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The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
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Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
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Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
May 6, 2024

Strategic plan update: Post-graduation success

This is the second installment of a five part series examining the primary working groups for the College’s Strategic Plan.

Imagine yourself a freshman during NSO, walking into a room labeled “Campus Employment Office.” You need a job for work-study, to save for the future or to earn pocket money for the weekends. Maybe you realize that working as a Technology Consultant (TC) would help prepare you for your dream job as a political analyst, but maybe not. Maybe you’ve never heard of TCs. Regardless, you’re in luck.

A staff member behind the desk hands you a list of all campus jobs, but she doesn’t stop there. She asks you about your skills, your goals, your schedule and refers you to three jobs that fit you best. She tells you when they hire, how competitive they are and how to apply.

You exit into the Center for Careers and Opportunities, the new building on campus that also houses the CDO, the Offices of Social Commitment, Community Engagement and Off-Campus Study, and advisors for graduate school tracks. Sophomores and juniors look for summer internships or programs they can get involved in during the school year. Seniors dash unashamed from the CDO with newly-approved resumes to hunt down Doug Cutchins and complete their Fulbright applications.

These are two of the “blue sky ideas” discussed by the Post-Graduation Success working group of the Strategic Plan. Co-chaired by Director of the Faulkner Gallery Lesley Wright and CDO Director Mark Peltz, the Post-Grad group started by surveying the current opportunities for students.

“It quickly became apparent to us that one thing we’re lacking is coordination,” Wright said.

Hence the consolidation of staff to help students place themselves in the outside world.

“A lot of students want to know, ‘What are my options?’” Peltz said.

Peltz believes a central location paired with a centralized list of campus jobs would help students think about how their experiences at school prepare them for jobs after college. But the committee takes care to define success more broadly. After a contentious first meeting, they settled on the definition, “Students and alumni possess the knowledge, skills, experiences and connections to achieve their self-defined goals for their lives’ work.”

One way the committee hopes to realize this is by enabling current students to learn from alumni, something at which Professor Mark Montgomery, Economics, hopes the College will vastly improve.

“It seems like … a vast pool of untapped goodwill,” said Montgomery, who led the last strategic plan and now sits on the Post-Grad committee. “[Alumni] all seem to have this huge hunger to connect with the students.”

The recent update on the strategic plan sent in an all-campus email notes that the consolidation of job-related office would complement an idea from the Alumni Engagement working group to establish a contact point on-campus for alumni who still want to involve Grinnell in their lives. This is one model for better connecting students to alumni.

Another, more debatable discussion on campus that the Post-Grad committee hopes to resolve is the idea that Grinnellian ideals are incompatible with business, investment or other types of for-profit work.

“There’s long been a sense that Grinnellians disdain for-profit enterprise,” Montgomery said. “Lots of alums will … feel that the College will under-appreciate their contribution to society, whether it’s true or not.”

Though some students do express this disdain, especially in the era of Occupy protests, the committee seems resolved to encourage students and alumni to bring their Grinnell education to wherever they think they should go.

“Who better to be leading corporations and being involved in finance than people with Grinnell ethics?” said Andrea Conner.

SGA Joint Board discussed this subject during their Nov. 9 meeting at the urging of President Gabe Schechter. Most Senators saw value in holding jobs that earn a lot of money, noting that even social justice needs to be funded.

“[VPSA Wadzi Motsi ’12] bluntly explained that you can only save the world if you can afford to pay for it,” the minutes read.

Others at Joint Board disagreed, citing flaws in the system and the effects of being rich on a person.

Professor Montgomery identified another reason Grinnell needs to prepare its students for the workforce.

“International students, after a year in this country post-graduate, they have an option: get a job, go to graduate school, or get booted out,” Montgomery said. “Faced with the idea of being thrown out of the country, they have been pretty successful about finding jobs, but … my sense is … most of them would say, ‘I had to do that myself.’”

Moving forward, the Post-Grad committee will survey students about their opinions on the private sector and what messages they’re getting from professors, administrators and their peers. The Post-Grad committee held two open forums this week. Suggestions from the community included mandating (or at least offering) a capstone class for seniors, paralleling the idea of tutorial, to prepare them for graduation and bringing back or replacing the second-year retreat to get students thinking about their future earlier.

The previous installment of this series describing the Teaching and Learning working group can be found here: Strategic plan update: Teaching and learning.

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