Portrait Joe Protopapa

New Face: Joe Protopapa

The ability to help other first-generation college students is one of the reasons this new Lee Business School staffer chose UNLV.

Keeping on top of an ever-changing job market is something Joe Protopapa, director of career and professional development in the Lee Business School, finds both challenging and exciting.


As a first-generation college graduate who worked my way through school, at UNLV I have an opportunity to help students in similar situations using my past experience. Also, I love how the community embraces UNLV and that allows for an environment where I can make an impact in the community where I am raising my kids, and not just on campus.

What about UNLV strikes you as different from other places you have worked or where you went to school?

UNLV is so unique. It is the most diverse college campus I have ever experienced, and it is located in a unique city with so much to offer. The university is a true reflection of the community it serves and has a sense of collaboration and collegiality that I haven’t experienced in other places.

Where did you grow up and what was that like? What do you miss about it?

I grew up in Youngstown, Ohio, a typical American Rust Belt city that relied heavily on manufacturing and the steel industry when I was growing up. The population was diverse and made up mostly of working class people. I have eight siblings, so my childhood was fun and chaotic. I am truly fortunate to have such a big family that has remained close throughout my life. I miss old friends and family, but I realized long ago that the city couldn’t provide the opportunities I needed to reach my career goals, so I have spent the majority of adulthood living away from my hometown.

What are a few of your job duties?

As the director of career and professional development, my role is to lead career advising and coaching for business students, develop relationships with employers for recruitment and hiring purposes, and to provide strategic direction to the career and professional development office.

What excites you the most about being part of the Lee Business School?

I’m excited about being a part of Lee because the people who work here are incredible. They are so collaborative, accessible, and ready to work hard to make the school a great place to work and study. The culture that has been created by Dean (Brent) Hathaway and others is remarkable.

What is the biggest challenge in your field?

The job market is always changing, so career services professionals have to be nimble, agile, and possess a great deal of adaptability to be able to provide timely, relevant assistance to students. This is also what makes the field and our profession so exciting!

Finish this sentence, "If I couldn't work in my current field, I would like to...”

Be a stay-at-home dad. My kids are such a gift. Not a day goes by where I don’t feel fortunate to have the family that I have (even when they drive me crazy!).

Tell us about a time in your life when you have been daring.

When I asked my wife to marry me almost 20 years ago. I still can’t believe she said yes!

Tell us about an object in your office that has significance for you and why.

I have a photograph with my mom and dad from my graduate school graduation. My parents, especially my dad, have been very influential people in my life. They have taught me the importance of commitment, hard work, kindness, and loyalty. Most importantly, they taught me the value of education. I am a first-generation college student who was taught by my parents that the path to a better life is through education. My success is a direct reflection of my parents. Without them I wouldn’t be where I am today.

What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?

I have eight siblings (six sisters and two brothers). Life was very interesting growing up!

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