Candice Sierzega is an associate director for The Center for Career and Professional Development and a liason for the Arts and Sciences school. She works with students to help them develop and shape their career path and personal motivations. (Courtesy of Candice Sierzega)

Sierzega brings joy of learning to Lehigh


As Candice Sierzega bounded through the doorway into the classroom for her first day of second grade, her teacher asked her to write her name on the chalkboard. Sierzega enthusiastically complied, printing her name in gigantic letters spanning the length and width of the chalkboard. The size of the letters emulated the amount of excitement Sierzega had to begin learning.

Sierzega did not attend school while living with her mother. Her desire to learn had been bottled up, ready to explode like a shaken bottle of soda. Once her father gained custody of Sierzega and her brother when she was six, she was able to enter school as a second grader.

“I love to learn because not everyone is afforded a good education,” Sierzega said.

Those first six years of Sierzega’s life were unstable. Her mother was unable to properly care for Sierzega and her older brother. At one point, the three of them had nowhere to go, so they ended up living in a homeless shelter.

“I wouldn’t be who I am today without going through that,” Sierzega said. “I’m not grateful for it, but I see how it shaped my life and who I am.”

Sierzega’s excitement for learning has only increased with time and experience, exemplified by her master’s degree in education and current position within higher education. As an associate director for The Center for Career and Professional Development at Lehigh, Sierzega uses her knowledge gained from personal experiences to help students discover their potential. Despite the hardships she has endured and the various obstacles she has overcome, Sierzega openly shares her past with others.

“People become the experiences that they’ve encountered,” she said.

Sierzega continued her educational journey at East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania. Fascinated by people and relationships, it was only natural for her to major in psychology with a concentration in counseling. Sierzega wanted to be that safe space for others who were experiencing difficulties in their life.

During her time as an undergraduate, Sierzega worked for a variety of Lehigh Valley organizations, including the Autism Resource Community Hub and the Value Youth House. Her work at each organization was instrumental to a personal discovery. While working at a center for individuals with developmental disabilities, Sierzega remembers that pivotal moment in which she determined she wanted to help people.

“I think I see myself as someone that likes to bring out the best in others and then help them realize their potential,” Sierzega said.

However, in order for Sierzega to effectively help others, she first needed to help herself. After graduating from college, Sierzega reflected on her life and recognized how dissatisfied she was with her personal wellness. She transformed her lifestyle and began new habits. Sierzega was so proud of herself for crossing the finish line of her first 5K that she cried. She is now training for her third half marathon.

“When accomplishing anything in your life, you learn that it takes patience and dedication and hard work and perseverance and resilience,” Sierzega said. “I’m proud of those personal qualities because I know no matter what I do, I have the focus and the ambition to achieve whatever I want to do with my life.

“I believe that everyone can truly accomplish their dreams and their goals if they feel like they have that resource, that person that they can turn to for the support system and the tools.”

Sierzega is that resource for the Lehigh community in her role in the career center. Sierzega works with students to discover their personal motivations and passions to then shape into a career path. Knowing how her own experiences have shaped her life, Sierzega believes in creating an environment where students feel comfortable enough to share their personal experiences. Being able to look at the past, see how that has shaped the person they are today, and then create a path toward future goals is what Sierzega wants for her students.

“She does a really good job of explaining who she is and how that has affected her career,” said Mikaila Skaroff, a career ambassador for The Center for Career and Professional Development. “She is a really good example of someone who has taken what she really likes in life and shaping that into a career.”

Sierzega’s career continues to take shape as she works toward her second master’s degree in educational leadership at Lehigh. The degree will allow her to gain an understanding of personal leadership styles and organizational dynamics, which she hopes to use to help organizations implement effective change. The transition from helping individuals to helping organizations gives Sierzega the opportunity to impact the lives of even more people.

“She’s a genuine person who is so willing to help,” said Karen Kuczynski, associate director for The Center for Career and Professional Development.

The self-described “authentic but quirky” Sierzega is currently at a place in her life where she is content with herself. She hopes to continue empowering others to succeed by celebrating successes and learning from struggles, just as she has in her own life.

“The happiest version of me has always been the real version of me,” Sierzega said.  “Being okay inwardly and sharing that out I think puts a smile on people’s faces.”

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