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  College reference librarian Juliet Habjan Boisselle (left) with Administrative Fellow Whitney Hoffman '02.

While opportunities to do professional work (and get paid for it) are scarce for most college students, Mount Holyoke students are taking on professional roles while they are still in school—without even having to commute. Just over one semester old, but already a success, the campuswide Administrative Fellows Program places students in yearlong paraprofessional jobs on campus, requiring them to hone a wide variety of skills, from public speaking and conducting surveys to office politics.

Run by the Career Development Center (CDC), the program was inspired by a successful Admission Fellows Program that has been in place in the admission office for the past three years. This year, the CDC placed fifteen student administrators in offices ranging from the College’s art museum to the Weissman Center for Leadership. They are working six to eight hours each week, earning a competitive wage while gaining valuable experience.

“Everyone benefits,” said Assistant Director of Admission Lauren Cook, who relies on selected seniors to interview prospective students and assist with on-campus admission programs and college fairs. “Prospective students have a chance to hear about the College ‘from the horse’s mouth’,” said Cook. “The admission fellows learn about the admission field, while gaining skills in interviewing, applicant evaluation, report writing, public speaking, and programming.”

Michelle Mhlanga ’03 started working even before school began, immersing herself in the College’s busy Conference and Events Services Office. Mhlanga’s job is to evaluate the event-planning process while at the same time helping coordinate event details, right down to ordering spare keys from the campus locksmith. “During the summer, there are conferences for all sorts of things—sports, academics, religion, writers, scientists—and it takes a lot of work to organize it all and make sure it runs smoothly,” Mhlanga says. She has learned to operate by these watchwords: “Not everyone knows what you assume they know, so you should check to avoid disaster.”

Andrea Parr ’03 feels energized by her work in the library’s archives and special collections. Reading correspondence of key twentieth-century figures and writing parts of a grant to support the College’s Edward R. and Janet Brewster Murrow papers is “a crash course” in working with primary sources and learning not to jump to conclusions, said Parr. “I have to be careful about how I interpret what is written because I am responsible for portraying it as accurately as possible; in many cases I am the first person in the archives to read the letters, journals, and reports, so no one can completely look over my shoulder and tell me that I’ve not read a particular letter as thoroughly as I should have.” The lessons in what Parr calls “intellectual responsibility” will be invaluable in pursuing her next goal, a graduate degree in English or comparative literature.

Administrative Fellow Whitney Hoffman ’02 appreciates what she is learning in the library’s reference department, from library databases to acquisition and cataloguing. “My favorite aspect has been learning how to help students with research,” said the history major, who never imagined a career in a library but is now thinking about pursuing a master’s degree in library science. “I know how it feels to have a topic for a project but no idea how to start finding information. It’s gratifying to be able to help another student find resources to start a project.”

CDC Director Scott Brown is supervising Administrative Fellow Danielle Lewis ’02 as she evaluates the ways that the center helps students identify values, interests, and skills and move into corresponding careers. “Danielle provides a very honest view of what is working, drawing on her own experiences and the opinions of many students,” Brown said. “There is no way anybody in our office could obtain this perspective.” In turn, Brown teaches Lewis about managing multiple priorities. With administrative experience gained through past work with the Office of Student Programs, Lewis knew the CDC position would match her skills. She hasn’t been disappointed. “It is an incredible learning experience,” she says, noting that the position balances autonomy and collaboration with a team that is “innovative, energetic, and truly working for

Like Brown, Dean Joanne Picard needed regular feedback on student services, in this case in the Office of International Affairs. She now relies on the insights of Administrative Fellow Laura Melton ’02, whose projects have included surveying students to identify the best way to communicate with them when they are abroad, developing support services to help returning students integrate study-abroad experiences at the College, researching ways of going abroad after graduation, and creating Web pages. Melton, who studied in Germany last year, is grateful for the freedom to use her own study-abroad experience to make improvements for others. “I have a lot of autonomy,” she said. “I work on my own time, toward my own goals, which serve the needs of the office and its students. My supervisor respects my opinions and capabilities. She advises but does not control, which I find exciting and liberating.”

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