Charting Clearer Career Courses

July 19, 2017 by Kristin Hanson

Hopkins Parents Council members help launch Homewood’s Career Center in a new direction

College students preparing for the world of work aren’t all that different from baseball players seeking to hit home runs, says Michael Cohen, Parent ’15, ’18. Successful colleges and coaches don’t force students and players into perfect “batting stances.” Instead, they ask, “What is this person’s style? How can we tweak it, adjust it, fix it?” so that the player’s bat strikes leather, or the new graduate presents the best version of him or herself to a prospective employer.

The latter, Cohen says, requires a substantial shift in thinking from traditional career counseling. Through a $100,000 gift to the Hopkins Parents Fund, Cohen and his wife, Susan Katz-Cohen, are helping Hopkins make that transition by supporting the Career Center’s new “Career Academies,” six industry-focused communities of students, faculty, alumni, family members, and employers.

“Career services across the country are changing to offer students more community-based, industry-focused services,” says Ann Garner, director of the Homewood Career Center. “The Cohens’ gift is making it possible for us to move students forward with better, targeted career programming.”

The academies officially launched for the 2016-17 academic year and focus on arts, media, and marketing; consulting; finance; health sciences; nonprofits and government; and STEM and innovation. Each creates a community in which students — beginning their very first semester — can align their academic experiences with professional interests, access industry-specific resources and guidance, and connect with alumni and employers to find internship and postgraduate positions. Each community’s “Academy Week” includes sessions on securing internships, events attended by employers, and resume workshops and informational interviews with alumni who work in each field.

“When I was a freshman, I was a little lost about how to follow the career I was interested in because not too many other students were trying to do the same thing that I wanted to,” says Sabrina Palazzolo, A&S ’18, who’s pursuing a path in entertainment law. She attended an alumni panel during the Arts, Media, and Marketing Academy Week in April and met Lucie Fink, A&S ’14, now a video producer and lifestyle host for the pop culture site Refinery 29.

“It was so valuable to hear how she was able to apply some of her Hopkins experiences to the entertainment industry, and how to move along in her career from graduation to Refinery 29,” Palazzolo says.

The academies also provided opportunities for students with big-name companies on campus. During the STEM and Innovation Academy Week in February, 80 students attended a technical interviewing workshop led by recruiters from Google and more than 60 took part in a resume review and networking event with representatives from companies including Bloomberg LP and PayPal. Fifty students attended an “Alternative Careers in Health Sciences” session during the Health Sciences Academy Week that featured representatives from GlaxoSmithKline, Veralon, and Evidera. Earlier in the year, more than 100 students took part in a consulting information session with McKinsey.

Siwei Bian, Engr ’18, says academy events that allow young alumni and senior undergraduates to share their experiences and advice with younger students have been equally as valuable as the employer visits. The Finance Career Academy hosted a peer networking event during which seniors explained the recruitment process for major investment banks, step by step, from the informational and phone interviews to the offer.

“I was able to apply what they suggested directly to my recruitment process the following fall,” Bian says, and she succeeded in securing an internship. “In the major banks, if you don’t get that internship, chances are close to zero that you’ll have a full-time job after graduation.”

That’s a fear, Cohen says, that he and Susan share with many parents as their children’s college graduation creeps closer on the calendar. The Cohens, longtime members of the Hopkins Parents Council, are glad to know their gift will help put many of those worries to rest for other Hopkins parents.

“The changes the Career Center has made — in terms of bringing companies to campus to recruit, to make those companies more aware of the talent we have among Hopkins students, and preparing students for opportunities with those companies — directly address those fears,” Michael Cohen says. “I’ve been most impressed with what they’ve accomplished in only a year.”

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Topics: Parents, Undergraduate Student Experience, Support Scholars