James “Skip” Vaccarino has a teaching philosophy he borrowed from his 30-plus years in human resources.
“As a recruiter you’re engaging people to come in and look at the uniqueness of the company,” stated Vaccarino, a professor at Touro’s Graduate School of Business. “As a teacher you’re engaging students to come in and look at what is unique about the subject and the course.”
Vaccarino trained as an early childhood specialist, and his first love was teaching. He never thought he would work in HR, but when New York City had its major financial crisis in the '70s, his public-school teaching career was put on hold. Vaccarino, then newly married, took an interview at Manufacturers Hanover Trust Company.
It was a fortuitous meeting for him. “This was in the seventies and this personnel manager rotated us throughout the company with stints in recruiting, employee relationships and benefits and compensation,” said Vaccarino. “The personnel manager was creating the idea of an HR generalist, long before it became common in HR departments.”
“I didn’t even go with a resume,” laughed Vaccarino. “I didn’t even know what a resume was. I felt—not to be spiritual—that a higher power was helping me out. After I became successful, I felt that I had a mission to train people to not have that terrifying experience while waiting for their first interview.”
For the next thirty years, Vaccarino had a successful career in human resources, including launching his own staffing company. He is currently Executive Vice President at Noor Associates where he is responsible for leading a team that recruits and staffs a diverse portfolio of global clients. Previously, he held senior positions at several recruitment firms and major Wall Street banks including Brown Brothers Harriman, Smith Barney and L.F. Rothchild, Unterberg & Towbin. In 1988, he worked with the Academy of Finance, under guru Sandy Weil of Citibank, to lead a team to support non-college bound high school students in operational roles for Wall Street.
“It was a perfect career for people who couldn’t afford college,” stated Vaccarino who traveled to different high schools across NYC to introduce students to the program.
At the age of 60, Vaccarino decided it was time to return to his first passion—teaching—and go back to school to get his master’s degree in education. While at Touro’s Graduate School of Education, the Graduate School of Business heard about his HR experience and offered him the opportunity to teach a course. He began teaching in 2012.
“Teaching at Touro is a dream come true.”
Vaccarino believes that part of his teaching success stems from how he teaches. He doesn’t believe in teaching in lessons.
“I conduct my classes as if my students were attending a staff meeting,” said Vaccarino. “I give my students an agenda and I encourage them to participate, advising them that in that setting they have a responsibility to let their future managers know that they were there. I model it after meetings they will have in the corporate world.”
Since beginning at GSB, Vaccarino also helped launch the school’s successful career resource center through his contacts.
“I had 150 trained, aggressive recruiters in my company,” he explained. “I provided them with a chance to pay back some of their success by helping our students. Our career resource center runs the gamut from interview training, resume writing to social media branding. We have a tremendous and strong commitment from my old firm.”
Vaccarino, who teaches capstone courses in the MS in Human Resource Management degree, said he’s inspired by his students.
“Most of my students work a full day and then go to class for three hours, usually after a two-hour commute,” he explained. “The fact that they show up and are engaged means a lot to me. Teaching at Touro is a dream come true.”