Career Center gears up for overhaul in 2016-17

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Rendering of the new career services center in Grossman Hall. Photo courtesy of Ann Beha Architects (http://www.annbeha.com/colby-college-center-for-career-services)

This weekend, the Board of Trustees concluded its spring meetings, which included important votes as well as discussions about future plans that will be key to the College’s success. One of the issues discussed was the final approval on redeveloping Grossman into a center for Student Opportunity and Career Exploration, with work beginning this summer and expected to be completed by the Fall of 2017.

The Career Center has made numerous changes in an attempt to better help students find internships and job opportunities over the past two years. Changes have included hiring additional full-time staff members, enhancing the role of student career advisors, as well as launching new initiatives in an attempt to increase their presence on campus and provide more opportunities and information to students with different academic backgrounds and career interests. Vice President for College and Student Advancement Dan Lugo, commented in an interview with the Echo that the Career Center is always trying to find innovative ways to “become much more efficient in how we communicate with students, how we counsel students, and how we engage with alumni.”

Lugo commented that the vision for the Career Center “was to bring our career advancement functions out of the student life area and into the alumni relations and development functions to get rid of the middle person. The best way to leverage a great Colby network is to put the team right into the Colby network.” Further, Lugo and other members of the administration involved with the re-vamping of the Career Center want to make its function “much more integrated and holistic in terms of its approach. We think there is the opportunity for the Career Center to be integrated into the Colby student experience.”

Based on a survey sent last year to the student body about how the Career Center compares with student hopes and expectations, many students pointed out areas that they felt could be improved. Such areas include the feeling that the Career Center caters too much to economics majors. The fields of finance, business, law, and medicine are disproportionately represented, the survey claimed. Others commented that too many Career Center-provided jobs and internships are based in New England, limiting the database’s helpfulness to students who live outside the Northeast.

Lugo and Director of the Career Center Alisa Johnson addressed these concerns in an interview. The Career Center will switch from general career advisors to industry specific advisors. Lugo explained that they “want to go away from a generalist model in which we have a number of folks who talk to students generally about options to go to a more industry specialist model.” Industry advisors would include pre- health, pre-law, government and policy, business and finance, education and non-profits, arts and communications, as well as STEM. Furthermore, the Career Center is attempting to improve its regional presence across the globe by strengthening its connection with the Alumni Center.

This year, students’ perceptions of the Career Center remain mixed, despite the new announcements. Graham Hyman ’16 commented in an interview with the Echo that he “went once to have [his] resume revised and they didn’t really make any changes. I’ve done all my job stuff outside of Colby.” Hyman is not alone in this sentiment, Alessandro Maglione ’17 said he “hasn’t done too much with [the Career Center] unfortunately.” Maglione went on to say that although he has not interacted much with the Career Center, they do “seem to do a good job of frequently keeping students informed of relevant opportunities.”

Hannah Schafer ’16, commented that the Center was extremely helpful, saying, “I used the Center when I was applying. to Teach for America. I needed some guidance on short answer questions, not just grammar and sentence structure, but assessing whether or not my answers were compelling, highlighted important potential ‘teacher’ attributes etc. I found their advice very helpful.”

One respondent emphasized that a career search largely depends on a student’s own effort. “[The Career Center] has helped me out a lot. A lot of students express anger that the Career Center doesn’t help them, but students have to set up meetings with them first,” one junior double-majoring in economics and global studies who responded to a survey said. Another student shared the same feeling, saying that the Career Center’s job is “not to simply reach out to students and hand out jobs. Searching for a job or an internship requires a lot of work on the side of the students,” one sophomore government major said. “They help guide you through the process and are not there to grant jobs. They are extremely helpful throughout the entire process and are dedicated to helping Colby students succeed.”

The approval from the Board to re-develop Grossman into a Center for Student Opportunity and Career Exploration will be pivotal in the process of fulfilling college wide goals and addressing student concerns about the current Career Center. Johnson remarked, “We have been sitting on some great ideas and ways to move the Career Center forward and we are finally getting a solid green light to move forward on those in some pretty serious ways, such as providing us with a lot more space.” The Career Center is currently located in a small corner of the Eustis building, a primarily administrative building. Johnson commented that where the Career Center is now there is “no programming space or space for employers— that is not good when trying to get employers to come to campus.”

With the renovation of Grossman, the Career Center will have an entirely new and large space to utilize. Over the next year and a half, Grossman will be entirely renovated and they will also be building on a new two-story structure. Lugo commented that the vision for the space is to “provide new meeting spaces and a great common area, and an overall inviting community destination in which students will hopefully want to be there.”

Along with the move, there will be more space for the staff of the Career Center to grow as well. Johnson commented that the Center will now be able to better partner with various academic departments and faculty.

Ultimately, even with the addition of the beautiful proposed Grossman, whether or not students benefit from the Career Center is up to each individual. Johnson closed by saying that, “Just like you’re owning your academic career at Colby, you are also owning your real career too. We are here as advisors and coaches, but ultimately it is yours to own.”