Alumnae Spotlight – Lisa Schieffelin ’85

Lisa Schieffelin will tell you that if you count she has had about six careers. And she is thinking about her next one. A committed life-long learner and networker, she knows that sometimes an experience with a mentor, or an organization that you volunteer for, leads you to new doors. She believes also that being uncertain brings opportunities. Her Sage experience gave her opportunities to explore – different academic subjects, a wider circle of friends, a new sport, and to discover who she wanted to become. It also gave her the freedom to fail and the ability to recover, change direction, and find a new passion. But Lisa wasn’t a typical Sage student.

Lisa didn’t “experience Sage” in the same way that most of her peers did. She chose Sage because they had the criminal science program she wanted, but she was in the position of having to finance her own education. She pieced together loans, a few small scholarships, work study, and took classes at night rather than during the day so she could work full-time. Also because the night classes were cheaper. There was constant stress and worry about whether she could afford to finish her degree. In her senior year she worked both a full-time and a part-time job and took fifteen credits each semester. She moved off campus her senior year because she couldn’t finance a semester of room and board.

Between her jobs, studies, playing basketball and field hockey, she probably had more contact with her professors than her classmates. She credits several people with helping her get through…professors who pushed her to work hard, friends she made working in different school offices, and friends who brought her food from the cafeteria. Though she has fond memories of having coffee and studying in the Ratskellar, dance parties at the Castle, playing field hockey, a favorite History of Jazz class, the day to day of her college experience was not “fun.” After majoring in political science with a minor in criminal science, she graduated with Highest Honors.

In hindsight, she knows that because of the structure these demands imposed, she learned to make choices. One of those choices came after a difficult internship in her major that made her realize criminal science was not going to be what she expected. Her political science mentor, Dr. Stephen Schector encouraged her to experiment and try some different things. She took his advice and did an internship with the New York State Assembly and loved it. It eventually led to her becoming a Legislative Associate in the New York State Assembly.

Lisa discovered that in every job or position she had, relationships she developed led to opportunities, and sometimes a new career choice. Sage had helped her to develop leadership skills and confidence, so she never doubted when a new opportunity presented itself that she was up for the challenge. From the legislature, she would go on to become a real estate lobbyist in New York City, spend 12 years with JP Morgan as an investment banker, and get her MSW in 2013.

In speaking about balancing the demands of work, home, and family relationships, Lisa shared that for her priorities change, and being able to make different decisions based on those priorities allowed her and her family to find balance. One of those decisions was to leave her very demanding career with JP Morgan, a career that required constant and unpredictable travel and late nights. When her children were young, she left her job at JP Morgan because she felt that they were not benefitting from a stable and predictable schedule. Although she never questioned the decision, in fact she says it was the easiest of her life, she does say that it came with a bit of an identity struggle… the shift from being “Lisa the Investment Banker” to being “Lisa the Mom.”

Lisa’s current occupation brings together so many of the things she loves. She is a Field Hockey Umpire for USA Field Hockey, the NCAA and an adult international club league. So many of the skills she uses in umpiring have come from her learning experiences and previous careers, as she has to read situations quickly, calm things down, apply rules judiciously and redirect issues on and off the field.

Personally, Lisa loves her ritual of coffee and newspapers (six everyday, we counted) in the morning. She also loves working out, planning adventures with her family or watching their latest favorite show on TV, and is a dedicated and professional napper. Last year she became a competitive powerlifter. In her first meet last February (2018), she set the New York State record for squat as a Master 2B (50-59 years old) in the under 72 kgs weight class. She is already training for her next competition in June 2019.

Because of her experience, and knowing that there are so many other qualified and well-deserving students at Sage trying to finish their degree, she funded a scholarship to help students pay for their last year at Sage – the year when students run out of money and resources. She is very proud to say that because of the cumulative effects of her Russell Sage degree, she has been afforded resources that allow her to help others who also cherish a Sage college degree and could benefit from a gentler burden. Thank you Lisa, for the amazing woman of influence you are.