January, 2010

Perceptions from LA

Friday, January 29th, 2010

Rebecca ChoppThe 2010 Listening Tour events kicked off in true California style at the Creative Artists Agency in LA Tuesday night. About 75 West Coast alums joined us for a lively evening of great conversation and thought-provoking questions. I met so many engaging alumni during the pre-event reception where the discussion was energetic and infused with a love and regard for the College that invariably inspires me.

During the program in the lovely CAA theatre, the high energy continued. We covered many topics including the influence of Quaker values on the College; how to prepare students for life skills, as well as career skills; the need to continue to uphold the highest academic standards, including teaching our students to write and speak effectively; the definition of diversity; and the ongoing importance of engineering and the sciences in our academic offerings.

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We also spent some time discussing post-graduate life. One parent in the audience shared that he had recently asked his son (a sophomore) if he or any of his friends ever talk about what they intend to do after graduation. He was surprised, and somewhat concerned to hear that this was not something his son or his son's friends spend much time thinking about. So he reasonably asked, what is the College doing to ensure that our students are prepared to make good career choices, particularly given the difficult job market now?

In the recent past we have significantly upped the investment in our Career Services program at the College and are increasingly better prepared to counsel students on a wide variety of career choices including business, law, medicine, the non-profit sector, education and government, among others. We have also expanded our on-campus outreach and those students who take advantage of these services report a high level of satisfaction. The Career Services office is a warm, welcoming, and popular student drop-in spot, whose door is always open. Its staff organizes regular open houses and lectures by experts in various fields, among other events. Many of the services offered are also available to alumni for as long as they need them.

In addition, the Office of Alumni Relations partners with Career Services in a number of ways including the development of an extensive Extern Program that enables undergraduates to experience professional life firsthand under the careful tutelage of dozens of alumni volunteers. This January, as happens every year, many students took advantage of the week-long program which is organized in five major cities across the country. Students can "shadow" alumni as they learn first-hand about their chosen fields.

Across the country, many alumni ask what they can do to help the College and although there are numerous ways an alum can contribute — volunteering opportunities or financial donations among them — I encourage alumni from across the professional spectrum to consider participating in our Extern Program or other programs that connect current students with alumni in the work place. Opening our undergraduates' minds to the plethora of career options available to them is a tangible way to "give back" to the College and to the next generation of leaders. Our graduates consistently remark that having had this experience helped shape the choices they made in post-graduate life.