hen people walk into the new building for the first time they say, 'Wow!' and their faces light up," says Megan Guffey '98, who works at the CDC. "It's a beautiful building; everything is bigger, more open, and better organized." But the physical improvements are only part of what the new CDC offers.
High-tech enhancements also give MHC students a new competitive edge. Mount Holyoke is believed to be the only U.S. college or university teaching students to do electronic job searches. Using Internet-linked computers and nationwide databases, students can look for a graduate school or a job around the corner or around the world.
Nearly everyone's career odyssey begins with an information search at the
CDC library. Research is easier and more efficient since the library more
than doubled in size over the summer. Large oak tables welcome students to
browse the books, flyers, and binders lining the room. Along one wall are
six new computers attached to two laser printers. In a single visit, students
can find an internship or job opening, compose a cover letter, have it and
their résumé critiqued by a counselor, revise them, and print
professional-looking final versions. "I go to the CDC just about every day,"
says senior Tara Kirkpatrick. "Last week I went in to 'surf' for computer
information about graduate programs in geology and medicine. In two seconds,
I found each school's Web page and could see their programs, prerequisites,
photos of the campus, contacts ... everything."
In the CDC's new workshop room, students are taught everything from electronic interviewing skills to graduate school application tips. The room holds as many as one hundred people, and has movable seating and a computer projector and screen.
The $1.3 million upgrade also vastly improved facilities for recruiters, the backbone of many job searches. Instead of being hosted in a separate building down the street from the CDC, recruiters are now enticed to campus by state-of-the-art facilities. They can make group presentations in a multimedia classroom, interview seniors in formal or informal private rooms, and relax between interviews in their own lounge. "The facilities and amenities should surpass anything recruiters have seen literally almost anywhere," says director of employer relations Candace Schuller. "I've been to many career offices, and all our colleagues are very envious of what we're doing."
And for companies who can't come to campus easily, the CDC offers a way to interview job candidates long-distance. ViewNet links employers and applicants via computer, with each person's screen showing an image of both participants and the applicant's résumé. MHC is the only college in Massachusetts with this capability, and Schuller says ViewNet "puts MHC on the map with very large employers, especially those who are far away geographically."
Personal Counseling Still Central
According to CDC internship programs director Fred McGinness, the high-tech tools are but a means to an end. They "free us for the most important thing we do: counseling," he explains. Students may be dazzled by things they find on computers, but counselors need time to talk with students about how what they find meshes with their interests and academic program. "In the past, we've had to spend considerable time orienting students to our resources, but now this can be done by students, leaving us with more counseling time."
And counseling is at the CDC's heart. "I know how busy the CDC staff is,
but they always take time to answer my questions and give me all the help
I can ask for," says Elizabeth Beede '98, who used the office to find an
internship and a summer job, and is now researching grad school and career
possibilities. "It's exceptional how they meet a huge amount of demand with
a friendly face." That nonthreatening attitude is key for many students,
who fear they should have a career goal before going to the CDC. The staff's
message--"We specialize in the totally clueless"--reassures them.
The first step in transforming the clueless to the clued-in is often to "expand students' world by exposing them to possibilities they never knew existed," Phil Jones says. "There are over 10,000 job titles, and we expect that students won't know about 95 percent of them." One woman brightened at the discovery that her outgoing personality, organizational skills, and desire for a corporate environment made her a perfect hotel conference planner.
Other students need to hear that their major doesn't limit their career choices, nor should their parents' or professors' expectations. Often January mini-internships called Career Exploration Projects (CEPs) are the perfect way to see if an intriguing field is worth pursuing. "The value of a CEP for younger students is exposure to a field, which helps them choose a major and minor," says CDC associate director Cate Masiello Shaw. "It can help them choose between disparate interests such as art and chemistry, and lets them learn whether their preconceptions about a field correlate with the reality of a job."
Tilda Kapuya '98 came back from a public middle school CEP "knowing exactly
what I wanted to do: get certified as a teacher." CEPs and longer internships
can help juniors and seniors find what kind of work to pursue within a field.
Amrita Sandhu '98 was surprised to discover during an internship at Simon
and Schuster that she preferred marketing to the editorial side of publishing.
"Now I hope to attend business school," she says. "My whole career plan changed
because of the internship."
Almost every MHC student completes at least one internship or CEP. And they're not just for seniors, either; last year thirty first-year students did CEPs. "Recently, the quality of internships has increased," says McGinness, "both because of our work with employers and because downsizing has opened enormous opportunities for students to get into the real work of organizations." MHC interns have cowritten scientific articles, advised investment managers on what their company should sink money into, developed economic forecast reports on European trade issues, and prepared and delivered reports to an organization's top management.
By taking advantage of internships, CEPs, counseling, workshops, and presentations by visiting organizations, students will arrive at senior year with more self-knowledge and a broader set of skills and experiences than their peers who avoid the CDC. "It's a good idea to start early," agrees Susan Fogg '96, who used the CDC for résumé and cover letter critiques and found a CEP at the Nickelodeon television network that helped her get a job there after graduation. "The more internships you do, the more connections you make," she says. "There are thousands of people out there who can do the job you want, and you need something extra to make sure you get it."
Employers want employees who can adapt in quickly changing times, says Schuller. "Liberal arts colleges have moved to the forefront as breeding grounds for people with good thinking skills, computer skills, written and oral communication skills, and quantitative preparation. Mount Holyoke stands out to recruiters for the flexibility of our students." CDC staff help students forge links between their varied academic skills and marketable skills gained from community service, campus leadership, summer jobs, and internships.
Scholarship and fellowship awards are also part of a growing number of students' "extras." Advised by fellowship coordinator Hilary Shaw and assistant dean of international affairs Joanne Picard, MHC women have a good track record landing prestigious national and international awards, including Fulbright Awards, Mellon and National Science Foundation Fellowships, and Truman and Rotary Scholarships. For example, all four MHC nominees for the 1996 Goldwater Award (for promising scientists) were accepted, a feat matched only by much larger research institutions.
"A lot of our work is validation," Phil Jones says. "We tell them it's okay to do what they want, and we buoy them incredibly by getting excited about their ideas." But it's one thing to convince a student she's great and another to convince graduate school admissions boards and employers. How do our graduates fare in the world after MHC?
In a word, impressively. Naomi Barry '96 won half a dozen national awards before graduating in May and is now a Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Fellow in the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights. Alison Kurdock '96 is studying international relations and Arab studies at Georgetown University. Kristen Rosen '95 is already president of Laptop Shop, a Florida corporation that markets and exports computers to Latin America. Kara White '96 is pursuing her M.D. at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Medicine. Amy Norman '95 was hired as a staff accountant by "big six" accounting firm KPMG Peat Marwick. Lisa Oakes '96 is assistant manager for audio production at Sony Music Studios. Bernadette Tiu '96 is an analytical chemist for General Electric's corporate research and development center. And Dhara Amin '96 is a doctoral candidate in biology at Yale.
Are they typical? Statistics for the class of 1996 as a whole aren't available yet, but 1994 and 1995 grads did well in their first months out. Surveys revealed that in each class, an average of 26 percent was attending graduate or professional school, and 98 percent of those looking for work were employed within eight months of graduation.
All these success stories happened before the recent CDC enhancements. With the College's new career resources, Mount Holyoke women should be a more formidable force than ever. Phil Jones believes,"With this building, we present ourselves as an institution that cares very deeply about what happens to students beyond college. The CDC's much more than just a nice building." -- Emily Harrison Weir