, and plant ideas of what they can do that they never even thought about.”
Varisco joined Cazenovia College shortly after the new business baccalaureate program was being established. With her industry background, connections and teaching experience, along with her post graduate work with internships, Varisco provided the perfect combination of expertise for the Business program. Her role extends far beyond teaching, as an advisor, she guides students on their academic plan as well as their futures. “We talk a lot about career aspirations and how we are going to get there,” notes Varisco. “I work with students to layout a plan based on their interests. It is very personalized.”
One example of a student that Varisco guided to a career in research really stands out to her. “I spent a lot of time thinking about this student’s career plan,” Varisco recalls. “I called her one summer day, and I said you are in the wrong program. I know exactly what the major is that you need, and this is what we are going to do.” The young woman went on to intern with an institutional researcher, presenting a paper at the International Conference of Institutional Researchers. “The young lady was one of the first undergraduates to ever research, co-write and present a paper in institutional research at their national conference,” added Varisco. “It solidified for her what she wanted to do after graduation.”
In the classroom, Varisco’s goal is to excite and engage students. “I want students to think critically not only on marketing, but business issues in general,” added Varisco. “They need to think about global events and how such issues can impact business.” While Varisco’s classes have a lot of creative opportunities, they work extremely hard. “I think I come across like a no nonsense New Yorker in the classroom,” observed Varisco. “I don’t let students sit back and coast. If you aren’t cutting it, I’m going to let you know. Business and marketing are competitive industries, and students need to be prepared in order to succeed.”
What Varisco likes about teaching today’s students is the opportunity to use technology to delve into a subject, create campaigns, and look at the analytics. “Students get surprised when they evaluate research and uncover something unique about the data,” added Varisco.
One thing that inspires Varisco to work at Cazenovia is that everyone is very welcoming. “The College provides a very open and warm environment,” notes Varisco. “Student, faculty, and staff - we are a family.” Varisco often works with leaders from organizations as well as students and their families, and when they come to campus, they note what a lovely campus Cazenovia is, and how nice everyone is. “There is just a whole different vibe on this campus,” added Varisco
Outside of the classroom, Varisco is involved in many campus committees. The National Retail Federation (NRF) was an organization Varisco participated in during her industry days. She was happy to bring the NRF student organization to Cazenovia College because it provides networking and internship opportunities for students beyond just retail. “For me, one of the highlights with students is taking them on career trips, like the NRF show, to expose them to opportunities they wouldn’t necessarily have staying on campus,” stated Varisco.
Varisco’s words of advice to students: “Get to know your professors. Let them know what your hopes and dreams are and don’t be afraid to make mistakes, but learn from them. Push yourself to go outside of your comfort zone. You will be very satisfied with yourself at the end of the day.”