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Alumnae offer their career tips

Liz Harter | Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Saint Mary’s alumnae from 21 majors returned to campus Tuesday to offer students advice on post-graduate employment and educational opportunities in the first annual Alumnae Career Exposition and Career Insights Day, sponsored by the Board of Governance (BOG), the Division of Academic Affairs and the Center for Career Opportunities.

The alumnae participated in major-based seminars throughout the day, discussing their careers and how current students can crack into and excel in those fields.

The main event of the day was the Career Exposition in the Student Center Lounge.

About 75 students participated in the networking event, where the visiting alumnae spoke about their own career experiences.

“The alumnae have been so supportive,” BOG alumnae commissioner Christine Darche said. “Even those who couldn’t attend [the career expo] wrote back saying this is a great program.”

Many of the alumnae said they wish there had been a similar program in place during their time at the College.

“When I came to school here there was only one bank that interviewed [for post-graduate employment],” said Katherine Waltner Harig, a 1977 graduate. “We had to do everything after college on our own.”

Waltner Harig is the executive director of the Illinois region of the Friends of the Orphans nonprofit organization. She said she wanted to come back to the College and attend Tuesday’s events to get exposure for her organization – and hopefully meet students who might be interested in the organization.

“It sounded like a great way to reach out to people,” said Waltner Harig, who has also been involved in the College’s post-graduate Volunteer Fair for the past two years.

“I’ve talked to quite a few students already today,” she said. “It’s amazing the experiences that some students have already.”

Lori Harrington, a 1992 graduate, also returned to her alma mater for the event, even though she hadn’t been active in many College events in recent years. But now she’s involved in a new organization that helps children going through their parents’ divorce – and she wanted to get College students involved.

“I’ve been talking to [psychology professor Catherine] Pittman about maybe finding some student interns for the program for next semester,” Harrington said.

Junior Jill Swan attended the exposition in hopes of finding some tangible guidance her future; and while she didn’t walk away with a job offer, she did think the event was a good idea for people seeking more abstract counsel.

“I think it’s only helpful for people with no sense of direction or who knew that what they were looking for would be present,” Swan said. “I had an idea of what I wanted and who I was looking for [but they weren’t able to attend]. So I personally did not find it helpful, but that’s not the same for everyone.”

Darche, the BOG alumnae commissioner, was pleased with the way the day turned out, even though there weren’t as many people at the career exposition as she had hoped.

“Hopefully next year it will be more established and we can get things started earlier,” Darche said. “I think that if more people knew what this was, they would have come.”

Center for Career Opportunities director Jeff Roberts was also happy with the event.

“It being the first time, you learn some things,” Roberts said. “But still, these things are happening [for students]. … [The career expo] really provided insight into careers, which is what it was supposed to do.”