Career Center Reacts to Student Dissatisfaction

Raven Hudson ‘21

Staff writer

According to its 2017-2018 annual report, over the academic year, 82% percent of the student body engaged with the Center for Career Development (CCD), where engagement is defined as anything from a one-on-one talk with a counselor to a walk-in appointment or attendance at a workshop. Still, the CCD aspires to increase this statistic even further, in part through collaboration with the Student Government Association (SGA). 

In the past year, the CCD has undergone several changes. Former Executive Director Jeanne Marie Ryan recently left on maternity leave, and, subsequently, extended her hiatus indefinitely. Since March, Jamie Stamey, the former Associate Director for Employer Relations, has been Interim Director in her place. 

Additionally, the Fellowships and Scholarships Office is now a sub-unit of the CCD, resulting in another change in staff; Gaylena Merritt replaced former Fellowship Chair Dr. Ted Ogaldez. Her title is now Assistant Director of Fellowships and Scholarships under the CCD umbrella. The Center has also hired eight new staff members from “diverse backgrounds” who it hopes will assist in “offer[ing] different areas of expertise in how they can advise students,” said Stamey.

Many students stated that their primary reservations about the CCD stem from the Center’s lack of knowledge across different fields. Nika Fendler ’19 explained that, as a STEM student, she did not feel like there was anyone at the Center who “knew a lot about STEM programs, fellowships, grants, internships, etc.” 

Similarly, SGA President Itziri Gonzalez-Barcenas ‘19 recounted how a psychology major peer wanted to gain research experience but could not find much information on how to accomplish her goal. Gonzalez-Barcenas noted some of her personal experiences with the Center: “Spring of last year, I asked where they were with resources for undocumented students for post-Davidson, and they didn’t really have anything.”

Conversely, Gonzalez-Barcenas acknowledged that, as a political science major, there are a great variety of opportunities available to her, such as the Davidson in Washington summer program. Indeed, the majority of well-established programs driven by the Center are currently concentrated in political science, finance, and technology-based fields. Some examples include Davidson on Wall Street, career treks, and the TechXpo Symposium.

That is not to say, however, that the Center for Career Development is not helpful to students in other majors as well. “I think [it] best fits a macro need on campus for job fairs, alumni events, and things like that,” said Marshall Bursis ’20, a political science major. “I appreciate the key role they play on campus in the big picture—in terms of bringing in job recruiters and alumni, [or] sharing job and internship postings through Handshake.” 

“They are great at helping you with grant writing, practicing mock interviews, and looking at your resume,” Gonzalez-Barcenas added. “Right now, I feel like there’s a general approach—they have the resources to help all students—but I’m more interested in specific resources for specific people.” 

Due to student concerns, both SGA and the CCD are working on changes to meet a diverse range of student interests with greater specificity. According to Stamey, the Center plans to roll out several new initiatives this year, such as “two large events—one each semester—that are really industry-focused… called Career Symposiums, and each will be focused on a certain industry, [like TechXpo last year]. Our first event in November will be focused on the arts.” 

Additionally, the Center plans on adding  two new options for the career treks program, wherein a small group of students travels to different cities to focus on different industries. According to Assistant Director Kelli Robinson, the CCD also plans to prioritize “working with first and second year students with respect to exploring different careers.”

As for SGA’s aspirations, Gonzalez-Barcenas plans to work on meeting the major-specific needs of students by, for example, “having a database of cover letter and resume examples that are divided by field,” as a fellow student suggested.

Gonzalez-Barcenas and Bursis are sympathetic to the difficulties and limitations that the Career Center faces. Gonzalez-Barcenas recognizes, “It’s an office that goes through a lot of transitions, so it’s hard to have longevity…but all of the staff are very excited and open.” 

Meanwhile, Bursis addressed the fact that many students forget, or do not know how, to use the resources that are outside of the Center for Career Development, like the Davidson Career Advisor Network, Handshake, or LinkedIn: “a student who meets with a Career Center advisor every week might struggle more than a student who meets with them only once but utilizes Handshake or DCAN.” 

Similarly, Stamey, Robinson, and Assistant Director Beth Adams all agreed that “basically everything can be a resource” for students, from on-campus organizations to faculty and alumni.

The CCD is open to having conversations with students about how to be even more effective. “We’re trying to emphasize opportunities for all students across diverse areas of industries and interests,” explained Stamey. “I know that students have felt, in the past, that we may be very focused on some industries over others, and so we’re trying to be really intentional about having a strong cross-section of industries.”

 

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