Alumna Grateful for Lessons Learned at St. John’s
Twenty years after graduation, Sandy Strk ’01TCB, ’04MBA still exhibits sincere enthusiasm for her St. John’s University experience.
“The lessons I learned, the preparation I received, and the friends I made have all been invaluable,” said Ms. Strk, who currently serves as Director of Marketing and Communications for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York.
Many of her contemporaries were first-generation college students. “They were really hard working and had this strong desire to make a better life for themselves. I meet fellow Johnnies almost everywhere I go, and the common denominator is how much they loved their time at St. John’s.”
A child of parents who immigrated to this country from Croatia, Ms. Strk attended St. John’s primarily because of the diverse array of majors available. A native of Queens, NY, she wanted to stay local but be near Manhattan, where she would eventually find a great internship.
Ms. Strk added that there was a sizable Croatian student population at the University that welcomed her immediately. “Many of my friends and family went to St. John’s. We had so much fun.”
She has shared a love of the Men’s Basketball team with her father since childhood, and they still actively follow the team. “I wouldn’t say he pushed me to go to St. John’s, but it just seemed predestined that I would go there. I was so excited to go to a school that was so beloved in my community.”
While unclear about which path to pursue, Ms. Strk wanted to study business. “I knew it would be easy to transfer within the colleges and schools at St. John’s if I decided to change majors, and I wanted that flexibility.”
That all changed when she took a Marketing class. “My professor was so enthusiastic about the profession,” she said. “I could see myself pursuing a career in that area and warmed to the idea quickly. There were so many areas within the field I could enter. He literally sold me on the major—like a good marketer does.”
During her time at St. John’s, Ms. Strk interned at Sony Music Entertainment and noted that nearly all of her professors stressed the importance of real-world experience. Many of them were adjuncts who had high-ranking positions in their respective fields. “We were doing real-world projects for them, such as designing an advertising campaign. I felt like I already knew what I was getting into before I started.”
“I love music and thought that might be an area to pursue, but soon I realized it was not for me,” she said. “The great thing about interning is you learn what you want to do and what you don’t want to do before embarking on your career. I advise everyone to start their internships early, and do as many as you can.”
Ms. Strk’s first job entailed helping sell television advertising spots for Clear Channel Communications (now known as iHeartMedia). She utilized many of the resources University Career Services offered to help her find that position. “I had several interviews with prospective employers I met at a career fair, and that is how I got my first job.”
She finds her current role at Catholic Charities personally rewarding as the organization is committed to helping individuals who deal with issues including substance abuse, domestic violence, immigration, and food insecurity, to name a few. “It is very fulfilling to help so many New Yorkers in great need.”
Perhaps the most critical lesson she has learned so far was ingrained in her at St. John’s—the need for compassion in one’s work life. “Being the best at what you do is important, to be sure, but without empathy and benevolence, especially in positions of authority, you will not rise above a certain level,” she said. “That ideal has stayed with me throughout my career. If you are a kind person, and you work well with others, you will get far in life.”