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Student Spotlight: Linda Feltman

Student Spotlight: Linda Feltman

Linda Feltman
Major: Business and

Languages

Linda Feltman wasn’t happy about attending College of DuPage.

“I was an arrogant 17-year-old who thought she was too good for COD,” she said. “I had been busily sending off requests for applications from lots of four-year schools because I was in the top 5 or 10 percent of my high school class. After the 10th or 11th application arrived in the mail, my Dad just looked at me and said, ‘We have no money to send you to college.’ I think it about killed him to tell me. My Mom told me that it had never occurred to him I’d not find some ‘nice boy and settle down and get married.’ That’s what women did then – especially those from a very blue collar family. 

“My dad had eight siblings. Only one of my cousins went to college, and he was considered ‘a bit uppity.’ So I found COD and swallowed my pride because I knew it was something I could afford. I’d worked since I was 15 and had saved my money, so I paid for it on my own.”

When it came time for a major, Feltman wanted something that was different from what other women were studying. 

“Back in 1970, business was something women did not do,” she said. “My friends became teachers, secretaries and nurses – all wonderful careers, but not for me. So I picked marketing because it seemed interesting.”

Feltman earned her associate’s degree and then attended the University of Montreal in Canada before transferring to Penn State, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Advertising. Since then, her bustling career includes involvement in small business start-ups as a principal or owner over the course of 20 years. She has written a column for Pennsylvania Magazine since 1992 that profiles bed and breakfasts, people and places, and she has authored several related books.

Since 1999, Feltman has worked with the Penn State Small Business Development Center as the senior business consultant. She has been an associate faculty member in Penn State’s College of Communications since 2005 and in 2009 became the faculty adviser for Happy Valley Communications, a student-run public relations firm that works with other student-run organizations as well as local small businesses. In 2014, Feltman became the coordinator for Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW), an international entrepreneurship event at Penn State.

Her involvement with entrepreneurship was never a goal. It started with her telling the truth to some vendors while working at her first job.

“I tell my class that my Dad preached, ‘Tell the truth or write down your lies,’ meaning you will never remember what you told what to, whereas you will always remember the truth,” she said. “I told the truth at my job and ended up getting fired. But that in turn led incredibly to this life I have now. It is a long story and it did not happen overnight, but I was lucky in that I saw opportunities and took a chance. 

“As for GEW, our SBDC director told me in 2009 that I needed to find a way to connect Penn State with the national event that the Kauffman foundation had started the year before. I gave it attention but it did not have my focus. Then in 2012, we had grown it to 16 events and about 500 people. Once I went to the faculty and explained we were number four in the nation, their response was, ‘So how do we get to be number one?’ In 2013, we ended up second in the nation with 48 events and about 1,900 attendees. In 2014 and 2015, we were number one both years with more than 5,000 attendees and 78 and 124 events, respectively. I really feel this brought attention as a positive, inspiring and uplifting event that showcased Penn State’s efforts on behalf of entrepreneurship. 

“My goal is to have students understand that e-ship is not just for engineers, computer science geeks and business majors. Understanding the e-ship mindset is valuable no matter what career path a student may choose to follow.”

Among her many accolades are the 2008-09 Penn State College of Communications Deans Excellence Award for Outstanding Faculty Associate, the 2011 Outreach Vice President’s Award for Engagement, and the 2016 College of Communications Deans Excellence Award for Outstanding Faculty Affiliate, which she received with her colleague and co-teacher Michael Ryan.

Feltman also was a member of the Distinguished Alumni Class of 2016 at College of DuPage. She is proud of her time at COD, even if she didn’t understand its value as a student.

“I really don’t recall having any ‘goals’ at COD other than to get a college degree. And it took probably 10 years or more to fully appreciate that without COD I would have been lost in the crowd. I was given leadership opportunities and a chance to find myself and meet people who saw my potential when I did not and who encouraged and believed in me. And, through all of that, I was lucky enough to end up with an instructor, Roy Grundy, who became a lifelong friend, mentor and now ‘uncle’ to my grown daughter.

“The opportunities that students have now at COD are staggering. Use the network. Take advantage of any mentoring that is offered. Reach out. I was lucky in that I landed in Roy’s class who then also introduced me to Gordon Richmond. These guys believed in me and saw the potential when I could not yet see it in myself. At Penn State, the students who reach out to alumni and the on-campus resources and mentors available to them are invariably the students who do well post-graduation. 

“I look at what I have done and it was nothing extraordinary. I’ve been lucky to have people like Roy in my life who are brutally honest. Look for the people who will be honest. Forget the cheerleaders with the rainbows and unicorns. Tell me what you did when things weren’t going well. How did you ‘fail forward’ rather than ‘fall back’? Those are the people who will have your back when the going gets rough and can offer you solid advice. You need to gamble a bit on yourself. Challenge yourself.”

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