Career services to specialize support

Starting this summer, GW’s career services will offer industry-specific support to better prepare students to enter an increasingly competitive economy.

The University plans to hire more than a dozen staff members to provide specialized job advice for undergraduates in all majors – a departure from the existing school-based systems that offer an uneven approach to career assistance.

Six of the University’s 10 undergraduate and graduate schools currently employ their own staff – separate from career services employees and academic faculty – to help students with career planning. Only the GW School of Business provides this support to undergraduates. With the revamp, all undergraduates will have access to services personalized for their fields of study.

The center’s current model trains individuals in basics skills like interviewing and resume-building, but Dean of Students Peter Konwerski said it does not provide specific advice.

Konwerski, who was charged with guiding an overhaul of career services over the last year, emphasized the need for a “campus-wide buy-in” to improve job-hunting for students.

“The ultimate goal of this effort has been to raise the career culture, and make sure the integration is happening between the career activity and the course activity,” Konwerski said.

The additional career-focused staff, which will be hired over the next three years, will also act as liaisons between GW and companies worldwide. As the University’s career representatives build professional partnerships, they will pass along job and internship opportunities to students in a particular field.

A new career services leader, who will be hired by the end of this summer, will coordinate campus-wide efforts that ramp up the role of schools while strengthening ties across departments.

The center will continue to offer general support early on, as part of what Konwerski called a student’s “intake and assessment” phase, but when a student declares a major, someone with experience in that field will step in as a career mentor.

This fall, the Career Center is slated to move from the Old Main building to the renovated Marvin Center fifth floor space, which will bring student services under one roof.

The total cost for the career services revamp, which will largely cover additional staffing, will be determined by the Board of Trustees. Konwerski said the career center is “projected to receive enhanced funding to be phased in over the next three years,” but the official total remains undetermined until the board’s budget is released later this spring.

University President Steven Knapp has made career services a priority of his tenure, creating the Career Services Task Force in June 2010. Since November, a career services advisory council has met monthly to vet ideas about how to improve existing practices.

At its meeting Feb. 10, the Board of Trustees approved a 3.7 percent tuition hike, part of which Knapp said would be reinvested in career services.

“We can’t give you the numbers, but we are developing it,” Knapp said after the meeting. He added that investments in career services would bolster the value of an undergraduate education at GW.

Konwerski and other members of the advisory council, including Student Association President John Richardson, presented possible changes to the board’s student affairs committee last week.

Richardson, who has echoed Knapp’s investment in career services as a major goal this year, said he fully backed the committee’s final recommendations.

One of the key components of the new model, Richardson said, is bringing undergraduate students into the career center early and working with them throughout their four years at GW. He added that students will have an easier time seeking out specialized advice as the different offices and departments interact more about careers and curriculum.

The model for career offices in graduate schools, which Richardson said are like “different kingdoms,” will largely remain the same because students in these schools have already identified their field of focus.

“Student input may not completely change the model, but at least students will have the ability to make tweaks,” Richardson said.

This article was updated on Feb. 16, 2012 to reflect the following:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that the Elliott School of International Affairs’ career development center was for both undergraduates and graduates. In fact, it is just for graduate students.

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