Success Story: Clifton Shambry Jr. of Homewood Student Affairs

When Clifton E. Shambry Jr. first heard of the campus programming coordinator position at Johns Hopkins University in the fall of 2014, he was immediately interested—despite knowing that the position was temporary.

“I was pretty aware that there would be opportunities that would come up,” says Clifton, who in the years since has been promoted twice and is now Homewood Student Affairs’ assistant director of student organizations. Though he didn’t know what those opportunities would be—or if he’d be qualified to take them—he leaped at the opportunity, tackling the job with a long-term mindset.

He had spent the previous two years in advisory- and coordinator-related roles at Ramapo College of New Jersey and Columbia University, and he thought that the environment and nature of the job at Johns Hopkins seemed a good fit, so he was willing to make the move.

From the start, Clifton felt JHU took a long-term interest in him, too. Even before he was a permanent employee, “I was part of the staff meetings and was able to participate in some of the professional development opportunities, so I could continue to think about my development,” he says.

One such opportunity arose in his first year. “My supervisor mentioned that one of the challenges we were working on together was communication, so I started taking the business communication certification courses at Carey [Business School].” The course—Executive Education Business Communication—included classes on public speaking, persuasive communication, and effective workplace presentations. Clifton loved the coursework, his fellow students, the faculty, and even the opportunity to spend some time on another Hopkins campus.

As he worked on developing business skills, Clifton was also actively working on his career path. Committed to staying at JHU, “I asked about positions that I wanted to do, and then my supervisor and I had conversations about what that meant for me,” he recalls. In one case, a frank conversation about an open position convinced Clifton not to apply. “I’m actually grateful that I didn’t take the opportunity because it would have been a stretch for me.” Soon after, “there were other opportunities where I knew I could thrive,” he says.

By April 2015 Clifton had landed a role in the newly created—and permanent—position of coordinator of student organizations. In the beginning, he says, “I was just doing general programming and managing a lot of large signature events for first-year students.” Over time, he transitioned to working directly with student organizations, managing a database of Hopkins groups and developing new ways to engage with students in order to help them thrive. “That is our purpose now, and it’s a shifting focus,” says Clifton, whose work has shifted along with the department’s goals.

When one need arose, Clifton seized the opportunity to be inventive: He launched an initiative to pair Hopkins subject matter experts with student groups whose focus overlaps with their area of expertise. “That’s something that wasn’t in my job description, and I just did it because it made sense,” says Clifton, who in 2017 advanced once again, this time into his current position.

In his nearly five years at Johns Hopkins, he’s taken advantage of opportunities offered by the university to help employees gain new skills. In addition to the courses at Carey, he’s taken classes in Microsoft Office Excel, WordPress, mastering memory, giving and receiving feedback, and developing characteristics that lead to success. He’s also taken online courses in crowd management and managing the recruitment process, and he has attended and presented at professional conferences at Johns Hopkins, regionally, and nationally.

Looking ahead, Clifton has his eye on the supervisor training program. “I know that I want to get full-time supervision experiences, and I want to be best prepared for that,” he says.

Of course, growth isn’t always career-related. Clifton is also considering using JHU’s tuition remission program to develop his music skills—either voice, guitar, piano, or perhaps all three—through courses at Peabody. “I’m trying to use all the resources possible,” he says with a laugh. “Part of it is knowing that there is tuition remission for personal things because they do ultimately help in professional life. It creates a balance, and that’s something we all need.”