McCree Center for Life Success Opens, Forges New Partnerships

Students making MBU on the hill

Now that the fall semester is underway, the McCree Center for Life Success team is excited to connect MBU students to their full suite of wrap-around services for career design, civic and global engagement, and networking with employers.

For in-person advice and planning, McCree Center advisors are available for walk-in appointments daily, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, in the Spencer Center for Global Engagement in Wenger Hall.

All students, whether they study on campus or online, can also set up appointments through their Handshake account.

The center has also created a robust web hub at where students can find upcoming events and programming; how-tos for career and personal development; identity resources; and opportunities for community involvement both locally and globally.

Welcoming new members of the McCree Center team

Over the summer, the center welcomed several new team members to MBU in the areas of career design advising, global engagement, faculty connections, and international student support.

New career design advisors include recent Mary Baldwin graduate Jada Smith, who looks forward to leveraging knowledge from her MBU experience to help students find their own sense of direction within the university’s vibrant community. Her academic background in health sciences and psychology yields valuable insight into human behavior and motivation.

“Through open communication, empathy, and a genuine desire to see each person thrive, I’m enthusiastic about contributing to the growth and success of Mary Baldwin students,” Smith said.

Career Design Advisor Fredrick Walker comes to MBU with more than a decade of experience in higher education, the military, and industry, including career services, college admissions, public relations, and equal opportunity/DEI. In addition to his position at MBU, he serves as a public affairs officer in the Marine Corps Reserves.

“I have a passion for cultivating welcoming spaces and helping others reach their full potential in their career and life,” Walker said.

Mary Baldwin alumna Raven Showalter was tapped to lead international education initiatives, study abroad programming, and global engagement as assistant director of global engagement. While a student, she immersed herself in the language and culture of Japan, and spent a semester abroad in Kyoto for the Japanese Studies Program at Doshisha Women’s College of Liberal Arts. After graduation, she earned a master’s in international studies to broaden her intellectual interests and hone expertise in international education.

Assistant Professor of Sociology Andrew Raridon serves as faculty director for the center, focusing on how students can best connect classroom conversations with real-world experiences. He brings insight to the center from his research exploring the intersection of social activism and the marketplace, and from years of helping students prepare for careers that yield both personal and societal benefits.

Three current MBU students are also on board to help provide the center’s services, including Sophie Wilkins, global engagement assistant; Akeilah George, civic engagement assistant; and Edina Erkin, international student assistant.

New members of the McCree Center team

Rolling out new external partnerships

MBU and the McCree Center have recently joined region 8 of the Virginia Talent + Opportunity Partnership (Virginia TOP), a state-wide effort coordinated by the Virginia Chamber Foundation, the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, and the Virginia Business Higher Education Council.

Working with colleges and universities across the Commonwealth, Virginia TOP connects businesses that have work-based learning opportunities with college students looking to enhance their workforce readiness and professional development.

Director of Employer Relations and Workforce Development Kristen Sill was named a member of the Valley Internship Experience Workgroup (VIEW) — one of six that Virginia TOP initiated — which is charged to survey internship and work-based learning programs currently available in the region and develop strategies to significantly increase the number available. Meeting monthly, this collaborative workgroup has representation from public and private colleges and universities, executive agencies, non-profit organizations, and the business community.

“By being a part of this group, my goal is to not only make connections with the business community and other organizations and universities, but also to take inventory of our work-based learning opportunities and develop strategies to grow MBU student opportunities,” Sill said.

In addition to this state-wide initiative, the MCree Center is expanding local partnerships with the Staunton Innovation Hub — where new programs will start rolling out in October, including a community happy hour planned for Nov. 14 at the Hub.

The center is also set to join the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Chamber of Commerce, aiming to build new partnerships in the region for internships, and participate in conversations around economic development.

MBU faculty and staff: Have ideas or insights about work-based learning opportunities that would be impactful for MBU students? Please share them directly with McCree Center Executive Director Thy Nguyen at, so he can learn and potentially build those relationships further.