by John D. Hubbard
Spear House has taken on a new prominence. The construction of Persson Hall helped reveal the distinctive old stone building that has had a long and varied history but feels more a part of campus today than ever before.
And the Center for Career Services is undergoing its own metamorphosis, filling the one-time faculty residence, fraternity house, WRCU broadcast center and home of the Samuel Colgate Baptist Historical Collection with energy.
"We are trying to find a balance," says the indefatigable Lee Svete, who took over as director in June of 1995, "between effective career counseling and planning, and being aggressive in cultivating career opportunities that will yield positive outcomes after graduation."
The center, which is traditionally a hotbed of activity, is even busier these days. Svete and his staff reach out not just to seniors but to undergraduates as well as alumni, graduate school representatives and potential employers with publications and programs (in both real and cyber space).
The Employer Relations Program, for instance, involves 200 organizations and generated 75 visitors to campus last year, up from the 35 who came to see students just two years ago.
"We are trying to attract a diverse array of employers to campus," says Svete. Assistant director of employee relations Sheila Biddle has been instrumental in the resurgence. She continuously develops new contacts and sends out thousands of student resumes to employers through the centers Resume Referral Program.
Career Services has also implemented a non-profit career fair, a joint venture with Hamilton College, where students can meet representatives from such groups as the Peace Corps, United Way, Teach for America and the National Audubon Society.
The broad-based approach to career services further includes associate director Judy Fischers work with scholarships, fellowships and Fulbrights. Last year alone, Colgate students received eight Fulbright nominations and two Watson Fellowships. Fischer has long worked with pre-law students, and this year will add the duty of collaborating with Director of Student Health Service Dr. Merrill Miller on the pre-health committee to advise students on medical school and careers in the allied health field.
Summer jobs, internships and two-week career explorations ("Jan Plan") are the province of assistant director Patrick Doyle 90. Doyle has developed the Jan Plan for students by working with Colgate alumni and parents to build the program over the past three years. In 1997, more than 100 students were offered opportunities to learn business, communications, government and law, the arts and much more.
Kelli Young 89 is a career counselor, supervises the peer advisor program in which students work with fellow students, and edits Pathfinder, a biweekly newsletter sent to students.
Assistants to the director Debbie Bolton and Cathy Lynn Luberger ("They are incredible on the front line," says Svete) ensure students a friendly greeting.
Associate director David Bell serves as the alumni liaison and oversees the rapidly evolving technology that has Career Services wired.
"When I came to Colgate seven years ago no one on the professional staff had computers. Things really have changed dramatically," says Bell as he accesses information with a few keystrokes to illustrate his point.
Internships, job offerings and networking contacts, all in the database, mean students and alumni can be updated immediately with specifics. A list of all the investment bankers in New York City, for instance, can be compiled in a matter of seconds. Research that would have once been difficult, if not impossible, to gather is available on the Web so the student who is looking for, say, public relations firms in Santa Fe can readily find answers.
"Database is my solution to everything," says Bell. Of course, Colgate is a people place and, as important as interface has become, face-to-face is still vital. Colgate Connection involves 3,000 alumni and parent volunteers who are available for programs that explore career options and make professional contacts. Advising, exploring and recruiting are all made easier and more complete through the Colgate Connection. A series of seminars in New York, Boston and Washington also give volunteers and students (and alumni) the chance to discuss specific career opportunities.
"Ninety-five percent of what we do is because of alumni," says Bell. "Our programming, networking, across the board. Its quite incredible."
Svete echoes the sentiment. "Alumni are our eyes and ears to the outside world. They supply us with the latest news in the job market. An alumnus informs us Dole Foods is hiring and technology allows us to post it immediately.
"We are also using the parents network. They are captivated with Colgate and they have allowed us to tap areas where we might not have a strong alumni influence."
One of the goals at the center is to reach out to students earlier in their careers. "We want to get students thinking about what the value of a liberal arts education is in their futures," says Svete. "The career exploration process should happen well before senior year. Students will be more competitive in the job market and graduate school application process the earlier they are involved."
There are tangible results to strive for, according to Svete, who looks for students to become more focused and in tune with post-Colgate directions they may choose. Thinking about life after graduation also allows a student to increase the chance of pre-professional explorations and internships. Further, Svete feels, students become better able to effectively articulate the value of their Colgate education.
Getting there is easy enough. Just follow Route 13. Career Services has created a checklist of 13 outcomes it would like to see for students "a map for finding your potential," which includes straightforward compass points such as writing a cover letter and producing a resume as well as more subjective latitudes defining personal values and taking individual responsibility.
"Its possible to go through four years without giving a thought to a career, but we feel there has to be some planning and decision making," says Bell.
"We view ourselves as part of the educational mission and we teach job search and life planning skills."
If there is a knock (at the end of a long list of attributes Svete routinely hears from recruiters: "Extremely motivated," "bright," "grateful," "intense") it is a lack of career street smarts.
"Weve become more focused about exposing students to the real world," says Svete, citing seminars hosted by the Alumni Corporation Board of Directors, career fairs and Real World, in which seniors can get the inside scoop on work on Wall Street and pick up tips on how to buy a car.
The Center for Career Services has the look of a supercharged library. Bolstered by gifts from AlliedSignal, trustee Don Remy 64 (who has created an endowment fund) and the classes of 1993 and 1996, which created space and technology for students pondering post-graduation questions, Career Services reflects the upbeat, positive nature of the staff.
"Ive tried to build a strong office for students where we can instill confidence," says Svete. Just then a student comes by to announce he has accepted an offer. He is about to become a banker. Thanks and congratulations are exchanged.
"See that smile? That makes it all worthwhile," says Svete. "Thats super."