Career Education on the Rise in a Changing Work

By Parker Dunnaway ’15

Dr. Chris Howard, at an event entitled “Rethinking Success” at Wake Forest University back in April of 2012, asked: “What is success?” The multi-day event, featuring many speakers, including Condoleezza Rice, was centered on moving from a Liberal Arts education to a career in the twenty-first century. Dr. Howard went on to say that in today’s job market, employers are looking for applicants with specific skill sets to do specific jobs; however, he also said that those individuals with general knowledge and a broad skill set are the ones that move up in their fields. He cited the example of CEO’s: when we look at leaders of large corporations we aren’t looking for them to use certain software, “we want them to have the breadth to lead across and not just that specific skill set.” Near the end of his talk, Dr. Howard observed that career education is something that needs to be brought “to the forefront.” He opposed the popular notion that a career education and a liberal arts education are isolated from each other. “They indeed overlap.” That was back in April. Since then, Hampden-Sydney students have seen an amplification of career and vocation oriented activity on campus.

Col. Snead ‘81, Associate Dean for Career Education and Vocational Reflection, explained that, in the past, his office was considered ‘career services.’ The previous purpose of that office was to basically help students find “that first job.” Since then, the name has been changed to Career Education and Vocational Reflection. Col. Snead stated that with the name change comes a change in approach. Instead of focusing on only seniors trying to get that first connection, he said that the new goal is to get to students early—freshmen and sophomores—by holding events that are class specific, like the Sophomore Vocational Reflection Program (SVRP) that took place February 17. Col. Snead hopes that events like these, placed strategically early in students’ college careers, will “plant seeds for further conversations to continue.” He asserted that the bottom line is figuring out “how to help prepare young men for success.” However, Col. Snead, like President Howard, brought up the question regarding the definition of success. “If you measure success by how rapidly someone…gets a job and what that job pays…well that’s not how we do it.” He continued to say that what it comes down to is choices. If students plan ahead, utilize the career education office, and learn skills, such as networking, they will have choices—they will have the opportunity to follow a path they choose to go down.

At the Sophomore Vocational Reflection Program, the sophomore class gathered together as one then broke off into smaller groups led by faculty and staff. Each group had a purposeful discussion about introspective concepts: ‘What do I want to be known for,’ ‘what do I want to do and why,’ ‘why I am at Hampden-Sydney?’ Will Moss ’10, Special Assistant to the President and Director of Mobile and Social Media, and Richard Epperson ’79, Director of Athletics, were team coaches at the event. Epperson looked at recent events, C-day and the SVRP, less in terms of educating men for the job market and more in a light of teaching what it means to be a man. Moss followed up and built on that by acknowledging that we, as a college, are full of resources, in terms of possible mentors. Looking at these programs, he contended that, we are “using what we have at our finger tips, utilizing how small we are.” Moss continued that while he was a student, the idea of educating manhood was more unspoken—now we are more actively pursuing that with these events and this push. Epperson followed up by saying that having events for this purpose is only possible because of our size: bigger schools can’t do this. Moss concluded with the reason for our doing this: “why do we do this? Because we can.” There has been a purposeful push by the administration for this reason: to utilize what we have as a small liberal arts college in order to better prepare our students for success.

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