When a student achieves success at Rowan College of South Jersey (RCSJ), it’s not only gratifying for the student, but also for the institution’s faculty, staff, and administrators. Frank Piccioni, director, dual enrollment, RCSJ, is grateful to have lent a helping hand to thousands of students who graduated from the college and have gone on to bigger and better things.
Throughout his 10-year career at the school, Piccioni, erstwhile student development advisor, has played a leading role guiding students on the path to success. He is a firm believer that honesty, integrity, humor, and respect are vital tools to utilize when building relationships with students.
“Here at Cumberland, we have an intrusive advisement model. It just means that students can talk to us about anything,” Piccioni explained.
Piccioni does his best to make sure students are on point with their classes, their grades, and more. “I’ve had students in my office … just talking about life,” he said.
“I think effective communication is a lost art in the day of technology,” the former adjunct developmental math professor, said. “I am straight forward with the students. I [also] like to joke around—that’s part of my demeanor. When I’m with them, I keep it loose.
“I don’t take myself too seriously. Maybe it’s because I’m old,” he added with a chuckle. “Maybe it’s because I’ve been around the block a few times and because I think I’m approachable. I also believe that you have to have fun in what you’re doing. I think they’re drawn to that. There’s an old saying, ‘people don’t care unless they know you care.’ I care. I think when they come in and sit down with me … they know I care. I care about the track they’re going on. I care about their success.”
Although he is adept at telling a corny joke (or five) to release any tension a student might have in his presence, Piccioni, who is an avid practitioner of servant leadership, is also not afraid to “keep it real.” “You know, I can joke around and still get my point across,” he said. “[However], if I have to have hard conversations, I can have hard conversations.”
Piccioni, who served six-years in the U.S. Navy and was honorably discharged after spending time as a petty officer second class hospital corpsman, displays an old-school mentality that still manages to resonate with students.
“I go by one of the old principles—treat people how you want to be treated. It’s kind of really that simple,” the RCSJ–Cumberland three-time advisor of the year award winner, said. “I still believe that you have to earn respect. If you treat people the way you want to be treated, respect comes automatically.”
Piccioni, who routinely attends the Cumberland campus’s annual commencement ceremony, mentioned how proud he feels by witnessing his students achieve their dreams. “After my first year as a STEM advisor, I saw the students I helped graduate. [That experience] changed me forever,” he revealed.
“When I go to graduations, I stand in the same corner every year. As the students walk by, I get high fives, or they give me hugs. [Knowing] that I had a piece of somebody else’s success humbles me. It shows me when you’re actively involved, people appreciate it.”
Outside of work, Piccioni is making a name for himself as a highly sought-after singer/guitarist locally.
“My guitar strap has a whole song, and the name of the song is ‘To Leave Something Behind,’” he said. “I’ve been blessed [my] whole life. If I can help somebody and leave something behind, then hopefully they can pass it on to somebody else.”