St. Olaf News

 

Program helps students explore career connections in Chicago

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St. Olaf students stand outside the Boston Consulting Group, one of several organizations they visited during the Piper Center for Vocation and Career’s Chicago Connections Program.

A group of 25 St. Olaf College students traveled to Chicago during fall break to explore career paths and connect with alumni working at places like the Boston Consulting Group, Chicago Public Media, and the Chicago Urban League.

The trip was part of the St. Olaf Piper Center for Vocation and Career’s Connections Program,  which brings students to cities around the country to meet with alumni and see firsthand how Oles are succeeding in all sorts of endeavors.

“The program is designed to help students discern their vocational path after St. Olaf, and to receive tangible advice for navigating the path from college to career,” says Kris Estenson, an associate director of the Piper Center and the program’s coordinator.

St. Olaf alumnae (from left) Victoria Celano '13, Andrea Dittman '12, and Alice Kovacik '10 met with students in Chicago to provide insight and advice on postgraduate life.

St. Olaf alumnae (from left) Victoria Celano ’13, Andrea Dittmann ’12, and Alice Kovacik ’10 met with students in Chicago to provide insight and advice on postgraduate life.

The Chicago Connections Program focused specifically on careers in consulting, law, community development, and media and communications. St. Olaf alumni with a wide array of organizations, from Accenture to Mayer Brown, shared their career stories with students.

Program participant Evan Davis ‘15, who explored careers in law, says the program has given him more insight and direction toward his postgraduate plans.

“I have gained confidence in what a liberal arts education can get me and how I can leverage it to make myself stand out in an increasingly competitive job market,” he says.

And while many students enjoyed meeting with alumni working in their desired field, some made valuable connections with Oles working in an industry they’d never considered. Despite being interested in community development and media communications, Robin Stramp ‘14 connected with an alumnus working for a consulting firm during one of the program’s networking receptions.

Kirk Stubbee '77, a regional claims executive at AIG, talks to students in Chicago as part of the Piper Center's Connections Program.

Kirk Stubbee ’77, a regional claims executive at AIG, talks to students in Chicago as part of the Piper Center’s Connections Program.

“We quickly figured out that he was a psychology major at St. Olaf, like I am, and he was able to tell me about a postgraduate entry-level job in psychology that I have never heard of,” says Stramp, who plans to pursue the opportunity.

This was the first time the Connections Program has gone to Chicago. Other Connections Program trips have taken students to Houston, Washington, D.C., and New York.

The program will return to New York this Interim and will then travel to Denver for the first time this spring. Plans are also under way to take the program to San Francisco in January of 2015.

In addition to networking, students in Chicago had the chance to explore the city, its culture, and even history.

For Ellen Squires ‘14, who is interested in community development, experiencing Chicago helped her understand abstract concepts she had studied.

“We got to really see and experience the geographic racial segregation that we’d only heard of before,” she says. “It provided a valuable context for the issues that many community development professionals work on.”