Tope Ligali, Center for Minority Serving Institutions
News from July 24, 2014
“Graduating from college around the recession was a struggle,” recalls Tope Ligali. In 2010, Tope earned a bachelor’s degree from Penn State. She’d taken a job with the School District of Philadelphia, but layoffs sidetracked her public service career plans. Fortunately, Tope was able to get back on track. By signing on as Penn Jobs Center temp and building a reputation as an outstanding administrative professional, she found permanent work at Penn in a field close to her heart.
In her search for new employment, Tope clicked the “temporary admin jobs” link on the Jobs@Penn website and submitted an application to the Penn Jobs Center, managed by UA Staffing. Within a week, UA Staffing called her for an interview. Soon after that, they started to offer her assignments.
“When you’re a temp, you have something to prove,” Tope admits. So she made sure to establish a good name for herself at each assignment. For the next several months, Tope worked in Penn departments from Human Resources to the College of Liberal & Professional Studies. Her on-campus experience began opening doors. And so did her networking skills. During a stint at the Penn School of Design, Tope learned about an opening for a permanent administrative assistant in the school’s business office just one floor below her. She asked her coworkers for information about the post and wound up speaking directly to the person who would soon be her next supervisor. “I was encouraged to apply for the job, and fortunately I got it,” says Tope. “That was incredibly exciting!”
While Tope was taking a course at the Penn Graduate School of Education (GSE)—thanks to her staff member tuition benefits—job opportunities began to develop at GSE’s new Center for Minority Serving Institutions. Her professor, Marybeth Gasman, happened to be the center’s director. After class, Tope discussed her professional interest in higher education access issues with Professor Gasman, who recommended that she apply for a position. A few months later, the Center opened its new offices with Tope as administrative assistant. This role allows her to meet researchers and observe their craft. She enjoys working with Professor Gasman and others who are passionate about what they do.
With her sights on a master’s degree, Tope appreciates Penn’s employee tuition benefit along with its other educational programs. “I love that Penn always has a lecture series, talk, or a symposium that’s free and open to the public. I don’t think you can put a price tag on that.”“I’m in the right place,” says Tope. “This is helping me to prepare for whatever my future dream job is.”