Putting Liberal Education to Work

July 20, 2016

The following is an excerpt from the April 2016 Wesleyan magazine cover story, “Putting Liberal Education to Work,” featuring Gordon Career Center namesake Andrew Brandon-Gordon ’86 and the center’s director, Sharon Belden Castonguay.

It’s nearing 5:30 p.m. on a mild Friday evening in late January, but weekend relaxation is not on the minds of a group of about 20 Wesleyan students. For the past 90 minutes they’ve been listening intently to a presentation by a panel of Deloitte employees and peppering them with questions.

The path to an internship with Deloitte is not a simple one, and students who hope to land a position with the firm benefit both from the ability of the Gordon Career Center to arrange sessions such as this one and from the center’s guidance in helping with follow-through.

“It’s a way of leveling the playing field for students who don’t have family connections that can help them secure great jobs—in consulting or in any other field,” says Barbara-Jan Wilson, vice president for university relations. “The Gordon Career Center can prepare students to compete successfully for the most highly sought-after internships and jobs.”

Gordon Career CenterThe center connects students with an extensive variety of employers from large corporations to small nonprofits. Some of the top employers last year were the consulting firm Booz Allen, Teach for America, the high-tech Epsilon (an Alliance Data company), Citigroup, and Epic (healthcare software). The center supports students interested in fields as diverse as data analytics and entertainment and has a strong advising program for those interested in healthcare or legal professions. Lately, it has been enhancing its support of the many students interested in business, including finance and consulting. It has also been increasing its outreach to academic departments, athletic teams, and student groups, an effort spearheaded by Persephone Hall, associate director for career development and campus outreach.

Today’s event is taking place in the Gordon Career Center, which will be formally dedicated during Reunion & Commencement Weekend in honor of Andrew Brandon-Gordon ’86, a participating managing director at Goldman, Sachs & Co. in Los Angeles. Gordon, also a Wesleyan trustee, has supported students with generous gifts to financial aid, and he is a firm believer in the benefits of career advising.

“This is a leadership-skills building,” he says. “We want Wesleyan graduates to be leaders in whatever they do, and the career center is crucial to their development. It’s where you can work on your skills and make mistakes before meeting with potential employers.”

All students are welcome at the career center. GCC Director Sharon Belden Castonguay runs a Careers by Design seminar every January geared toward students who need to take a deep dive into who they really are and what they really want before the subject of potential careers can usefully be broached. The weeklong intensive course brings in concepts from human-centered design, and the idea, she explains, “is to get students to understand everything affecting their career decisions, including family issues, Wesleyan culture, American culture, and anything else they can identify.”

“The student response to this has been positive—gratifyingly so,” she adds. “One student thanked me for making career development fun.”

Castonguay is currently working on an iTunesU version of the course for a much larger audience than she can reach at the center.

To read the full article, “Putting Liberal Education to Work,” click here.