Campus Update: Center for Careers, Life, and Service

Originally sent to the Grinnell College campus community on Nov. 18, 2019

Dear Grinnellians,

At the Center for Careers, Life, and Service (CLS), we work with partners across and beyond campus as we prepare our students to lead lives of meaning and purpose. Through individualized advising, innovative career education programming, and robust experiential learning opportunities, we aim to provide each student the tools and resources they need to design and lead a life that reflects their personal, professional, and civic aspirations.

Part of our commitment to students is that we will provide them with outstanding resources as they take their own extraordinary journey. This requires us to be innovative, adaptive, and responsive to the changing needs of our students, the College, the workforce, and the world. Our structure, programming, and resources have changed considerably over the past six years and we are eager to share with you news of successes, as well as the strategic efforts and goals of the CLS.

CLS Strategic Priorities and Initiatives

Fundraising and the Campaign for Grinnell College

Many recent CLS enhancements, including several staff positions and career communities, have been funded through the generosity of special gifts which donors designated for these purposes. The CLS will be actively involved in the recently launched public phase of the College's comprehensive fundraising campaign by playing a role in campaign events planned for Chicago, New York City, the San Francisco Bay area, and other possible sites. Funding for the CLS is a campaign priority that will allow us to continue connecting and integrating students' interests and studies through real-world, hands-on experiences, internships, and externships, enabling students to pursue and succeed across multiple life paths and careers.

New Campus Employment Learning Program Manager

In March, President Raynard S. Kington communicated that CLS would work on creating a new position to focus on supporting the academic component of paid student positions on campus, and to consider additional opportunities for making sure these positions prepare students with critical career-readiness skills. We are happy to announce that Jessica Waldschmidt joined the CLS as campus employment learning program manager Nov. 1. Jessica will work with members of the campus community to enhance student learning and career readiness as a more central feature of campus employment opportunities. She will meet with campus supervisors to learn about their goals and challenges, work to expand training and professional development opportunities for supervisors and students, and collaborate with Human Resources to strengthen our overall campus employment efforts.


The CLS helps to ensure that experiential learning is deeply embedded in the student experience, taking a two-pronged approach to internships - cultivating opportunities and providing nuanced advising to help students prepare themselves for internships. Funding and opportunities are important components of the internship program, and so is solid advising about the internship search process. Currently, Grinnell provides funding for students to do an unpaid or underpaid internship, offsetting costs associated with housing, food, and transportation. The summer 2019 internship funding program resulted in 131 students receiving more than $368,000 in internship funding.

Mellon Grant

In partnership with the Dean's Office, Susan Sanning (CLS) will serve as co-principal investigator of a $1 million grant that will focus, in part, on building new opportunities for students to participate in community-engaged learning in the humanities and emphasizing the ways that the humanities contribute to students' lives and careers after college.

Key Progress

Student Engagement Overview

During the past academic year (2018-19), the CLS reached new student engagement milestones, when more than 84% of the Grinnell student body connected with the CLS an average of 5.6 times, with nearly four of those interactions coming in the form of individual advising contacts. Such engagement makes Grinnell an outlier when compared to other institutions. For example, a 2016 Gallup-Purdue report noted that most college students underutilize such campus services, with just more than half visiting their career services office only once or twice prior to graduation, often during their senior year.

Handshake Rollout

The CLS rolled out Handshake, a new career services management system, this past academic year as a replacement for PioneerLink. Through Handshake, 5,094 distinct employers targeted 20,913 internship and full-time job opportunities to Grinnell students in 2018-19. These numbers reflect transformative growth. This represented an approximate 1400% increase in employers and a 1100% increase in the number of opportunities year-over-year. For context, 339 employers posted 1,748 positions the previous academic year.

Advising and Exploration

The 2018-19 academic year marked the fifth year of the CLS's Exploratory Advising Program, where every incoming student (first-year and transfer) is assigned an exploratory adviser. Again, reaching more than 96% of the Class of 2022, this continues to be a model program and a best practice among our peer institutions. In fact, each year we are contacted by other colleges and universities to learn more about our program as they explore scaling similar initiatives at their institutions. To date, none of our peers have a dedicated team of advisers focused explicitly on first- and second-year students.

