As part of our Coffee Chat series, a Capstone employee will be interviewed each month and featured in our monthly newsletter, The Erudite. For the May issue, the editors of The Erudite sat down with Jana Faro.
Jana is a leader in CDP’s management entity, Capstone Management Partners. Following her desire to continuously learn and advance in student affairs, Jana has bounced around the country experiencing the variety of campuses throughout the US and it is evident that she was made for higher ed. Little did she know, she coincided with a Capstone P3 during her senior year at her alma mater, University of Redlands. She is extremely busy as a new mom to a baby girl and is also responsible in seeing that three dogs and 15 chickens are kept fed on her urban farm in Denver.
Jana Faro, Vice President Operations, Capstone Management Partners
University of Redlands, Bachelors, Communicative Art and Design
Syracuse University, Masters of Science in Higher Education Administration
Portland State University, MBA Real Estate Development
Where are you from originally? I was born in Seattle but I grew up in San Diego.
What drew you to the University of Redlands for your undergrad? Water Polo, ha! I was an athlete – a swimmer and water polo player. In high school I played for one of the best club teams in the country, and while I didn’t know it at the time, I realized very quickly that if I wanted to continue playing water polo, I needed to stay in California. So, my decision came down to athletic scholarships and Redlands had a new pool, which was attractive to me. It was also 1 ½ hours away from home, so it wasn’t too close where my mom would just show up at my door but it was close enough that it was easy for her to come to my games and I could go home on breaks.
Fun Fact — my first exposure to Capstone was at Redlands. Capstone Development Corp was developing The Brockton Apartments during my senior year. I didn’t know it then – but I know it now.
Did you live on-campus? Yes, I lived on-campus all four years. My freshman year I lived on-campus in an old, historic building called Grossmont Hall. It still exists. It had community showers. It was a girls-only community and as an only-child I loved it, I loved the comradery that I had with all of the girls. It was so much fun. Because I was a swimmer, if I hadn’t been assigned to Grossmont, I don’t think I would have otherwise met the depth and breadth of all of the girls that I met in that residence hall. In fact, I’m still friends with many of the girls that lived in Grossmont with me, because we had that common experience. Most of them were non-athletes, but you establish a friendship based on other interests. I just remember thinking, this must be what it’s like to have a sister. It got hot in Redlands, CA; I remember walking around the residence hall in my swimsuit in a pink wig talking to people.
After my first year at Grossmont, I was assigned to Melrose which was the quiet dorm. And I remember being shocked they placed me in the quiet dorm, because I was so chatty. Then after Melrose I lived in Anderson, which is a suite-style facility for upper-division students. Finally, for my senior year I was an undergrad RD for athletes in North Hall.
It sounds like Redlands had established a strong culture in their housing program and students loved living on-campus. Yes. Redlands is a smaller school, with an enrollment of about 1,600 undergrads. Everyone lived on campus for 2-3 years, if not 4, and that was normal. I didn’t realize until I moved to Syracuse that often students live on-campus for just one year before moving off-campus. I realized at Syracuse that often people can’t wait to move into an apartments off-campus and live with their friends; I did not have that experience at Redlands where they really fostered a strong residential community. The buildings were old, but they tried to keep them updated. I remember my freshman year it was a big deal to pull internet to all of the residence halls.
Also, Redlands is where they film a lot of quintessential dorm scenes for movies and TV. To me, it met my visions of what a dorm was. I didn’t know there were nicer dorms out there, because everyone lived in the older facilities.
After Redlands you went on to Syracuse to pursue higher ed. Were you an RA at Redlands? Is that was introduced you to your career in student housing? Yeah, I became an RA my sophomore year at Redlands. I was so shocked that I could get paid to live in a single room and talk to people all while getting free housing. I felt like I was being punked. My senior year I was an undergraduate hall director for the athletes’ community. So, when I was thinking about what I wanted to do after college, I realize that I could be a RD and extend this wonderful college experience. At Redlands, I really maximized my college experience and took advantage of every opportunity for the college experience that I could get. I thought what if I could get an extension of this college experience and work and go to school for a very low cost. So, I interviewed nationally for graduate schools. I wasn’t hooked on Syracuse immediately in my grad school search, but I knew I wanted to get out of California and try something new, but Syracuse was a good fit. So, I got a job at Syracuse and earned my degree while working full-time as a RD and living-on campus.
How did you get hooked up to a RD career opportunity? My advisors and supervisors at Redlands recommend the route. I went to the Osh Kosh Placement Exchange which is a conference for student affairs job-searching candidates hosted by the University of Wisconsin Osh Kosh. I interviewed with several schools; my top 2 choices were ultimately between KU and Syracuse and I ultimately selected Syracuse.
