Career services at Wellesley has a new name—and a whole new approach. The Center for Work and Service is now Career Education, and the name may be one of the smallest changes for the division.
“We’re not the same organization that you may remember,” says Christine Cruzvergara, associate provost and executive director of Career Education. “What we have now is different in every single way that you can probably imagine.”
When Cruzvergara came to Wellesley in January 2016, she was charged with redesigning what the career experience would look like for students and alumnae. So she embarked on a listening tour to find out what worked and what didn’t for students, alumnae, faculty, staff, and employers, combining those efforts with research on current practices in the field.
“We created this new model of career education at Wellesley that centers around connections and communities,” Cruzvergara says. They split the division into four teams: exploration and experiential learning, career connections and communities, alumnae career advancement, and operations and analytics. In addition, each student is now assigned a college career mentor, a relationship that will endure from the first day on campus through to graduation. “Our mentors help the students to learn more about themselves,” Cruzvergara says, “and help them get connected to more individuals.”
Making a connection with their mentors can be a critical first step for students. For Emily Pearson ’20, this relationship has led to further career exploration. “It is so wonderful to have somebody to go to who knows what you want to do, knows what your future plans are, but also knows what experiences you have and can help you bridge the gap between where you want to be and where you are right now,” she says.
Temantimandze Shongwe ’20 first reached out to Career Education because she wanted to know what opportunities were available to her as an international student. On her own, she found an unpaid internship with World Vision in Swaziland, but with the support of the division, she not only got funding for the internship but non-academic credit on her transcript, as well.
‘We created this new model of career education at Wellesley that centers around connections and communities.’
—Christine Cruzvergara, associate provost and executive director of Career Education
Career community advisors provide expertise in different industry sectors, including education, technology, business, and the arts. “We know that getting a job in consulting looks nothing like getting a job in advertising. It requires different skill sets,” Cruzvergara says. These advisors can counsel students and alumnae about their industry’s specific needs and help create communities within the industries of interest.
The new model officially launched in fall 2016—which was no small feat, considering the significant changes and the 19 new staff members who came on board in the first year. That year focused primarily on overhauling the student experience. “It was really important to us that we focus and get it right with the students first, or we were only perpetuating the problem,” Cruzvergara says. They seemed to get a lot right: Career Education saw 202 percent growth in appointments from academic year 2015–16 to 2016–17, and 75 percent of students engaged in person with the revamped division.
As the division continues to refine the model, the focus for the current year is the alumnae experience. This past fall, Sarah Ahmed was named the director of alumnae career advancement. “As I transition to this new role, [I] will be specifically focusing on alumnae advancement and the offerings that we can provide in that space,” she says. “One of my main goals is to offer a service to allow alumnae to know that we’re here to support them and allow them to define their own success.”
Of course, alumnae already have access to many of the new offerings on hand from Career Education: alumnae career advisors and industry-specific career community advisors, as well as the technological platforms Handshake, which is used to schedule appointments, search for internship and job opportunities, and explore career resources, and the Hive, which supports networking and mentoring. “We have that really targeted experience for alumnae to be able to get that career exploration advising through our alumnae advisors, but then also, whether they’re looking to make a pivot into a different industry or they’re looking to advance more in their current industry, they are able to connect with our career community advisors, as well,” says Ahmed.
Priya Gandbhir ’09 connected with an alumnae advisor and the law community advisor as she was searching for what is her current position as an associate at a law firm in central Massachusetts. “They really helped me to work through what I am looking for when I go for an interview [and] were helpful for me in terms of building up my confidence again,” she says.
Services for alumnae are not just available for those who live nearby. “We continue to offer flexibility,” Ahmed says. “All of our appointments can be done via Google Hangouts as well as Skype.” The team is also working on future additions, like webinars and other distance resources.
Significant change has already come for career services at Wellesley, and even more changes are ahead. “Everybody always says that Wellesley isn’t just for four years, it’s for life,” Cruzvergara says. “And I want people to realize now that Career Education is a part of that.”