The rumblings of change are at Wellesley College’s Center for Work and Service (CWS), the career center that has helped connect Wellesley students to their employers and improve their career readiness for over 40 years. One of the main pillars of the $500 million Wellesley Effect campaign is the College to Career Initiative (C2C Initiative), which is funded by an anonymous $50 million donation from two Wellesley alumnae. The C2C Initiative aims to prepare Wellesley women to lead the world in the 21st century by revamping how the college views and prepares students for their careers.
A key part of the Initiative’s success is transforming the CWS into a state-of-the-art career preparation facility. Wellesley College hired Christine Yip Cruzvergara as the Executive Director for the C2C Initiative. Among Cruzvergara’s responsibilities are “to formulate, recommend and implement a new name, organizational structure, operating budget and functional emphasis” for the CWS, according to the Chronicle Vitae website that posted the job listing.
When discussing the timing of the CWS’ changes, CWS Assistant Director of Internships Rocío Garza Tisdell ’07 wrote about the evolving needs of both employers and students in today’s labor market.
“The marketplace is changing more rapidly than ever, and our students are seeking experiences earlier than in the past. Most employers expect students to have one or two related work experiences under their belts before they graduate – not an easy task in a competitive job market,” Tisdell noted.
Tisdell also discussed findings by The National Association of Colleges and Employers that showed that companies are often looking for “self-starters” who can deliver on their potential. Other highly-desired traits include leadership, communication, analysis, work ethic, adaptability and problem-solving. She noted that these traits “are all at the core of the liberal arts,” a fact that should give Wellesley students a leg up over their research university competitors in the job search.
According to Tisdell, one of the ways the CWS can link students to their future careers is by highlighting the many transferrable skills Wellesley students gain through their curriculum and experience.
“Our office can help students highlight these high-demand competencies so they can land coveted opportunities across all fields,” she explained.
One of the CWS’ goals is to better assess its internship programs compared to those of other colleges. Tisdell commented that few colleges have the partnerships and funding to match Wellesley, giving the example of the Chicago Field Museum’s existing partnership with the CWS. Every year, a Wellesley student interns there and is guaranteed funding. In addition, Tisdell wrote, dozens of other Wellesley students are able to apply for CWS funding to internships that they find on their own. She concluded that Wellesley stands out from other institutions by offering funding to both career center and student-identified opportunities.
Tisdell noted that today the CWS sees many more sophomores and first-years inquiring about how to secure summer opportunities than in the past, calling it a reflection of how quickly the labor market has evolved. The CWS aims to better meet these students’ needs in the future by offering them more internship and funding opportunities. It already allowed sophomores to apply for CWS Global Engagement Grants this year, something only juniors could apply for in the past.
The CWS hopes to accommodate students working part-time during the academic year and in underrepresented fields like education and the arts. In prior years, Wellesley alumnae, professors and “other college stakeholders” helped identify organizations that could partner with the CWS to offer students internships. Tisdell cited the example of Dr. Michelle Nguyen, the Director of Dermatological Surgery from Tufts Medical Center. She emailed Tisdell last year asking whether she could host one or two Wellesley students per year. Nguyen had had positive experiences with Wellesley students at Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s research lab. Through Nguyen, the CWS established two Wellesley internship openings and helped an Albright Fellow create a global internship at the Saint-Pierre Hospital in Brussels, Belgium.
Tisdell emphasized the CWS’ relationship with Wellesley students, encouraging Wellesley students to exemplify the college to the world.
“We often rely on students as being ambassadors to the college – actively showing the world how Wellesley students and alums can truly ‘be the difference’ is the best way to support our programs and potential partnerships,” Tisdell elaborated.
Callie Kim ’18 attended CWS workshops on resumes, internships and grants. She recently met Syma Mirza ’00, the CWS’ new career advisor for international affairs, law and government.
“Syma Mirza sees the lack of internship and opportunity for humanities majors in CWS. Now she is the part-time advisor and is very resourceful and helpful in terms of career and internship advice for human rights research and Nongovernmental Organizations,” Kim commented. Humanities students seeking institutional support in their internship search often turn to their own departments.
Tisdell finally highlighted CWS’ role as a bridge between Wellesley students and their career aspirations, noting that students can rely on the organization in their quest “to try on new career experiences.” Students who want to be updated about CWS’ activity should create a MyCWS account with their Wellesley College credentials, check their emails for CWS newsletters or “like” the The Center for Work and Service at Wellesley College Facebook page.
Photo by Qian Yiin ’19, Contributing Photographer