By Christopher Squier
As a new academic year begins, the Career Development Office (CDO) is expanding its resources and launching a variety of new programs to provide students with greater preparation for post-Grinnell life. In fact, the CDO may even cast off its current name and take on a new acronym for the future.
The CDO, located at 1127 Park Street, is the nucleus for services associated with career advising and the transition from Grinnell into post-graduate study or the professional world. In addition, the CDO also assists with internships, job interviews and other resume-boosting activities.
Mark Peltz, Associate Dean and Director of Career Development, has worked in the CDO for the past year and a half. In that time, four new hires have been made, including two entirely new job positions.
“I went from being the new guy to an old guy in a relatively short period of time,” Peltz said.
During Peltz’s 18 months at Grinnell, strategic planning has played a large role in bringing about change at the CDO.
“The explicit connection to the strategic plan was the desire to build the infrastructure on campus that allows more meaningful engagement of alumni into the life of the college,” Peltz said.
Although recent strategic planning has been occupied with future action, President Raynard Kington decided to push forward with the expansion of the CDO instead of waiting for the conclusion of the planning stage.
“If good ideas and good recommendations started to come together early, and they made sense in every way, he didn’t want us to sit on good ideas just because Strategic Planning was happening,” Peltz said.
A number of new programs being test driven this year have been made possible by recently hired staff members. Arlene Holmes, Assistant Director of Alumni Relations and Career Development Programs, is one of those two new staff members.
“Her mission is really to work collaboratively across campus, both with the Career Development Office and academic departments in finding ways to engage alumni to help students during the career development process,” Peltz said.
Holmes piloted the Silicon Valley Industry Tour, a program that sends Grinnellians to the technology capitol of the United States to meet with alumni, visit different start-ups and venture capitalists and network with intellectual property attorneys over fall break.
“Programs like this can help Grinnell students clarify their career goals, gain some experience and insight [and] build networking connections,” said Peltz, “All of those things help with the transition. You cross the stage and turn your tassel, and you’re ready to go.”
Additionally, the CDO hopes to use the Silicon Valley program as a model for future trips for students interested in other fields and futures.
Steve Gump, Assistant Director of Graduate and Professional School Advising, has also recently joined the CDO to assist students preparing for graduate and profession schools.
Although Gump can assist with most graduate schools, his specialty is in pre-law and pre-med preparation. Peltz stressed that graduate school advising already happens on a departmental level and that Gump is meant to supplement, not replace, that advising.
“The graduate school advising that happens within the departments can and absolutely must continue to occur,” said Peltz, “But there are many fields of study that we have students interested in pursuing advanced degrees in that [needed] additional support.”
In their effort to supplement the advising students already get from their departments, the CDO is focusing more on areas outside of specific Grinnell departments, like social work and business preparation.
“It’s a matter of working very collaboratively and in partnership with the faculty to make sure students have access to the information they need so that they know how to go about the process,” Peltz said.
For students interested in business, the CDO is creating Business Bridge programs. These are summer-length or January month-long programs that supplement student learning at Grinnell with an opportunity to better understand how business organizations function and operate.
Another program being introduced this year is the Alumni-in-Residence program.
“We’re going to be working collaboratively across the college to bring back alums in various professions to connect with students and share their experience and expertise,” Peltz said.
This fall, an alumnus now working in theater in New York will return to campus to perform and conduct clinics and workshops with students. Another graduate will give a presentation on his work for a consulting company in Chicago, and afterwards meet one-on-one with students interested in learning more.
A final aspect of the expansion of the CDO this year will be the inclusion of post-graduate opportunities like AmeriCorps, the Peace Corps and service learning at the CDO.
Both Susan Sanning, Community Service Coordinator, and Doug Cutchins ’93, Director of Social Commitment, will be merged with the CDO, although they will continue to work in the CRSSJ’s building down the street.
The changing make-up and expanding array of programs within the organizational structure of the CDO has led to a desire to better define their role on campus.
“As we think about moving forward and change… We’re looking at renaming it such that it’s more inclusive of those wide-ranging areas,” Peltz said. “The vision of what career development entails and should include has expanded.”