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Arts and Letters sponsors ‘What’s Next?’ Week

Madeline Buckley | Monday, November 16, 2009

Senior Grant Wycliff is a Philosophy major with no plans yet for after graduation. But he isn’t worried.
As one of many students in the College of Arts and Letters with a major that “doesn’t necessarily train for a particular job,” Wycliff will participate in a student panel Tuesday as part of a weeklong set of seminars and networking sessions geared toward helping Arts and Letters majors enter the workforce.
The week, called “What’s Next?” Week is sponsored by the College of Arts and Letters and the Career Center and has events Monday through Thursday.
“I have no job offers and I have no idea what I’m doing next year,” Wycliff said. “People always tell me I should be concerned, but it will work out eventually.”
Lee Svete, director of the Career Center, said the program will feature a mini career fair, a talk from an Arts and Letters graduate, a student panel, an information session about finding and funding internships and a session about graduate school.
He said this is the first time the Center has combined with the College of Arts and Letters to hold a week of events for Liberal Arts majors.
“We have had comments from Arts and Letters students about how the big companies, the companies who can afford to come to campus, are dominated by science, technology and business,” Svete said. “What Liberal Arts students don’t realize is that they can work for those companies too.”
Svete said one of the major goals of the week is to teach students with a Liberal Arts major how to translate the skills they have into a job, internship or graduate school.
“Arts and Letters students can write, analyze information, interpret information and speak in public,” he said. “These are all valuable skills to a business recruiter.”
Economics major Colleen Kelly, a senior, said she has two job offers so far — both business-related.
“I think what’s interesting is often times students think that the only people who go into business are business majors,” she said. “If you’re an Arts and Letters student who wants to pursue career in business, you have to be much more proactive, but thinking critically is a skill honed in Arts and Letters so you have to make sure that is emphasized when applying to different jobs.”
Kelly will also participate in Tuesday’s student panel, along with Wycliff and four other students.
Svete said about 30 percent of Arts and Letters student end up pursuing careers in business, but the goal of “What’s Next?” Week is also to inform students who are looking at other paths such as graduate school, post-graduate service or careers in government, public policy and communications.
“We want to help Arts and Letters students not only visualize but implement career planning processes, and we want it to be interactive with professionals, peers and faculty,” he said. “Some students have decided they don’t want to work for corporate America.”
He said there are Arts and Letters students who are Fulbright finalists, in the final rounds of interviews with the Central Intelligence Agency and many pursuing programs such as Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) and Teach for America.
In a recession, career planning is especially important, Svete said.
“I worry about the job market every day,” he said. “I take it home with me every night because I see talented people without job offers, just years ago, would have had three or four offers.”
In May, Svete said about 20 percent of the class of 2009, in all majors, was looking for jobs, up from 11 percent the previous year. But the number has now decreased to about 10 percent — a good sign, according to Svete.
“I’m hearing that the alums who have been out of college five to six years that have been laid off are having a more difficult time finding jobs than the recent graduates,” he said. “They’re more expensive.”
Svete said a large component of the “What’s Next?” Week focuses on internships because they are crucial to getting a job after graduation.
Last year, 423 Arts and Letters students found internships through the Career Center, 62 of which were funded by the Center.
Svete said they hope to increase those numbers this summer. An information session about internships this week will help students find funded internships through channels such as the Kellogg Institute, the Nanovic Institute and the Career Center. 
Even though Wycliff doesn’t have a job lined up yet, he said he is confident that his Liberal Arts education has prepared him for the workforce.
“We are well-educated students,” he said. “As long as we can find what we’re interested in, I think we’re just as prepared as business and science students for the real world, if not better.”