Focus NJ
General Business

Exploring a New (Personal) Career Pathway

Dear Readers, Colleagues and Friends,

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” – “Closing Time” by Semisonic 

Beginning in September, I will be pursuing a Ph.D. in Education at the Rutgers-New Brunswick Graduate School of Education, where I have been awarded a full-time graduate fellowship. As a result, I will be stepping down from my position as the executive director of Focus NJ at the end of this month.  

Serving as the inaugural executive director of Focus NJ has been a great honor. I have learned so much, been challenged, and felt extreme gratification when touted as a factual reliable source of information throughout New Jersey. 

Nikki Sandelier

Nicole M. Sandelier, Executive Director Focus NJ

To be honest, I have always toyed with the idea of pursuing a Ph.D., however, I was never sure exactly what I wanted to study until I began working in the education and workforce development space. The research I’ve conducted on behalf of Focus NJ has sparked my curiosity and accelerated my desire to study education issues on a deeper academic level. I believe that education and smart investment into continued/higher education is a key component to economic, social and cultural improvement.  

While at Rutgers, I plan to study the impact that socioeconomic status has on educational outcomes and attainment, and vice versa. I am also interested in studying how lifelong learning, stackable credentials, on/off ramps to education, and workforce development initiatives impact an individual’s net worth and quality of life. And, I am eager to study the long-term impacts that the COVID-19 pandemic will have on low- and middle-skilled workers, minority groups, underserved communities, and school-age children who were forced to learn remotely.  

I want to thank the New Jersey business community, my colleagues from government and academia, and the Focus NJ Board for your input, participation and dedication to helping grow our research stature throughout the Garden State. Your boots on the ground expertise has helped our economic, education and workforce research expand to great heights, especially when considering the turbulent times that the state, country and world have faced since our public launch.  

As many of you know, I am also the director of Economic Policy Research at the New Jersey Business & Industry Association (NJBIA), which founded Focus NJ in February 2020. I will also be stepping down from my role at NJBIA effective Aug. 20.  

We work hard to keep the functions of Focus NJ and NJBIA separate, but I would be remiss not to thank the NJBIA team, specifically Michele Siekerka, Alice Gens, and Chrissy Buteas, for challenging me every day, helping me grow professionally, and for entrusting me to lead Focus NJ.  

To my Government Affairs family, the work you do daily on behalf of the entire New Jersey business community is challenging (to put it simply) and the work you did during the pandemic was truly astounding. Your passion and commitment to the job is admirable and I am proud to have been a part of the team for more than four years.  

Thank you to my family and fiancé for your continuous unwavering support and for pushing me to pursue my passions. I am grateful to have such a strong support system and I know chasing after this dream would not be possible without you.  

And finally, thanks for trusting me to provide you with factual reliable nonpartisan research and information! As the inspirational author Richard Belford once wrote: “This is not goodbye, it’s see you later.” Moving forward, I can be contacted at nicole.sandelier@rutgers.edu

Sincerely, 

Nikki 

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