FDU runs in the family

Sisters Debbie Dobson (l) and Pam Messina (r) graduated together, both receiving master’s degrees, at the FDU 2013 Commencement. (Photo by Dan Landau)

By Dan Landau

For sisters Debbie Dobson and Pam Messina, working and studying at Fairleigh Dickinson University has become a family affair, so it is fitting that they walked as a family at the University’s 70th Commencement on May 21.

Both Dobson and Messina graduated with their Masters of Administrative Science (MAS) and they were joined on stage by Dobson’s daughter-in-law, Jennifer Mellea Pilipie, and Pam’s daughter, Lindsay. Pilipie graduated with her BA in Individualized Studies and Lindsay is completed her BA in psychology. 

Although no one in the family planned their schedules so as to graduate together, it happened that way and they are excited about it. “For most people, graduation is a very individual moment, but it is cool that we got to all share it,” says Pilipie. “It is very memorable for the family.” 

“I think it is cool to walk together,” adds Pam. “It means more to me to walk at the same time as my daughter than if it was just me. Lindsay has done quite well at FDU, and she was very supportive of me as I went back to school for my ‘midlife crisis.’”

A friend encouraged Pam to go for her master’s degree and when Dobson heard about that, she signed up to. “I couldn’t let Pam do it and leave me behind,” says Dobson. “When Pam signed up, I had to too.” 

“I did my master’s for personal satisfaction,” says Pam. “I started this back in my 20s and never finished. Life just got in the way.” Working at FDU as assistant to the Dean of Students at the College at Florham provided 52-year old Messina with the opportunity to complete her lifelong goal. “I am so thrilled — this was on my bucket list and I am crossing it off now,” she says. 

Messina isn’t the only one who benefited from her studying though: “My husband’s golf game improved because I would send him out golfing every weekend so I could have a quiet house to study in!” laughs Messina. 

For Dobson, getting her master’s was a great experience, both professionally and personally. “I truly enjoyed it and the knowledge is already helping me in my work at FDU,” says Dobson, director of academic advising at the College at Florham. “The MAS is a fabulous program,” says Dobson. “I did an HR concentration but I also got to take two counterterrorism courses and it was great to step out of the box and try something new.” 

By taking classes online, Dobson enjoyed a diverse blend of outlooks from her classmates. “I had military personnel fighting for our country overseas in my classes and I also had people in big corporations,” says Dobson. “I learned so much from having these different perspectives in class.”

This is Dobson’s second degree from FDU. “I had quit my undergrad after three years and I wanted to finish my degree,” says Dobson. “So, I called FDU and said, ‘do you have any jobs?’ There was a part time position in enrollment services which I took.” That was 27 years ago. After finishing her bachelor’s degree, Dobson stayed at FDU and moved up in the ranks, eventually moving into academic advising. 

“I’ve worked at every graduation since I started working at FDU,” says Dobson. “Usually I am lining up the kids and carrying the Becton College banner. This time I will be like the kids in the line behind the college banner.” 

Dobson’s two sons, Bryan and Kevin Pilipie both went to FDU as well (graduating in 2003 and 2007, respectively). Jennifer (right) joined Dobson’s family when she married Bryan and also joined the FDU family when Dobson brought her to an open house. 

“I was always a student who didn’t know what to do with her life and I had taken so many classes (at other colleges) but hadn’t gotten a degree,” says Pilipie. “My mother-in-law told me about the BAIS program at FDU and how they would accept my credits. The program was great and totally fit my lifestyle.”

“FDU is pretty strong in my family,” says the 28-year-old Pilipie. “Overall, going to FDU has been such a great experience for me, I wish I had started at FDU because I would have finished my degree faster. I am so happy to be part of the alumni family now though.” 

Not one to rest on her laurels, Pilipie has already started her master’s and is looking to complete her MAS next spring. 

Also coming back to FDU next year for a master’s is Lindsay Messina, who will be pursuing an MA in Teaching. As an undergrad, Lindsay had great success at FDU, both academically and as an athlete. She captained the College at Florham Devils cross country team and received the Kenneth Greene award for having the highest GPA of all graduating female Devils athletes. 

Feature Story from the FDU Newsroom

FDU Office of Public Relations

   (Metropolitan Campus Office)
Dickinson Hall, Room 3365, H-DH3-1, Teaneck, NJ 07666

Dina Schipper,
Director of Public Relations
Fax: 201-692-7019

Kenna Caprio,
Communications Writer
Fax: 201-692-7019

Helen Grill,
Senior General Clerk
Fax: 201-692-7019

FDU Office of Public Relations

   (College at Florham Office)
East Cottage, Second Floor, M-EC2-01, Madison, NJ 08450

Scott Giglio,
Assistant Director of Public Relations
Fax: 973-443-8671

Daniel Landau,
Public Relations Assistant
Fax: 973-443-8671