Safe At Last in the Wide Wide World

Roger Woolsey shown in his job as Director of the Center for Professional Development

Roger Woolsey shown in his job as Director of the Center for Professional Development

Editor’s note: Last winter, The Dartmouth Review sat down with the head of the Center for Professional Development (CPD), Mr. Roger Woolsey, to discuss reforms and changes Mr. Woolsey had in store for the CPD. Approximately one year later, The Review sat down again with Mr. Woolsey to get an idea of how his plans panned out.

The Dartmouth Review (TDR): The last time you spoke to The Review last year, you mentioned a number of new programs in the works. How have these programs progressed in the past year?

Roger Woolsey (RW): I think they’ve fared well. One of the things we’ve done was to conceptualize the three programs you outlined and what we did was we put them in motion. The Professional Development Accelerator specifically was to accelerate the professional development of our Dartmouth students in their first two years on campus, beginning in their first year through their sophomore summer. We’ve had some very good success from the very beginning. We had 545 first years complete [the program’s] first milestone. That to me is extremely successful. December Break Programming was successful as well. We re-booted our job shadowing program… We put [December Break opportunities] online on DartBoard so that it’s easier to match students with alums. We had some good success with that all over the country. We complemented that with paid projects. We asked alumni and parents if they had a small project in their organization or company that can be done within three or three and a half weeks, why not pay a student to do it? We had around 65 entries for that. So that was successful. Dartmouth [Tuck School of Business’s] December Bridge was extremely successful. I think they had around 50 students go through the program, and the students I spoke to said it was one of the most, if not, the most rewarding experience they’ve had at Dartmouth. It was demanding; they worked extremely hard, but it afforded a much better understanding of business and business principles. And, to me, that’s going to resonate well in their interviews, and it’s going to make them more desirable on their resumes. c. ‘Alumni Fridays’ We’ve had very good success [with our Alumni Fridays program]. I think at one point we had 60 or 65 alumni that were advised by my staff. My staff devotes around two hours per staff person per week so that we can accommodate the needs of our young alums. This refers to alums one through five years out, since those alums are still going through [a] transition stage. This involved advising them on their resumes, cover letters, industry trends, resources, etc.

TDR: The last time you spoke with The Review, you mentioned, among other issues, an issue the Center for Professional Development faced with outreach. How have you, in the past year, tackled issues with outreach not only to freshmen, but also to upperclassmen?

RW: That’s a great question. What you’re touching on is what we refer to as ‘engagement’, and it’s really difficult… We have to make sure that we communicate with all class years to ensure they’re getting the [career] programming they need for their professional development. One of the things we’ve done is partner with class presidents. We’ve partnered with the senior class president and the junior class president and I think we’re working with the sophomore class president [for sophomore] summer… With the class presidents, we’re able to co-create programming that is specific to each class and what they’re currently going through. For instance, for the junior class, it’s about what junior internship or off-term is going to look like. [We also have a] community outreach coordinator who happens to be a Dartmouth alum; he graduated in 2014. His job is to partner with our affinity groups and houses, and so we are partnering with, for example, the [Cutter]-Shabazz [Center]… the Triangle House… [and] the Greek Houses… We have found that when we partner with clubs and affinity and Greek houses, there is a greater yield. Because, again, we’re specifically creating programming to that particular group, so we’re being more audience-centered when we partner with specific groups on campus.

TDR: You also spoke a decent amount about wanting to tackle the misperception that the CPD could really only help students for employment in a few select industries in set few geographic areas. How has the CPD worked on changing this?

