Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Finding 'True North'

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Finding 'True North'

Article excerpt

Vasco Bridges III has taken his impressive academic background and his commitment to social change and community development into a career that is improving the economic landscape in Chicago.

Bridges is executive director of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses (10KSB) program at Harold Washington College, one of the City Colleges of Chicago. The program, one of 25 throughout the country, is designed to help local entrepreneurs improve and expand their businesses, thereby increasing local employment opportunities and strengthening neighborhoods.

For Bridges, the position was what he calls "a good fit," but it was not a career choice he envisioned years earlier. "My philosophy on career movement is about not mapping out a full five-or 10-year plan because you never know what's going to happen," he says. "You always have to be in a position to take advantage of the next career step when it presents itself. You need the background and the training to do it, but you also need an understanding of what your 'true north is so that when an opportunity comes along, you know if it's the right one and you take advantage of it."

So when a friend told him about the executive director position, Bridges relied on his inner compass.

With an MBA from the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business, a master's in music business from New York University and a bachelors in economics from Rice University, Bridges was a strategy and operations manager with Deloitte Consulting before joining Goldman Sachs 10KSB in 2014.

He views community colleges as "a great avenue to help impact communities through economic and workforce development." He adds that the 10KSB program "connects the needs of the local economy with the training we're doing at the college."

Heading up a project that joins community college education with small business enterprise was tailor-made for Bridges' background --his three degrees, work experience and longtime interest in community service.

"I was working in my family business and working at Deloitte doing consulting, but I was always interested in how businesses grow," he says. However, Bridges admits he hadn't planned out his precise steps. "I never said I want[ed] to work in academia, or want[ed] to work at community college or even in this program, but I knew where it felt like my overall career was going. I always wanted to make an impact but I never knew how... but once I learned about this program I realized it was a good fit. It's about understanding what your values are and when choices are presented, you know that it's right [for] you. …

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