Student Engagement Center helps students find jobs, internships

Dylan Tull

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Illustration: Jung Song

On the top floor of Reid is a resource center that is prepared to help Whitman students through nearly every stage of their working life.  With one-on-one advising, the Student Engagement Center (SEC) helps Whitman students throughout their lives to find community service opportunities, internships and careers that align with their specific interests and values.

Susan Buchanan, director of career development, explains the work that the SEC does.

“We work with students from first-years through seniors and alumni, for as long as they live, to try to help them develop a sense out of what they do here at Whitman and outside of Whitman,” she said.

Whether students are searching for the right major, seeking a summer internship or looking for a job after graduation, the advisers at the SEC can provide guidance.

“It’s just easier to talk to an impartial person to help them develop a focus towards a major, [then] a little bit later, towards applying for an internship, [then] a little bit later, towards applying for a career or graduate school,” Buchanan said.

Possibly the most incredible opportunity that the SEC offers Whitman students is the extraordinary and extensive network of alumni who make themselves available as resources to Whitman students.

Noah Leavitt, assistant dean of the student engagement center, discussed the alumni network.

“Whatever the questions are that current students have, there are Whitman alumni who want to be asked those questions and want to be resources and have quite a bit of expertise . . . We want students to be taking advantage of all these alumni who want to be asked and want to be utilized as people who are trying to be helpful to the folks coming out here,” he said.

Many of these same alumni who provide assistance to current students through the SEC made use of the resources that the SEC offers. These alumni have gone on to work in significant, interesting jobs in different companies, like Google and Boeing. Alex Graves ’10 currently works for Facebook in the User Operations department. The SEC advisers helped her plan and prepare for the application and interviews with cover letter advice and mock phone interviews.

“I used the SEC’s resources [handouts and books] on resume modifications, interview tips and cover letter-writing. The resources they have on file are helpful, but the people are even more helpful. Susan is so knowledgeable about the field,” she said via email.

Alumna Sarah Deming ’10 is a Global Online Advertising Associate for Google who has worked with the SEC since her sophomore year at Whitman. Deming described her search for her first post-graduate job.

“I heard about the position through the Whitman listserv and applied in February. I didn’t get the position but the company reposted the position in June. I applied again but this time had the Student Engagement Center read over my cover letter and suggest I tweak my resume too to be more specific to the position. And that time, I got the job!” she said via email.

It isn’t just graduates who benefit from the SEC’s resources. First-year Miriam Moran worked with the SEC to polish her resume and conduct mock interviews.

“With the SEC’s help, I secured multiple job offers, and I decided to accept the position as Phonathon Caller for the Annual Fund.  I hope to use the SEC in the future to find more jobs and internships,” Moran said via email.

The question of the value of a liberal arts education is often discussed, especially in light of the job market that exists today. Alex Graves explained what the value of her Whitman education is to her job.

“Majoring in Biology was a four-year lesson about thinking analytically, being curious and approaching a new problem from a foundation of understanding, then figuring out the rest along the way. But probably most importantly, Whitman provided me with many opportunities to become a leader. Whether it was the chance to run a meeting, speak one-on-one with a professor or present to a class, these leadership opportunities [abounded] in my Whitman experience and were all key to preparing me for my job now,” Graves said.

Leavitt explained why a Whitman education is invaluable.

“People who have a liberal arts background coming out of Whitman [or] coming out of similar institutions are well prepared to add structure, add organization to things that may at first may seem chaotic, seem random or disorganized . . . That ability to look at a complicated scenario and look at options that result from how it can be organized in a variety of ways meets the kind of work world that is coming and is going to come faster and at greater levels.”

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