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StoriesLynette Correa-Velez  ’03

An alumna finds her path helping students discover their career calling

Putting her values at the heart of the workplace

Alumna Lynette Correa-Velez '03 at her desk

 

From an early age, Lynette Correa-Velez was strongly drawn toward the field of human resources.

“I felt like HR was always the heart of an organization and being such a heart-centered person, I wanted to work in that space,” she says, “because I knew that’s where I was going to not just survive but thrive.”

As Director of Career Services at Joliet Junior College in Joliet, Illinois, she’s found a space where she can put her passion and her lived experience to work helping students from all backgrounds pursue and find work that they love.

Finding a path to Lesley

Lynette was born and raised in Boston, the daughter of Puerto Rican parents.

“I usually say that I’m BostoRican,” she jokes.

She attended Boston Public Schools and graduated from O’Bryant High School in 1999. Her parents’ divorce during her junior year of high school threw the family into turmoil, including a brief period of homelessness. But despite the challenges, higher education was always a goal for Lynette.

“My mother always wanted all four of us to graduate high school and go to college,” she says. “But when you don’t know what you don’t know—if you’ve never been in that space, how are you supposed to assist your children in navigating that space?”

She found support and guidance through a nonprofit called Bottom Line, designed to help first-generation students get into college and to support them until they graduate.

At Lesley, Lynette found educational opportunities, a supportive community, and lifelong friends. She met her best friend, Emma, in White Hall during her first week on campus.

“I was leaving my dorm room and she was there to meet someone else,” she remembers. “We just connected and then we ran into each other again. We connected over our love of jewelry, fashion, and shopping—I was a different type of person back then! And now she’s my son’s godmother.”

Despite feeling that the school could have done more to create more of a sense of belonging for first-generation students of color, she loved her experience at Lesley. She found mentors and role models among the women in executive leadership, including Associate Dean of Career and Community Service Alice Diamond.

“I love my alma mater,” she says. “And I will forever and always say Lesley College!”

Focusing on the heart of the workplace

She graduated from Lesley with a bachelor's degree in Business Management with a specialization in Human Resources Management and a minor in Psychology. She went to work at the Boston Private Industry Council, helping high school students with career development and summer internships, and then the Millennium Training Institute, which provided workforce training for young people. She later worked for INROADS, helping multicultural students attain summer internships at Fortune 500 companies. Breaking down barriers of accessibility was a top priority.

“Some universities have access to those Fortune 500 internships, and some don’t,” she observes.

She moved to Illinois in 2014 to get her master’s degree in Human Resource Development and e-Learning for Workplace Learning and Training at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign while her husband pursued his doctorate.

“We drove from Boston, Massachusetts, to Illinois in a 2000 Ford Taurus with all of our life’s belongings in the back,” she recalls. “It took us four days to travel from Boston because the car kept stopping every three and a half hours. I think every newly engaged couple should do a road trip in a car that is about to break down and see if they still want to get married at the end of it.”

In Chicago she felt as if she had found a second home.

“I really appreciate just how much bigger it is, and how there’s a little bit more diversity.”

In 2007, Lynette started her own career coaching practice called Chameleon Career Coaching, career coaching professionals and executives from all ages and backgrounds. She was one of the first career coaches in the country to do Skype career coaching at that time, both individually and in groups.

“I’ve always been a bit of a futurist,” she says. “People were like ‘virtual career coaching?’”

She sees career coaching as a lifelong partnership.

“You need career coaching when you’re a pre-professional through retiree. You’re going through various challenges in all of those spaces.”

In 2018 she became the Assistant Director of Career Development at Northeastern Illinois University and began her doctorate (Ed.D.) in Diversity and Equity in Education with an emphasis in Human Resource Development at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

“As a lifelong social and racial justice advocate, it’s completely in alignment with my values.”

In the summer of 2021, she became the Director of Career Development at Joliet Junior College, the first public community college in the U.S.

High hopes

Lynette is planning to do her doctoral research in diversity, equity, inclusion, access and belonging in career services in higher education. In the meantime, she’s focused on the opportunities that her new director position offers. Her lived experience informs much of her career coaching practice as well as her hopes for her students’ future work lives.

“It’s been frankly a phenomenal challenge for me to balance motherhood, working full-time outside the home, supporting my husband through his PhD program and doing my doctoral program all at the same time,” she says. “I’m definitely drinking a lot of coffee, definitely loving my caramel macchiatos.”

Lynette with her son Arturo and husband Ángel Luis Velez
Lynette with her son Arturo and husband Dr. Ángel L. Velez

In the age of remote work, flexible office spaces, and Zoom calls, she’s optimistic that there may be a shift toward more humanity in the workplace and better work-life balance.

“I think there’s now a collective energy towards keeping the best talent so that we can get some work done, no matter what field we’re in.”

She’s also determined to continue working to improve access to professional development to marginalized people.

“I’m trying to push the field and being a little bit more mindful and intentional. Not only for myself as a woman of color, but for individuals from historically marginalized communities. It’s important for me to center identities and intersectional identities within my role within the higher education institution, which was founded, for the most part, for individuals, not like me.”

She has high hopes for the future of career development.

“I hope that the needle moves a little bit more toward providing wider access to individuals who don’t have the privilege to be born into communities of access,” she says. “Most of the world’s changemakers are people who didn’t have that access.”

 

Learn more about Lesley’s Bachelor of Science in Business Management

Learn the latest in business and leadership theory and benefit from hands-on experience through a combination of real-world business challenges, role play, group projects, and one-on-one mentorship and coaching. Our Business Management program offers specializations in Brand Design and Marketing, Marketing, Organizational Leadership, and Sports Marketing and Management. Apply today and explore your full-time and part-time options in a unique program where you’ll discover the leadership style that’s yours alone.

 

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