While in graduate school at Nova Southeastern University, Long worked at the South Florida Wildlife Center as an ambulance driver. “I would respond to calls about sick or injured wildlife, perform rescue and triage, and then transport them to our hospital,” he said. “I was climbing trees and wading through swamps, all to save everything from baby squirrels, opossums, hawks, iguanas that were seven feet long, alligator snapping turtles, you name it. They would be rehabilitated and then re-released to the wild. I love animals, so it was a great job.”
After graduating, Long transitioned from compassionately helping inured animals to supporting students as an academic advisor at Florida International University in Miami. He stayed there for several years before joining Elgin Community College as an academic advisor in 2014, a move driven by the desire to be closer to family.
“ECC had everything I was looking for in terms of size, composition and location. I felt like the interview had gone really well, and after asking some questions about the department and the division, I knew this was the place I needed to be. I wanted the job more than anything,” Long said.
In his current role as director of student success and judicial affairs, Long “facilitates and cultivates connections-between people, resources and ideas-that maximize student opportunities for success.” He explains, “Each day, I try to expand and repair (where necessary) the safety net we have in place for our students who are struggling to meet their potential.”
We asked Long some questions about himself and his work at ECC. Here are his answers.
What is your greatest accomplishment since you've been here?
As a member of the academic advising team brought onboard during the redesign of that office, I'm incredibly proud of the department we built. Academic advising is a profession like any other, with research, theory, pedagogy and best practices. Our diverse team of dedicated professional advisors, with incredible leadership and support, built a department from the ground up that is equal to or better than any other advising department in the country. By building dynamism and responsiveness to student need into the founding model, the department remains at the cutting edge of the profession, and gets better every day.
What would you do if you were ECC president for a day?
The first time Dr. Sam stopped at my office to say hello and shake my hand, I felt like a million bucks. I would spend the day doing that, because it's the small gestures and acknowledgments that make all the difference.
If there was a movie about your life, who would you want to play you?
Maybe a young Kyle MacLachlan (from Twin Peaks). He makes good role choices and I enjoy all of his early work with David Lynch.
What's on your “bucket list?”
I enjoy creative hobbies like painting, and writing and recording music. I would like to press a vinyl record of my own music, using my artwork for the cover and liner notes. How cool would it be to pass something like that on to my children some day?
What's one fact we should know about you?
I read John Steinbeck's Winter of Our Discontent when I was 16 and it changed my life. I became obsessed with all things Steinbeck. I've visited most of his personal and family homes, and even used some of his words (taken from a letter he wrote to his son) in my wedding vows.
What's something about your job that others should know?
There is no panacea for student retention and success. Instead, we try to work smart when looking at the bigger picture, while not losing sight of the individual student in front of us at any given moment. While the goal is for every single student at ECC to be successful, this is not possible. Remind me of that next time you see me, because I'll probably need to hear it.
What would be your “theme song?”
David Bowie's “Heroes.”
What was your favorite class in school?
I was mostly bored in high school, and my grades reflected that. College was so transformative for me because I discovered that I could find a niche and go deep. Religious studies classes were some of my favorites, because they dealt with the big questions. Shout-out to Dr. Amy Carr in the Religious Studies department at Western Illinois University. I think I took every class she taught. She's one of the most brilliant people I've ever met. It's no hyperbole to say she changed my life. Good teachers (and colleagues) do that every day and don't know it unless you tell them. So tell them.
What quote best describes your philosophy?
“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow Roman candles…” - Jack Kerouac, On the Road
Complete this sentence: “I enjoy working at ECC because…”
I am challenged and supported each day to help people realize the transformative potential of higher education.