Volunteer Weekend 2017 – Work Session Summaries

The Center for Careers, Life, & Service

with Mark Peltz, Daniel and Patricia Jipp Finkelman dean of Careers, Life, and Service.

Peltz’s presentation centered on how the Center for Careers, Life, and Service (CLS) is preparing Grinnellians to thrive after graduation.  

He briefly introduced how and why the center came about. When creating the CLS, College officials talked to everyone – students, faculty, parents, alumni, employers, prospective students and parents – to imagine how to best support students.

The key is shifting from an “opt in” to an “opt out” approach. It was far too common for a student’s first visit to the CLS to occur during the spring semester of their fourth year. Students are busy and the CLS was easy to put on the backburner. Peltz explained if a student showed up earlier, the CLS would be able to help this student in many more ways. But he understood the problem.

A critical question became how could the CLS engage students earlier and change this cultural environment of waiting until it’s almost too late to plan for post-graduation.

Describing it as a sneaky approach, Peltz said the CLS decided to give new students the services up front, opting them in without them even really knowing it. This would happen by getting to know their CLS advisors.

“A student would meet Kelly [Guilbeau] at student orientation,” Peltz said. “Then just at some point in the fall they would have a one on one with Kelly. They would start to build a rapport. Kelly would get to know the student, and his strengths and interests. The conversations would continue for about two years before the student transitions into a career community. That way the students is involved with the CLS for all four years. We are reframing how students interact with us.”

Peltz listed three other key questions:

  • How can the CLS provide more specialized, industry-focused advising?
  • How can the CLS strengthen relationships with employers?
  • How can the CLS bolster what it offers to early- or mid-career alumni?

One negative from student feedback was the CLS was good at the exploratory, general career information, but once a student had a narrower career focus, the center wasn’t as useful.

Through the CLS’s new career communities, students can access specialized advising, tailored programming, and experiential learning opportunities that include externships, internships, and service experiences. Interactions with peers, alumni, and recruiters help students further explore, clarify, and pursue meaningful post-graduate pathways. The seven career communities are Arts, Media and Communication; Business and Finance; Education Professions; Government & Social Studies; Health Professions; Law; and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

As for the employer relationship question, the CLS is committed to building employer recruiting networks that focus on internship and full-time positions. Eleven U.S. markets are being targeted – Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Des Moines, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington, DC.

The CLS has introduced grants to help students with professional development or interviews. If a student can’t travel to a job interview or doesn’t have business attire to wear to an interview, the grant can help overcome those obstacles.

Lastly, Peltz talked about a 2018 priority to provide more help for recent alumni. If alumni shift careers, the CLS needs to be in position to help them. For mid-career alumni, Peltz said the CLS realizes they aren’t in position to directly help, but they can put alumni in touch with executive and life coaches who specialize in later career advising. A roster of vetted life coaches will be available and there will be reduced rates for Grinnellians.