Growing up as the youngest of four siblings – and the only girl – Rebecca Staunton ’95 knows something about successfully challenging the status quo. From an early age, she was a focused type of person who set goals and went after them.
When her mother died in a car crash in 1989, Staunton, who was a freshman and full scholarship recipient, left
West Virginia University heartbroken and dismayed.
“After the sudden loss of my mom, it was difficult to focus on academics,” she recalls. “I had to grow up very quickly.”
During what Staunton refers to as “her personal dark ages,” she turned her grief into a call for action. She embarked on a nontraditional journey of living her life to its fullest potential. Today, 21 years after she graduated from the College, the business administration major has trail-blazed in the world of corporate business, building her own company as the founder and CEO of Program Management Professionals LLC (PMP), a certified Women-Owned Minority Business Enterprise.
Carving a successful career for herself in program management, Staunton has worked for global financial services and investment banking, technology, telecommunications and risk management corporations as well as nonprofit and healthcare organizations. Founded in 2008, PMP is a boutique management-consulting firm offering a range of services, including strategy creation (based on unique industry analysis), process management, performance improvement and rescue of delayed or failing initiatives.
Early in her career, Staunton surmised the requirements to remain relevant in a dynamic and increasingly complex global business environment. She ran her company full time while simultaneously earning her master’s in technology management from Mercer University, project management certification, scrum master certification and, most recently, her doctorate of business administration from Georgia State University.
But, according to Staunton, it was her years at the College that laid the foundation for a successful career in business. She landed in Charleston in 1992 after doing a two-year assignment as a foreign services officer at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, South Korea. Her passion for geography, diversity and business ignited her interest in international business and, after much research, she decided to resume her undergraduate studies.
“There’s a lot to think about as an undergraduate in terms of where you want your future to go,” Staunton says. “The College’s School of Business helped to frame that for me, structuring my focus on international business.”
She still recalls her mentorship by former dean Howard Rudd Jr., to whom she says, “I will be ever grateful for his teaching me to realize that we are world citizens and that the soft skills of business are as equally important as hard skills.”
The driving force behind her motivation, though, has always been her Christian faith and the example set by her parents: “I credit my parents for whom I’ve become and what I have accomplished thus far.”
This summer, Staunton embarked on her next endeavor as principal program manager responsible for the end-to-end delivery of all technology aspects for Kaiser Permanente’s new school of medicine in Pasadena, Calif. She plans to continue operating PMP on a strategically limited basis.
Having previously served clients in the nonprofit and healthcare industries, Staunton says she “humbly accepted
the opportunity to be part of the new school of medicine,” which aims to afford more opportunity within the community and has an impactful emphasis on diversity and inclusion, wellness, resilience and prevention. “To be a part of that, that’s a piece of history, and I’m all in.”
It’s that sense of history and of those that came before her that continues to give Staunton strength as she successfully maneuvers as a world citizen through the status quo of global business.
“Sometimes I was the only representation of diversity in the board room,” she says. “In my earlier days, there were times I was scared to death, and my voice would crack, but I made it through. You focus on what’s in front of you if you want to go to the next level, which is a major decision in everyone’s life. Choose wisely, as sometimes opportunities do not rinse and repeat.”
There’s no question that Staunton has pushed herself to the next level, focused on paving a way for the next generation that follows. And there’s nothing status quo about that.