CCEC offers new opportunities for students

Jaime Fields, Campus Life Editor

Last week, The Wire covered the recent generous donation to the Career and Community Engagement Center, as well as its clarifying name change. This week, we’re shining the spotlight on the Fellowships and Grants department within the CCEC, as well as some of the CCEC’s latest initiatives.

Keith Raether, the director of Fellowships and Grants, has been working for Whitman for over 15.5 years, spending the past 13.5 or so working with Fellowships and Grants. According to Raether, the purpose of Fellowships and Grants is to guide students through applications for national awards, fellowships, scholarships and grants that allow for independent research, teaching opportunities, study abroad and various other opportunities for life during and after Whitman.

The Fellowships and Grants department used to be its own office and was only recently incorporated into the umbrella of the CCEC.

“It made logical sense that [the] opportunities that come to pass through Fellowships and Grants be tied to that whole initiative of life after Whitman—in fact the idea behind life after Whitman…in many ways is captured through fellowship, scholarship, and grant opportunities. The awards and the experiences that recipients [have] lead directly to life opportunities, career tracks… it’s all part of that natural progression to a successful life after Whitman,” Raether said.

Although it is now part of the CCEC, Raether said that the work within Fellowships and Grants itself has not changed much, although they have been incorporated into some of the work of the CCEC, like the First-Year Coaching Initiative, which pairs first-years with career coaches with the hopes of building towards the larger plan to prepare students for life after Whitman.

Jenny Stratton, the administrative assistant for Fellowships and Grants, is especially excited about this coaching program. According to Stratton, she works behind the scenes, working on the scheduling and organizing.

“One of the things I’ve most wished over the years is that we would be able to connect with Whitties earlier on in their college careers. A lot of students don’t think to look for the services that the Center offers until their junior or even senior year,” Stratton wrote in an email to The Wire

“With this intentional outreach, I’m hoping that first-year students start to feel a curiosity and a level of comfort in interacting with their coaches, so that we can help them connect their studies and experiences at Whitman with all kinds of other opportunities that can enrich their lives, not just after but also during their time at Whitman.”

Stratton added that she wished she’d had this sort of program herself when she was in school, so that the transition into graduate school and life after college would have been less scary. 

Megan Cooke, the CCEC marketing fellow, explained that although this program is only in its first year, they’ve been excited with the results so far and are looking forward to its growth.

“We have a really high percentage of engagement from the first-year class with that, which is invigorating, as engagement itself has been hard to figure out—what the balance is in this new campus life,” Cooke said.

Cooke added that she’s also excited about a lot of other opportunities opening back up for students, such as the Summer Whitman Internship Grant.

Stratton said that she was most excited about the First-Year Coaching program, as it’s given her the opportunity to work more closely with the other staff members and provide more opportunities for students.

“I really enjoyed getting the list of 500+ incoming first-year students early last summer and starting to plan how we would reach out to them. I’ve been over the list of names so often, even though I haven’t really gotten to know any first-year students yet myself, I always have to smile when a name I recognize pops up in news from some other part of campus,” wrote Stratton. “It’s exciting to see people getting involved, taking leadership roles and making a mark in our community from year one.” 

When asked what the most fulfilling part of his job is, Raether answered without hesitation.

“Without question, one word: students. I really do mean that…The experience with students working through these application processes is such [an] extended, constant learning moment for me, and in that learning, all of that new knowledge and awareness, there’s an exhilaration that I can almost attach to my own days as a student,” Raether said.

Raether added that although the medals and awards are all great, what he loves most is watching the students grow and gain more self-awareness and awareness of others. The CCEC’s passion for what they do is clear, and they encourage students to continue to take advantage of the opportunities they offer.