By Kate Whitney
Charlie Parfet considers himself a people person.
And that’s a good thing, as his job as an Enrollment Coach for the University of Vermont Continuing and Distance Education means he’s often communicating with over 100 prospective students per day.
A Northampton, Massachusetts native, Parfet has worked at UVM since July 2017. After graduating with a degree in history from the University of Washington in 2015, Parfet found a job as an office manager in the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at the University’s dental school but decided to move back east to be closer to his family. He discovered Burlington after visiting his brother (a student at Champlain College) and fell in love with the city, applied for his current position, and has been enjoying the “ever-changing” role he’s found since then.
Diverse CDE Student Population
After two and a half years helping nontraditional students take the next steps in their academic or professional development, Parfet is certain of one thing: there is no “typical” CDE student.
“I talk to everyone,” Parfet explained. “That includes people who are not necessarily interested in a specific program, but they’re checking out a course or two here—whether that’s to do a prerequisite for a graduate program or UVM staff on campus who want to take a course for professional development. I talk to senior community members who are over 65 and want to take a course for free because they get that tuition benefit—I talk to lots of those folks. The Continuing and Distance Education student profile is all over the place. That’s what I like about this job. I just don’t feel like I ever talk to the same type of person constantly. It’s always new, every day.”
The ability to answer questions and make a difference, no matter how small, is what keeps Parfet excited about coming into work every day.
“Not every person is going to come back and tell us how UVM Continuing and Distance Education changed their lives, but we find out about it through their testimonials, or a blog post, or a success story that I hear about it,” Parfet said. “Last week, I was working with a senior community member who stopped in because she was having trouble with registration—it’s fully online now. She came in, we sat down, and we helped her get into the class she really wanted, and she told us that she was just so grateful for the opportunity to do this. She went back into her class, saw students that she recognized from the semester before, and they embraced her and welcomed her back in, and it was just so hugely impactful for her.”
Program Portfolio Provides Flexibility for Students
Although Parfet claims that it’s “impossible” to pick a favorite, he’s excited to talk to people about the non-credit programs that define specific areas for CDE, such as the top-ranked Digital Marketing portfolio, the Business of Craft Beer program, and the popular and expanding offerings in the Cannabis and End of Life Doula programs.
“They’re all very different from one another in terms of the content and the audience, but I look at them all as embodying this new kind of learning—the online certificate format—with a cohort of students and the flexibility to log in and access the materials week to week,” Parfet said. “And for people like myself who work full time or who are adult learners, whether they’re in their mid-20s like me or much older, we have our work and family schedules and other obligations, so being able to learn—whether it’s just for interest or for changing or advancing careers—these programs bring out the type of person who want to ask questions about the bigger picture topics.”
For those who are shy about reaching out to chat with an enrollment coach, Parfet is emphatic that there’s no such thing as a silly question.
“We have a lot of information on our website, but people can easily ask us things via live chat versus looking things up, such as, how much does the program cost, or very specific questions about the application process,” Parfet said. Or we’ll get questions like, Have you had people like me do this program and what did they get out of it? We get some funny ones too, like sometimes people ask if we’re promoting the use of cannabis because of our professional certificates. And then we get serious questions, such as, will this help me prescribe to my patients, and we can answer both those questions and treat them the same way, with understanding, trying to listen to what they need, and help them understand what we’re trying to provide.”
“I enjoy the variety of students, the questions, the problem-solving, and all of my co-workers” Parfet continued. “I’m extroverted and people definitely give me energy, and I see the questions I answer help people take the next step. Being here now, there’s a real rhythm to it. So, for me, being able to engage with students all the time is fulfilling in a variety of ways.”