Davis family gift replaces traditional career center in favor of a more international focus

The College further demonstrated its commitment to student advancement last week, when Andrew Davis ’85, LL.D. ’15 and his family committed $25 million to support global student experiences. The endowment program, called DavisConnects, will replace the current Career Center model at the College with a holistic, internationally focused program.

In an email to the community, President David A. Greene said the money will go towards the goal of allowing every Colby student access to a “facilitated set of internships, research, and global opportunities regardless of their financial means.”

The College hopes to combine these three transformative student experiences into one progressive program to create a more intentional work and study experience.

Davis said in a joint interview with the Echo and Greene that “Colby is a living and breathing organism,” and must be open to change. The shift away from the traditional career center structure signals an initiative that Vice President for College and Student Advancement Dan Lugo does not think any other institutions are pursuing. Lugo said that the College will be “two generations ahead” of most other colleges and universities once DavisConnects is live.

DavisConnects will complement the traditional study abroad experiences that a large majority of Colby students participate in by increasing access to opportunities, providing more options for students. “This is a leveling of the playing field so students are only thinking about what best supports their education and not what it costs them,” Lugo said.

DavisConnects will provide a competitive based process for financial resources and the programs will be faculty certified for rigor.
The program will differ from most of the study abroad programs that Colby students currently utilize in its competitive component. According to Lugo, this aspect will allow students who want to do cutting edge international research and internships to compete for those opportunities. Students can then bring back knowledge to enhance the community’s awareness of what its students are doing abroad.
There will also be components of the funding dedicated to meeting the needs of students that do not have the independent resources to pursue certain experiences. Similarly, there will be significant resources available to all students regardless of their aid background on an application basis.

Lugo observed in an interview with the Echo that a “marriage of the minds” occurred between Greene and Davis, as Greene’s idea that internships, student research, and international experience act as a new kind of “currency connecting the liberal arts to the world,” was highly compelling to the Davis family.

Davis has previously shown support to the College through his service on the Board of Trustees, his sponsorship of student internships, and his creation of scholarship funds, according to Greene. Most recently, the family funded the Davis Science Center in 2014.
Other notable philanthropic efforts by the Davis family include the Davis United World College Scholars Program and Davis Projects for Peace. Colby students will reverse the usual paradigm of the Davis family increasing access to Western-style education by launching them into the types of experiences that would allow them to be world citizens and leaders, according to Lugo.

Davis noted that he has been fortunate enough to never have to take out a student loan, but his family taught him the value of education and related philanthropy. These lessons inspired him to give back to Colby, where he said his life “took a turn for the best.”
Davis shared his confidence in Greene’s leadership, saying, “He has a vision for what Colby will be not a decade from now, but a generation from now.”

Moving away from traditional college career center outlines, Lugo said DavisConnects will be dynamic and collaborative. “This is not a transaction. This is a holistic experience,” he said.

DavisConnects internship planning tools will focus more on industry clusters than the Career Center has in the past, with more tools available to students in arts and STEM fields.

The program also hopes to support students who are unsure about their career interests. Davis said it should “teach people how to think,” rather than funnel students down career paths. Lugo reiterated his sentiment, “We do not want students to feel like this is another set of requirements. We are hoping to create a culture and a logic to the fact that having an international experience and opportunities to have [internships] and learning the problem solving techniques and skills associated with research are unabashedly good things for students’ development,” he said.

Prior to Davis’ formal announcement outside of Eustis on April 20, he and Greene took a tour of Grossman Hall, where DavisConnects will be headquartered.

Greene immediately mentioned the terra-cotta tile manufactured in Germany to complement the pre-existing brick and the light filled rooms as notes that will make the building a “place where students are just going to want to be.” Grossman Hall is also located on what will be a potential walkway to the new athletic center, which Greene said will create a “new center” of campus.

Students will check into the office at a reception desk on the first floor before proceeding to other areas in the multifaceted building. Grossman will consist of office spaces on the lower level, as well as an online workspace for internships, three interview rooms, an employer recruitment area, and a lecture and reception space on the top floor. There will also be many open spaces allowing for reconfiguration of offices as the program develops.

Both Greene and Lugo alluded to how the flexible spaces represent the College’s willingness to have DavisConnects be an iterative and agile program that will aim to be aware of global trends and markets.

Davis appreciated the extensive upgrades that students will be able to take advantage of over the current Career Center offices in Eustis, saying the College is “pro-ing it up” and people will “feel professional” in the new building.

Once the initiative is fully rolled out, it will feature extensive programming, such as the annual Davis Summit on Global Engagement, where the community will learn more about students’ international work, according to Lugo.

According to Greene’s email, DavisConnects responds to a need identified by the Global Colby Task Force in 2016 for the College to enhance its global initiatives.

The College’s novel approach to career finding and services reflects one of Greene’s most important sentiments. “There has never been a more important time for liberal arts, it creates people who can lead in the widest variety of fields…We need to do things that continue to make the liberal arts relevant, and DavisConnects does that,” Greene said.