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UM alumnus overcomes adversities, becomes Toppel’s new assistant director of career services

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UM alumnus Brian Malcolm has become the Toppel Career Center's assistant director of career services, two years after graduating from the university. Photo courtesy Brian Malcolm.

Brian Malcolm, the new assistant director of career services at the Toppel Career Center, knows the difficulty of finding one’s path. In his time at UM, he injured himself before football tryouts and changed majors five times. However, those obstacles didn’t stop Malcolm from finding his calling.

Malcolm was never a stranger to leadership roles. In high school, he joined his school’s hospitality program and entered poetry contests, following his ambition of becoming a rapper. However, his real passion was sports: he was the captain of the football team and a member of the track and field and baseball teams.

Born and raised in Liberty City, 30 minutes from UM, it was a lifelong dream of his to play on UM’s football team.

In 2011, Malcolm was admitted with an academic scholarship. He trained and prepared for tryouts, sure he would get onto the team and eventually achieve his dream of joining the NFL.

But life threw Malcolm a curveball.

It was the day before tryouts, and Malcolm was on his last set of sprints when he pulled a hamstring. The career-ending injury forced him to re-evaluate his goals.

“I pretty much took it as time to let this dream go,” Malcolm said. “So you got here on an academic scholarship, capitalize on that opportunity. The student athlete idea is ideal, but it’s not the reality right now.”

Malcolm took full advantage of his scholarship. He was a residential assistant for three years in Stanford and Eaton residential colleges, became a member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars and tutored for mentorship program Branches of South Miami.

Throughout his time at UM, he also spent time at the Toppel Career Center, now his workspace.

Edward Cruz, director of career education, met Malcolm during the Professional Development Academy, an eight-week program at the Toppel Career Center designed to help students gain knowledge and skills for future careers.

“I thought he was very sharp,” Cruz said. “He was very mature for his age, and I just recall always seeing him prepared. Very professional. He carried himself very well.”

Before graduating, he was inducted into Iron Arrow, UM’s most prestigious honor society. Malcolm graduated in 2015 with a Bachelor of Science in Education, Educational Psychology and Human Development. He then went on to receive his master’s in Educational Leadership from the University of Central Florida.

Malcolm kept in touch with Cruz and other faculty members after graduation, reaching out to the Toppel Career Center for information on working in higher education. His networking abilities made him a prime candidate for the position.

After a month and several rounds of interviews, Malcolm joined the Toppel Carrer Center’s staff in June 2017, returning to the place that helped him realize his career path.

“I wanted to directly be involved in a career-services type roll because a part of my involvement while I was here was the professional development academy, and I knew I wanted to be a part of that – helping students understand what their strengths are, what their story is that makes them a marketable candidate,” Malcolm said.

As the assistant director of career services, Malcolm helps advise students in communications, music and athletics, as well as acting as a liaison for the office of Multicultural Student Affairs. He aims to reach out to as many UM students as possible, helping them realize their potential.

At UCF, Malcolm worked as a career advisor at the university’s Office of Career Services and Experiential Learning. Malcolm started in the position in June 2016 where he advised students on academic and career goals by aligning academic interests as well as career personality tests. He remained in this position up until he joined Toppel in June 2017.

He also counseled dozens of alumni, graduate and undergraduate students daily during walk-in appointments.

Symone Phillips, a student assistant at Toppel, said she hopes that Malcolm’s presence will make students more comfortable coming to Toppel and taking full advantage of the center’s services.

“He has experience within the field already and he’s also an alumni of the university, so to have that Cane spirit plus the experience, he’s really relatable to the students here,” Phillips said, a senior majoring in marketing and management.

Now that he’s an assistant director, Malcolm is able to see behind the scenes of Toppel Career Center. When he arrived in June, he caught the tail end of the planning for Toppel Fest. He said he remembered going his freshman year and hoped students would find what he did.

“People took that time, that energy, that effort for me, and it worked out perfectly because I’m doing exactly what it is that I saw myself doing – the environment, the setting, the income,” Malcolm said. “I want to create that reality for someone else. Whether you think you have it figured or you don’t quite have it figured out there’s always a way.”

October 9, 2017


Nathalie Mairena

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