When Carol Surface was graduating high school, she knew exactly what she wanted to do for her life. She wanted to dance in the corps de ballet in a well-known dance company. Her parents however, had other plans.
They told her that she was free to follow her dreams, but she would also need to get a college degree.
“My father looked at me jokingly and said, ‘well you better marry a rich man with all the things you want.’ And just sort of instinctively, not having a plan, and without missing a beat I just said ‘well maybe I’ll be successful dad, did you ever think of that? I don’t have to marry someone,’” she said.
Surface soon found herself at Castleton State College majoring in psychology in 1987. After earning her degree, her career went a different direction from dance.
She went on to be the human resource officer at a medical engineering company, Medtronic. While working at with the company, Surface was given the opportunity to oversee human resources in their Hong Kong and Dubai locations.
Surface was also the keynote speaker for “All Women Have a Story,” a March 24 Zoom seminar showcasing Castleton alumni and their successes in their fields. She was joined by Ariel Delaney of the class of 2007, and Ali Flewelling, class of 2011.
Delaney is currently the senior program coordinator of the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, a nonprofit foundation fighting poverty, disease, and inequity around the world. Flewelling is the communications and business partnerships manager at BAE Systems Inc, a multinational arms, security and aerospace company.
Although each of these women have very different careers, they share one very important connection. They all earned their degrees from Castleton.
When thinking about the steps they took to land their careers, each of these women commended Castleton with giving them the tools to succeed.
“I would credit Castleton for preparing me for success as a communications professional. The communications program at Castleton exposed me to all facets of communications during my degree program, including numerous areas that were outside of my comfort zone,” Flewelling said.
“I really found myself longing for the smaller class sizes and I opted to go to Castleton,” she said. “I was immediately met with warm welcomes from all of the faculty and staff.”
After a transfer halfway through her sophomore year at the University of Vermont, Flewelling joined the Spartan family.
“I was immediately overwhelmed by not only the size of UVM but also in the back of my mind I was regretting not taking the scholarship that I got to go to Castleton,” she said.
But Flewelling was not the only one going to college with apprehensions.
“Like many students, I didn’t feel ready for school when I started. My first week I remember contemplating to drop out,” said Delaney. “I didn’t feel smart enough.”
But like many other students, Delaney got the push and support of her professors.
“They really wanted me to succeed. They cared about my success,” she said.
All three woman on the panel gushed when speaking about the amount of academic and emotional support they found within their educators.
“They really believed in us, sometimes believing in us when we didn’t believe in ourselves,” Flewelling said.
Delaney remembered back to a week before graduation. She had a recurring nightmare of being one credit short of walking across the stage. But this vivid nightmare gave her the opportunity to reflect later on in her thriving career.
“It really got me thinking about all of the hardships of the past four years,” she said. “All of the hurdles that I had to climb through academically, socially, emotionally and that journey of resilience is something that serves me today.”