President’s Pen: Spring 2017

Sonya Stephens

Acting President Sonya Stephens. Photo by Meredith Heuer

If the notion of “return on investment” is a new way of students, parents, policymakers, and the wider public measuring higher education, it’s not a new idea. The value of the liberal arts—and the adventure of discovery that a Mount Holyoke education represents—have always been understood and promoted as an investment in the future, in a life of learning, and as preparation for professional success. What those professions and successes look like has changed many times over the course of Mount Holyoke’s history, especially in the twentieth century, which saw shifts in college career services from vocational guidance to job placement and from career planning and counseling to professional networking. These paradigm shifts reflect social change as much as they do the evolution of work and jobs. Today this means that personal and career development are core to the work of college and that career services have evolved to support that work and to create the communities and networks that position our students for success.

Personal and career development are core to the work of college, and career services have evolved to support that work and to create the communities and networks that position our students for success.
Sonya Stephens

The Lynk, Mount Holyoke’s signature approach to connecting curriculum to career, supports students’ personal and professional exploration and development and offers elevated career services. This integrated approach, aligning academic departments and centers with advising, demonstrates the extent to which the Career Development Center (CDC) is now a critical part of the College ecosystem. This change in structure and emphasis at the College speaks to the central precept of contemporary career services, which is about building community and making connections—on the campus, among our alumnae, and with employers. The CDC’s work brings into sharp focus the staff’s commitment to building relationships with students, faculty, alumnae, and employers and to creating the kinds of networks in which both traditional and more happenstance connections can be made. Career advisors in partnership with faculty, alumnae, and peers are facilitators, creating the climate in which students pursue their interests and curiosity, take risks and embrace uncertainty, and discover opportunities. Through alumnae chats, site visits, MHConnect (internship opportunities for which Mount Holyoke students are given priority), and other internships and internship communities students have the opportunities to customize their experiences and develop individualized professional networks and communities.

What we know is that, in liberal learning as in career exploration, there are rarely straight lines to answers and that exploration and discovery build personal, intellectual, and professional capacities. The fuller integration of career services into a Mount Holyoke education is empowering our students, customizing their experiences, activating networks, and connecting us all in new ways and to new opportunities.

This article appeared in the spring 2017 issue of the Alumnae Quarterly.

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