Postgraduation Success

Among our graduates entering their careers, 94% are employed in a position related to their career goals, and they are earning an average starting salary comparable to that of graduates from our peer set. Among those attending graduate school, 85% were accepted to either their first or second choice, often at top-tier institutions in very competitive programs. It is worth noting that Grinnell ranks seventh in the country for the proportion of alumni who earned a PhD.

Strategic Actions by Team

Now that the CLS teams are co-located in the John Chrystal Center, greater emphasis can be given to internal, cross-team collaborations. Additionally, this year will mark a more intentional focus on strengthening CLS collaborations with academic departments and programs. We find willing and supportive partners in both Dean Anne Harris and Todd Armstrong, chair of the faculty. What follows are a breakdown of some of the key priorities in each area of the CLS:

Service and Social Innovation

As part of preparing for a holistic career, students are encouraged to explore how they might be civically engaged and serve the community in a manner that is consistent with their values. The Service and Social Innovation Team offers advising for civic exploration as well as support for service and social innovation experiences such as volunteering, service learning work-study, alternative break service projects, and local social innovation projects and workshops. This year, after almost 10 years of existence, a comprehensive review of the Grinnell College Innovator for Social Justice Prize will take place. Specifically, the review will focus on the nomination and selection procedures, due diligence and risk management processes, and current efforts to integrate the Grinnell Prize into campus life.

Advising and Exploration

Each incoming student is assigned an exploratory adviser who helps them explore, discern, and articulate their values, strengths, and interests. Through individualized advising sessions students create, test, validate, and, at times, refine their preliminary personal, civic, and professional goals. The Advising and Exploration Team is working to increase participation in this area with the goals of holding initial, exploratory advising appointments with at least 94% of the Class of 2023 (an increase of 3% over the Class of 2022) and increasing student participation in the Alumni Externship Program by 25%, from 68 to 85 students.

Career Communities

Each student is given the opportunity to join one or more of the CLS's Career Communities. The Career Communities Team provides specialized advising and programming as students focus and connect their values, strengths, and interests to particular postgraduate goals and ambitions. Each student's exploratory adviser helps them decide which career community or communities to join. More than 50% of third-year students and seniors joined at least one of the seven career communities offered during the 2018-19 academic year. The Career Communities Team is working to increase overall career community membership from 600 to 720 students, growing participation by about 20%.

Employer Engagement

The Employer Engagement Team cultivates, develops, and sustains mutually-beneficial recruiting relationships with a broad array of organizations seeking to recruit students for internships, full-time employment, and related postgraduate opportunities. The adoption of Handshake has resulted in quantum increases in both the number of employers and opportunities posted to Grinnell College. Beyond Handshake, the Employer Engagement Team worked with 95 recruiters over the course of the academic year who participated in more than 120 recruiting events (information sessions, information tables, workshops, interviews).

Expanded International Internships

We are in the process of expanding the global footprint of our internship program in collaboration with the Institute for Global Engagement. Last summer, in partnership with IES Abroad, five students were selected to participate in internships in either Barcelona, Spain, or Cape Town, South Africa. This summer (2020), the program will expand to also include internship opportunities in Berlin, Germany, and Milan, Italy, in partnership with IES Abroad. Additionally, in partnership with the School for International Training (SIT), students may apply for internship opportunities in Kenya, Panama, Vietnam, and Jordan for summer 2020 as well.

Global Fellowships and Awards

The Global Fellowships and Awards Team coaches and advises students and alumni through the reflection, application, and nomination processes for highly selective awards including the Watson, Truman, Fulbright, and other postgraduate awards and scholarships. One recent success story is Rachel Bass '19, who was named one of 48 recipients of the prestigious Marshall Scholarship to pursue graduate studies in the United Kingdom. Bass, who was selected from a pool of 1,000 applicants on the basis of academic merit, leadership and ambassadorial potential, is the first Grinnellian to earn this honor since 1990 and the fifth since the program was founded in 1953.

Thank You

There is much more going on at the CLS than I can communicate in this update, but I hope the information I have shared helps demonstrate that the continued success of all Grinnellians, in all aspects of their lives, remains the focus of our work. I would also like to reiterate my deepest thanks and appreciation to the many faculty and staff members who work closely with CLS for the betterment of Grinnell and the future of our students. As always, I welcome your input and feedback.

All the best,

Mark Peltz
Daniel and Patricia Jipp Finkelman Dean of Careers, Life, and Service