MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: Tara Truhan
Sometimes the trials and tribulations of life can knock us off our linear course unexpectedly, but it can be the very thing that reveals our truth in who we are and what matters most to us. It is through the spiral turns and winding roads that we are often led to straight paths with clarity and direction.
Tara Truhan has taken a side-door approach to entering her dream job; the job that today encompasses the benefits of her extensive education, her work experience, and life experience. It is the job that was hand-crafted to fit Tara’s main goal of servicing others.
Tara grew up on Long Island in NYC. She graduated from Hofstra University in December of 2002 with a bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies, with a focus in Psychology. Tara graduated earlier than planned after taking extra classes during the summer, and this presented a defining moment in her life as she was quickly propelled into adulthood and the need to establish a career path.
QUOTE: “This move was where I learned my first and greatest life lesson- the value of taking risk, being independent and the power of forging my own path.”
Making drastic moves, takes courage
As Tara pondered over her career path options, it was an invitation to visit a friend in Colorado that she would find direction. Her friend told her she would never want to leave once she visited, and she was right. Tara quickly fell in love with Colorado’s fresh air and the friendly people.
She also loved walking out the front door and seeing the majestic mountain view. Feeling a sense of peace and alignment, resulted in Tara packing up her belongings, her Jetta and her savings, and moving to Colorado to start a new life. Tara stated, “This move was where I learned my first and greatest life lesson- the value of taking risk, being independent and the power of forging my own path.” She was excited about new possibilities and opportunities for a bright future.
QUOTE: “I’ve always really wanted to help people; it’s at the core of who I am.”
As Tara settled in Colorado, she had many things to figure out, but one thing she knew for sure was that she wanted a job that would allow her to inspire, support, and help others. Subsequently, her first job was working in a residential treatment center helping people with developmental disabilities, mental health issues, substance addictions, and victims of child abuse and neglect. Tara worked in this field for two years and decided to enroll in a master’s degree program at the University of Colorado Denver. She graduated in 2008 as a licensed professional counselor. To further her education and ability to help others, she later enrolled in The University of Northern Colorado to obtain a PhD in counselor education and supervision. She says, “I’ve always really wanted to help people; it’s at the core of who I am.” Tara’s desire to keep learning, was always inspired by her desire to keep helping others. She understood that her continued growth and development in her own knowledge, could help others in their growth and development.
Helping others, can enhance our own growth & development
As Tara worked towards her doctoral degree, she used her degree as a licensed counselor to work with children who had committed sex offenses. She was trained by a supervisor who had trained with the FBI, so she was receiving great mentoring. Together, they worked on very complexed cases. Tara came to understand the importance of timing when dealing with childhood intervention. She believed early intervention provided more opportunities to help others change course before it was too late.
Tara was simultaneously doing a career counselor graduate assistantship. She says the two roles were like night and day; one working with college students struggling to figure out their career plans and the other was working with cases that have criminal level impact. While the work was emotionally taxing, Tara still found it rewarding because it opened her eyes to the impact a person’s background could have on their future. The job helped her grow as a person and develop a strong sense of humility and compassion for others. It was a constant reminder that we’re all human and often have things to overcome that we may be carrying on our shoulders. Showing kindness and support became the focus for Tara, as it tied into her continued desire to help others.
Tara soon realized that what she loved most, was her continued higher education in helping college students at The University of Northern Colorado as they navigated a path towards their goals. Tara’s colleague and mentor at the time, was moving into the position of chancellor at the university, and he presented her with an opportunity to become a Title IX Coordinator, dealing with sex discrimination laws on the campus. Her role was to respond to all complaints of possible sex discrimination, coordinate proper responses to complaints, and establish an actionable Title IX harassment process for students. Higher education institutions receiving federal funding are required to designate a coordinator who is responsible for ensuring the school complies with Title IX, and Tara was up for the challenge. All the work Tara was doing at the time, was working towards obtaining her PhD.
QUOTE: “strangely enough, I took one of those career assessments and it said I was destined to be a psychologist or fashion designer.”
Compassion & fashion in her DNA
While Tara was still pursuing her PhD, she took a part-time job working as a sales associate for the retailer, Anthropologie. While it was a source of extra income for Tara, it more importantly, fulfilled a love and fascination she always had for fashion.
