The Colgate Scene ON-LINE

Checking the Real World schedule revealed a packed agenda offering practical advice for the transition as well as as social alternatives.
by Courtney Gannon '96

President Neil Grabois opened Real World '96 by quoting Woody Allen, who once quipped, "A job is an invasion of privacy." Perhaps no one agrees more than college seniors who are facing, or trying not to face, the prospect of life after academia.

The truth is many bright and talented seniors don't feel ready to face the realities of a life outside the security of a college lifestyle. We find ourselves getting to know the staff at Career Services on a first-name basis and pulling late-nighters at the computer center to write cover letters instead of papers. Most of us have so many questions about every aspect of life after Colgate we often feel a sense of anticipation and apprehension at the prospect of entering the "real world."

Ivy Austin '79, Bruce Moser '76, Barrie Andrews '83, Caroline Sherman '87 and Lisa Reilly '88 talked about careers in the arts.
Real World '96

This January, for the first time at Colgate or virtually any school, students, alumni and staff pooled their ideas, resources and experience to create a unique career planning program -- Real World '96. Originally the brainchild of President Grabois, who recognized the sometimes overwhelming and daunting nature of seniors' search for post-Colgate plans, Real World '96 was intended as a three-day workshop preceding the spring semester. Grabois' idea was simple: using the resources of Career Services and input from seniors, bring a wide variety of alumni back to campus to share their wisdom and experience in careers, financial planning and the nitty-gritty of daily life in the real world with the Class of 1996.

President Grabois took his idea to the fall meeting of the Alumni Corporation Board of Directors, who in turn met with seniors, especially members of Konosioni, and found them "hungry for career and practical advice," said Burgie Howard, director of student activities.

At this point Howard stepped in, along with the new director of career services Lee Svete and director of alumni affairs RuthAnn Loveless, to coordinate the programming and involve alumni. Howard was impressed with the enthusiasm and willingness of alumni to participate in the program, remarking that "for every person we got to come, we talked to two or three who couldn't make it but really wanted to be a resource for students."

Loveless concurred with Howard, pointing out that in addition to being a great informational and networking opportunity for seniors, Real World was "a plus for alums because they love to be in touch with students and hope they can help them down the road."

And help they did. Based on their initial student-driven brainstorming session in the fall, members of the Alumni Corporation Board were key in contacting alumni. Amy Vecchione '79, chair of the board's Career Services Committee, and Bruce Morser '76, chair of the University Relations Committee, helped organize the alumni side of the events. As someone who herself hires 60-70 people each year, Vecchione is no stranger to the pressures and demands of a productive job search. She stressed the fact that the alumni and staff planners worked with the students to plan the workshops, information sessions and networking functions for Real World '96. After all, it was the students' natural but nonetheless unnerving uncertainty about the future that sparked Grabois' conception of the Real World program in the first place.

According to Howard, they narrowed down the program topics to a set of workshops on specific career and educational fields, namely business, education, environmental, public policy/social welfare, allied health professions, communications, commercial and fine arts, and graduate/professional schools. In addition, the program included a variety of informational sessions on practical topics including buying a car, real estate, insurance and personal finance.

Howard cited the large number of seniors coming to him with basic questions about real life as the motive for including practical infor-mation along with career advice, noting that "these students are very bright in their area of study, but they need some practical advice for living on their own for the first time . . . They need an understanding of where money goes and what a salary realistically means."

Vecchione agreed that while students' biggest questions center around finding a career field and securing a job or place in graduate school, "we wanted to include some topics we knew students wouldn't know to suggest," such as Morser's panel on the new aspects of daily life which students encounter as part of their first new job, location or apartment.

Big questions

How do I find people to live with? How do I adjust from life in Hamilton to life in the big city? How do I meet new friends if I'm not sticking with Colgate or high school pals? Where do I get my suits cleaned? These were just some of the lifestyle questions his panel fielded from anxious seniors.

Howard and Svete also planned social events for the students, both as an incentive to participate in the program and as a chance for the seniors to bond as a class. A "senior club" happy hour at the Colgate Inn, a semiformal networking cocktail party for seniors and alumni, a "New Year's Eve" gala event for seniors only and a class ski trip to Toggenburg at the close of the program helped to offset long days of contemplating the realities of real life.

After three days of practical advice, career networking and socializing, everyone involved in Real World '96 deemed it a success. "It helped seniors realize they are not alone in their quest for career success. By combining social events with career seminars and interaction with alumni, the program was a nice balance between real world preparation and a sense of support provided by students, staff and alumni," reflected Svete.

Likewise, Vecchione found reaction from students and alumni to be "very positive and exciting. Some [of the frank advice and information] made the seniors a little nervous, but they should know that having a liberal arts degree gives them so many options; beginning real life is both difficult and wonderful." Howard deemed Real World a "great first effort. We're fortunate that President Grabois really believed in it and sparked it with his resources."

Perhaps Woody Allen was wrong; the prospect of a job invades your privacy if you try to ignore it but, armed with practical advice from the experienced, maybe we seniors can try embracing our next step instead.