Then after Syracuse you decided to dabble in Real Estate in Portland? Actually, after Syracuse there were about 5 other states in between New York and Portland, where I eventually ended up to pursue a degree in Real Estate Development. After Syracuse, I matriculated through housing department roles, working my way from RD, to Area Coordinator, to assistant director to director. As I was working my way up through the student housing realm, I was finding myself more and more into student housing operations and I realized that I did not want to talk about people’s feelings anymore. I didn’t want to do conduct, or be on-call. While all of that is good experience, I realized I wanted to transition to operations. While it’s common for folks in these sorts of positions to pursue their PhD, I knew that I didn’t want to study student development theory, but wanted to further my education. PSU had just added the real estate focus in the business school, and they had just delivered a P3 and I wanted to learn more about it and pursue that route – and the rest is history.
Did you have a favorite class in college? I studied so many different things. I remember the advice I was given when I got to college was that it doesn’t matter what you study in undergrad, it just matters that you get a degree. So, I was told to study what I enjoyed. I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up, so I needed the first year at least to see what I wanted. I come from a long line of artists, so I had always been very creative, so it wasn’t unusual that when I gravitated to what I enjoyed, I pursued something creative. For my undergrad, I studied how art was communicated through print arts and collage and I created my own degree. It was awesome to basically assemble my own undergraduate curriculum at Redlands. I had to write a thesis and defend it to a committee that I assembled, which was very powerful for me at the age of 21. That was a typical graduate experience, but to do it as an undergrad was a great experience. That program that still exists at Redlands and is also offered at NYU and a few other schools.
Is there a podcast that you are you listening to right now? I have a new baby, so we walk a lot. She likes to be in her stroller and my dogs need to walk too, so I listen to podcasts during our walks. Some of the podcasts I listen to include, Armchair Expert with Dax Shepherd, who interviews celebrities and subject matter experts. He also has a number of podcasts that unpack conspiracy theories, which I really like because it gets you to think about things that maybe you haven’t thought about. I also listen to the Bigger Pockets real estate podcast, Bitch Sesh,which is a breakdown of Real Housewives, and Dave Ramsey’s personal finance podcasts. Ultimately, I digest a lot of content, ha.
Do you have any favorite quotes? I always come back to this quote, “We are what we repeatedly do, therefor excellence is not an act but a habit.” I like the idea of creating good habits, and I like making excellence a habit. Meaning, being a person of your word, producing really high-quality things, doings what you said you were going to do and not wasting time on crappy things but actually doing it really well.
What do you do in your free time? Well I’m a new mom, so I’m figuring out what that means, and I have a really demanding job with travel and everything it is quite challenging. I’m also a doggy mom, we have 3 dogs. We have 15 chickens. So, we have a lot of mouths to feed at my house – we call it the urban farm. It takes a lot of time; but I love it. If you had told me 15 years ago that this is where I’d be I would have laughed at you. I also like hiking and cooking. I do a lot of socialization at work through networking, but personally when I come home, I am in my sanctuary. I love the restorative aspect of being at home, so I don’t find myself in too many organizations for personal interest.
What do you enjoy most about working on college campuses? I love comparing and contrasting the different college experiences and the tradition, culture and fabric that exists for so many university partners that we work with. I love stepping on campus and feeling it and asking what our partners are looking to solve for and going back and looking at what we do and figuring out how do we make this work for them and what do they see on their campus. I love seeing a traditional campus in a different city versus an urban campus in a city – it’s a never-ending thing. I love putting myself in an 18-year old’s shoes, and think what if I had gone to NYU, or some other college. What had that experience been like compared to Redlands? There’s a feel when you step on a college campus of that opportunity for learning. People ask me all the time, don’t you miss being on college campuses and I tell them I’m on college campuses all of the time, I’m just not on the same one every week. I am a life-long learner and being connected to other life-long learners is really fun.
I maximized my college experience, I had never had a dull moment. Every week and weekend was full of activities. Looking back, I realize that I really took advantage of every opportunity offered to me. I think Redlands really facilitates that, being a smaller school. I was devastated when college ended because I had so much fun doing so many different things. I tell people that because of the wonderful college experience that I had I enjoy getting to facilitate that to others through housing. And that to me is really fun and really rewarding and I don’ think I would feel that way if I didn’t have a wonderful connection to my college experience. College is truly what you make it; getting connected and figuring out who you are. Getting to still be connected to college is fun; it’s fun to see what college is like at all of the various campuses that we work on.
If you could choose to do anything for a day, what would it be? I am looking forward to taking my baby to the beach this summer. I’ll always pick beach as my go-to escape – relaxing in the sun, with my bathing suit, a cold drink and a podcast or book. I’ll take any beach – Florida, California, etc. I love the sounds of the beach and being on the coastline.