She admired fashions ability to be expressive and creative. She remembers attending private school during her adolescence and having to wear the same uniforms every day. Those limitations and restrictions sparked a curiosity in Tara as she thought about the freedom others had when it came to their clothing, and how empowering fashion could be for an individual. Tara chuckled as she shared, “strangely enough, I took one of those career assessments and it said I was destined to be a psychologist or fashion designer.” She noticed the two fields had many of the same traits, which explained why she loved both.
QUOTE: “the events of 2012 had an extraordinary impact on my life and set course for a huge trajectory change on how I viewed my professional life and my personal life.”
The veered path begins
While Tara’s professional life was in full swing, her personal life began to veer off the path with a series of life-altering events. In December 2011, Tara experienced the painful loss of her grandmother who helped raise her as a child.
In October of 2012, she lost her father and just as her family was processing the loss of their loved ones, Hurricane Sandy hit, effecting New York City, its suburbs, and Tara’s hometown of Long Island. Hurricane Sandy's impacts included the flooding of many suburban communities. Tara stated, “the events of 2012 had an extraordinary impact on my life and set course for a huge trajectory change on how I viewed my professional life and my personal life.” She shared that she went from being very focused on herself and the steps to climb the corporate ladder, to becoming aware of the importance of sometimes having to put the needs of others before her needs and desires. With that revelation, she chose to move back to NY to help her mom. Tara knew her decisions were about sacrificing the things that she held close to her heart, but she was reminded of the importance of family, and developed a new conceptualization about time.
QUOTE: “It was always about finding a way to help people actualize their strengths and success. So that role as a licensed counselor, was still a part of me in the work I was doing.”
Tara’s job at Anthropologie supported her transitioning back to NY and she moved with a fulltime managers position. She later moved into a visual merchandising position for two years at Madewell, owned by J. Crew. And in every role, she found herself being drawn to leadership, talent development, and anything that involved putting processes in place to support employee growth and development. Tara says, “It was always about finding a way to help people actualize their strengths and success. So that role as a licensed counselor, was still a part of me in the work I was doing.”
In 2015 Tara again reassessed her career, realizing she was in NY, the fashion mecca with so many resources within her reach. She began wondering what it would be like to work for a fashion school. She had a background in higher Ed, she loved fashion, and working with students, so she applied for LIM’s College's position as Graduate and Alumni Career Advisor.
Tara got the position and worked in that role for several years. She later moved on and accepted a job as Senior Assistant Director at New York University, where she also helped students. She shared that as much as she loved and appreciated the prestige, reputation and resources NYU had to offer, it never quite felt like home. She was someone that needed to feel connected with the people she worked with, so when the opportunity arose for her to return to working at LIM College, she took the position. Her incredible boss, Gail Nardin, who she considers a mentor, allowed her to contribute to defining her new position and the title would be, Director of Corporate University Partnerships. Tara says she was able to create a dream position for herself, one that would utilize her experiences from different industries and serve the students in the best way possible. It was an exciting part of her journey because all the steps she had taken, seemed to come full circle.
In Tara’s role, she works on corporate and university partnerships all over the world, creating pathways for graduate and undergraduate students to study at LIM. She coordinates campus events with industry partners and books guest speakers. She also helps build course-based projects and supports the launch of new degree programs. She believes LIM is a hidden gem in the world of fashion schools. She is always seeking experts and professionals from the industry who are interested in mentoring and supporting the LIM college students of the future. Tara takes great pride in her work and she says LIM feels like a family that she is fortunate and honored to be a part of.
QUOTE: “There were times when I felt like I was lost out to sea, but then realized it was all part of the journey.”
The spiraling circle ends with fulfillment
Tara is thankful for where she is today, but it was not without its trials, tribulations and losses. Leaving Colorado meant leaving her friends and her job. It also meant ending the pursuit of her Ph.D. program. Tara says, “there were times when I felt like I was lost out to sea, but then realized it was all part of the journey.” She left a very full life in Colorado, to come to NY, not under the best circumstances, but was able to hit reset, and start a new path.
Tara ended up meeting and marrying her husband who ironically attended the same High School, yet they did not know one another in High School, again proving that a better life was waiting for her in NY. Tara and her husband have a 2-year old, and a beautiful house on Long Island. Tara is living proof that you really can do it all and do it unapologetically.
It is the embracing of the turn of events, that leads to growth, development, opportunity, and a vision filled with understanding and purpose. The painful spiraling circle filled with loops and turns, brought Tara to where she is today- happy, settled and thriving. it wasn’t until her life was turned upside down, that the journey landed her on her most fulfilling desired path- spending time with family, working with students, and always finding new ways to help others.