In late January of 2016, Wellesley College welcomed Christine Yip Cruzvergara as its first ever Executive Director and Associate Provost for Career Education. Cruzvergara was tasked with spearheading a complete reimagining of the College’s 40-yearold Center for Work and Service (CWS). The overhaul of the College’s career services was made possible by a record $50 million anonymous joint alumnae donation to the Wellesley Effect Campaign last October.
Since assuming her position, Cruzvergara has hired new staff and launched Handshake, a cutting-edge online job and networking tool. The most significant change, however, is the new approach to student outreach. A divergence from the past, Career Education aims to start discussions with students from the onset of their Wellesley journeys by matching every student with a College Career Mentor who will assist them throughout all four years.
The mentor is the first person in what Cruzvergara describes as a lifelong personal advisory board. Mentors work to connect students with internship, fellowship and service learning offerings to help them test their curiosities and interests.
“Over the course of your career journey, you will be supported by a team of mentors and advisors who will challenge and inspire your professional and personal development. Your College Career Mentor will get you started as you clarify your interests and consider what society needs from you,” Cruzvergara said.
Working in tandem with mentors is a team of Career Community Advisors who specialize in a variety of professional fields and are available to students as they begin to identify their interests.
These changes to Career Education were made in direct response to concerns from students and alumnae. During her first few months at Wellesley College, Cruzvergara embarked on a listening tour in which she met with various groups within the community to discuss the shortcomings of the CWS and identify areas for improvement. What she discovered was a need to customize and tailor the career experience at Wellesley as well as offer resources better catered to advising students across a diverse job market.
“We heard loud and clear that some of the students felt like if [they didn’t] want to go into business, finance and consulting, there was nothing for [them] here,” Cruzvergara explained.
This sentiment was echoed by Katelyn Campbell ’17, who said that as an American Studies major she previously felt that there were limited resources available to her at the CWS.
“And now, that’s absolutely not the case. I can go in and talk to people about my interest in government or my interest in being a professor or my interest in non-profits. I’m all set…Their offerings in the humanities and really across sectors have grown enormously,” she said.
Campbell found the office instrumental to her success last year when she was awarded the prestigious Truman Scholarship, which funds $30,000 towards graduate study for individuals interested in entering public service.
The new Career Education model is informed by Cruzvergara’s own research in the field and insights into its evolution and future trends. She says that the imperative is on preparing a generation of millennials who are predicted to explore five to six different careers over their lifetimes.
“What this means for our women is that to be successful, they need to be adaptable,” Cruzvergara said.
She also cited the recent work of Wellesley College sociology professor Joseph Swingle, whose book, “Making Decisions in College,” posits that a liberal arts education equips students with the tools necessary to constantly reinvent themselves in an often unpredictable marketplace.
Cruzvergara believes that this refined focus on cultivating adaptable candidates, as well as the renewed commitment to students across all departments, is exemplified by the new Career Advisors team, comprised of individuals who are uniquely prepared to partner with students as they explore career paths.
According to the Executive Director, advisors are extremely familiar with their fields and have either worked in the industry themselves or as recruiters. Particularly groundbreaking and unique to the Wellesley model is the fact that advisors are also responsible for employer relations. The dual nature of the position means that students are guaranteed up-to-date information directly from employers.
“For example,” Cruzvergara elaborated, “if you wanted to go into government, and you were meeting with [Government, International Affairs and Law Career Community Advisor] Sarah Ahmed, not only does she know about going into your field, but she is regularly talking to employers that are telling her: ‘these are the things that would make your students and your candidates more attractive.’”
Working in collaboration with Ahmed on the Career Community Advisors team are Technology, Engineering & Physical Sciences advisor Frances Adjorlolo ’08; Health, Public Health & Life Sciences advisor Christopher De La Cerda; Consulting, Finance, Business & Entrepreneurship advisor Stephanie Hessler ’84; Marketing, Communications & Arts advisor Margie McGeeNewton; Education, Nonprofit & Human Services advisor Emily Weiskopf and Director of Health Professions Advising Lynn White. Students can schedule appointments with any of the advisors through Handshake.
Beyond graduation, Wellesley offers lifetime career education. Alumnae Career Advisors Wendy Friend and Dana Keep are available to discuss career transitions, midto senior-level advancement, career pivots, encore careers and reentry into the workforce.
Attitudes towards Wellesley’s career services are already changing within the student body.
“In the past, the focus of the CWS was much more general, and it always seemed under-staffed. Advising felt very impersonal, and CWS employees typically couldn’t provide help in ways other than reading application materials,” K.C. Skeldon ’17 said.
This year, however, Skeldon views Career Education as a valuable resource and has already met with three different advisors. “Margie [McGee-Newton] is the best,” Skeldon added.
Campbell, who also works with the Career Connections and Communities team as a Recruiting and Workshops Intern, is worried that the former CWS’ past reputation as antiquated and unhelpful will prevent students from taking advantage of the vast resources available to them.
“One of the things that’s really important for people to know is that this is not the CWS as it used to be. This is Career Education, and it’s a whole new model with a whole group of people who are more than willing to figure out what to do to help you,” Campbell emphasized.