CLS develops Career Communities, programs for humanities students

By Kate Irwin
irwinkat@grinnell.edu

The Center for Careers, Life and Services provides Grinnell College students with countless resources to help prepare for careers and give assistance with the application process for graduate school, externships and internships with alumni. In recent years, the number of domestic students taking the humanities has decreased. The CLS is working to change the perception that humanities degrees are not lucrative by implementing the new initiative called Career Communities.

The number of humanities majors in each graduating class has been dropping over the past few years for domestic students. The 2005-2006 graduating class had the peak distribution of humanities students at roughly 40 percent. Since this time, that number has dropped to approximately 25 percent for the 2016-2017 graduating class. Interestingly, this trend extends mostly to domestic students. Humanities degrees awarded to international students have actually increased in the last years.

Among some students is the perception that non-sciences are not “marketable,” which may explain the declining enrollment by domestic students in humanities majors.

This decrease of graduates in the humanities is a relatively new issue that the College is attempting to resolve. The linear distribution of humanities majors for domestic students is approximately 30 percent. The trend of diminishing Grinnell humanities majors combined with the considerably lower than expected number of humanities graduates has caused concern for the College.

“We’re looking at an issue that we’re very much still in the process of analyzing. We’re still in the process and just beginning the process of consulting with the different academic departments, our faculty leadership, to define the key questions that we want to pursue,” Dean of the College Michael Latham told trustees and administrators at this fall’s General Trustee Meeting.

While there is a perception that non-sciences are not “marketable,” a student’s major does not necessarily determine their career or how employable a student is.

“Whether a student is aiming to continue their studies in graduate/professional school, secure a full-time position, compete for a post-graduate fellowship, or seek a post-graduate service position, that candidate’s ‘marketability’ is determined by a host of factors,” wrote Mark Peltz, Dean of Careers, Life and Services, in an email to The S&B.

Non-linear careers are common among liberal arts students, creating the misperception that some majors are not marketable. The CLS is working to fix this misperception by providing students with better access to data about what alumni do after graduation.

Additionally, the CLS is working to help students identify their skills and abilities they have cultivated during their studies at Grinnell.

“Such activities help students widen the scope of potential opportunities and foster a deeper and more nuanced understanding of what it means to be liberally educated,” Peltz wrote.

The CLS is taking steps such as providing data and helping students to recognize their transferable skills, but the Career Communities is the largest program undertaken by the CLS.

There will be seven Career Communities in the new program: Arts, Media & Communication (AMC), Business & Finance, Education Professions, Government & Social Service, Health Professions, Law and STEM. All but AMC and Health Professions exist today. Currently, the CLS is searching for directors for these programs.

Each Career Community is led by an individual who has professional experience in that field. This allows for students to work with someone who is well-equipped to advise students based on their knowledge and personal experience.

“The CLS Career Communities will provide students access to: specialized advising to help them prepare to pursue and secure internships and jobs; field-specific treks to various locations where they will meet with alumni and professionals in professional and civic areas of interest; mentorship and guidance from alumni pursuing careers in fields related to their goals; advice and assistance with the application process for graduate and professional school programs,” Peltz wrote.

While the CLS is expanding to include the Career Communities, the budget remains relatively constant. For this current fiscal year, the budget for the CLS is roughly $803,000. This budget does not include the cost of compensation and benefits for staff and students employed in CLS.

“These are the funds used to support student internships, campus symposia, fall/spring break treks, guest speakers, alumni visits to campus, skill-development workshops, the Grinnell Prize and more,” Peltz wrote.

The CLS budget, as always, has gone up and down, depending on multiple factors throughout the years.

“In some years, the CLS budget has increased. In other years, it has decreased. … There are many ways to accommodate growth without increasing the budget,” wrote Kate Walker, vice president for finance and treasurer, in an email to The S&B.

Like all budgets, if spending increases in one area it must be taken from somewhere else. The process requires several meetings and significant discussion. Each year this conversation is different, as situations and priorities evolve.

“It’s a difficult conversation that happens as part of every year’s budget cycle. The Budget Planning Committee works together to reach consensus about which budget increases will be recommended to the president and the board and where the offsetting budget cuts will occur,” Walker wrote.

The implementation of the Career Communities is a feature that sets Grinnell College apart from other liberal arts schools and is regarded by the College as an important resource to help students to prepare for life after Grinnell.

“Grinnell College is setting a new standard with regard to preparing its students for their post-college lives, and we’re really just getting started. Many of our new initiatives — including our Career Communities — embolden our mission and affirm the value of a liberal arts education. By providing our students with an exceptional education,” Peltz wrote.