Career services to focus on industry-specific fields

The University-wide career center will offer personalized support in six industry-specific areas starting next year, a departure from its current generalized approach.

The center’s professional staff – which will be swelling by about a dozen members by 2015 – will each focus on one of six clusters: arts, media and communication; science, technology, engineering and math; public policy, government, law and international development and affairs; health sciences, nursing, medicine and public health; education, training and social services and business and economics.

The clusters will cater to the University’s increasing focus on interdisciplinary work, so that students with majors in environmental studies, for example, can look into political or business career paths more easily.

“This will basically complement your major,” Dean of Students Peter Konwerski said, adding that the clusters will link students’ majors to industries and help faculty from various schools connect with one another. “We’re thinking about the way we can bring more content to students earlier.”

Four groups, formed earlier this semester from the Career Services Task Force, will spend the next few weeks determining specific steps that will bring about broader changes over the next three years. The groups, overseen by Konwerski and Executive Director of the Office of the Dean of Students Robert Snyder, focus on career development, operations, employer relations and student employment.

As these groups shape the revamp, the career development team is looking at how to best to balance job preparation with a liberal arts education. Career advisers, including those from the GW School of Business, argue that students’ courses should be integrated with career preparation to best coach students on post-graduation plans. But academic advisers, such as those from the Elliott School of International Affairs, believe the roles of each adviser should be separate.

Larry Fillian, director of undergraduate advising and assessment for the business school, sees the career services overhaul as “a great opportunity to transform its advising and career coaching for students.”

This career center has served as a model for GW’s transition to industry-specific support for undergraduates. Business students participate in a First Year Development Program, in addition to a required career management course, Fillian said. The academic advisers and career coaches collaborate on creating the courses.

Fillian stressed that academic and career advisers need to work together to translate classroom experiences into real world applications.

“I feel that all of our advisers on this campus are keenly interested in developing stronger ties with the Career Center so that we can combine our extensive knowledge of student development, advising, and career development to provide a much stronger service set to students,” he said.

While the business school puts a spotlight on jobs, the Elliott School takes a more academic-focused approach to career preparation.

Though academic advisers do not typically provide in-depth career advice for Elliott School students, members of the GW Career Center regularly drop by the advising office to talk to students about jobs in international affairs.

Tammy Wiles, director of academic advising in the Elliott School, said keeping academic and career advising separate allows each staff member to retain strengths in one area.

“In academic advising, we have a certain agenda. We have to make sure you get through school in four years,” Wiles said.

She said putting too much emphasis on job training may thwart students’ exploration of academic areas outside their career paths, and the advisers – while knowledgeable about school requirements and course content – are not typically experts in a particular field.

“We have to be very careful. We can’t be all things to all people,” Wiles, who also spent more than a decade directing the Elliott School’s graduate career center, said.

Wiles added that she doesn’t think the University will firmly decide how academic and career advisers should collaborate until the new head of career services is hired. The new senior administrator – a key component of the proposed overhaul – will oversee career support across the University. A title has not yet been formalized, but the leader will likely be hired in June, Konwerski said.

This post was updated on April 9, 2012 to reflect the following:
Due to a reporting error, The Hatchet incorrectly reported Larry Fillian’s title. He is the director of undergraduate advising and assessment for the business school
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