RW: Perceptions change every four years. Every institution has a culture, and that culture is established by its student body. And so, when you think of perception, you think of what the upperclassmen have perceived since it’s the upperclassmen that have communicated to the underclassmen their feelings, their beliefs, their ideas. It takes four years for cultural shifts…. So it takes time. We have been extremely deliberate [to change this perception] since I’ve been here. One of the biggest issues with former Career Services was that they funneled students specifically into two industries [consulting and finance], and we wanted to ensure that the students are aware that we know that other industries do exist, and that students are aware that we know that too. My team went through a process… to create a credo for the department. Our credo is called “dare to be different.” What I like about what they came up with is that I didn’t want the team to be like Harvard, Princeton, Yale, [and] all the other Ivy schools; I wanted us to be Dartmouth, to be unique. I wanted us to dare to be different and take risks in our programming and our approach to career development… We want to support students’ uniqueness, their qualities, and their differences. We’ve been extremely proactive with our advancement office and working with our development officers in the College to communicate with not only alumni, but also parents in all industries that we are here and that we would like you to offer internships in your businesses, both profit or nonprofit, and also in employment opportunities. That’s really helped out. The other thing we’ve done since the last time you were here is that we have facilitated four virtual career fairs. We are not like Harvard or Columbia in that we’re not in a big metropolitan area; we’re in Hanover, New Hampshire. So we have to think of ways to be creative to expand our footprint and diversify our career opportunities across industries as well as geographically. We have been using these platforms and been facilitating virtual career fairs… For example, for the West Coast… with around 600-700 Dartmouth students and alumni.

TDR: paths many Dartmouth students have and continue to aspire for in consulting or finance. Are there any changes the CPD has made to specifically help students pursue those career trajectories?

RW: Well, there’s two things. We have to diversify for both finance and consulting – what I mean by that is to concentrate on boutique firms. There are several hundred boutique [firms] and smaller banks that would love to recruit Dartmouth talent. We want to make sure that we cultivate those relationships through our alumni and parent base, as well as cultivate those relationships on our own. What we’re also doing to help students are mock interviews. That’s really good, especially for finance. We talked to employers about what we should ask students [in these mock interviews]. We want to make sure that students are more confident when they communicate [in interviews]. The other thing is case interviewing [for consulting positions]. An adviser here is putting together a series of case workshops. We also want to work with Tuck and Tuckies who have been in these industries and have been through the recruiting process.

TDR: I think we’ve touched this at a few different points in the interview thus far. Dartmouth is a liberal arts institution, and proudly so. Employers, however, often are looking for specific technical skills – how does the CPD make sure students are prepared to succeed in their careers?

RW: I think students have to be aware that they are extremely gifted and intelligent. Dartmouth students, in my opinion, [are]… the best product in the country. We’re the only school in the Ivies with the quarter system. Our students are going through intense academic rigor in a ten week quarter. You couple that with co-curricular activities, volunteerism, and all the things our students do, [and] that automatically tells me 1) they are agile, our students can think very quickly on their feet; 2) to balance your classes and the priorities you have, you have to be extremely organized; and to be organized, you need to have 3) good time management. That’s what employers are looking for – can you get things done on time. When you think about those high end competencies, I have the best product. What you didn’t hear in that is that our students are the best coders in the world; our students are the best users of Excel. We know that’s not true… [But] employers hire Dartmouth talent because they know that you’re smart, agile, [and] disciplined. They’re hiring you based on your attitude and your initiative to learn new things… Therefore, many of our employers aren’t as concerned that you’re not job ready with technical [skills]. In many cases, you’re going to pick [those technical skills] up pretty easily. However, that doesn’t mean that we should not get students prepared [with] technical [skills]. So here’s what we did: during December Break, we have partnered with SkillsX. SkillsX’s founder happens to be a Princeton grad and an HBS [Harvard Business School] grad. He felt that students weren’t proficient with Excel, so he’s worked with Dartmouth students to create a platform where students not only watch these two to three minute vignettes of a particular [Excel] keystroke, but they’re also tested on it. We had about 200 students immediately go to SkillsX during December Break. Right now we’re working with a few alums to find an instrument or platform that would provide free tutorials to Dartmouth students on basic coding. We’ve listened to our students, we know what employers are looking for, [and we have] provided platforms on which [students] can learn important competencies.

TDR: One thing I’ve noticed with both this interview and last year’s interview is that alumni seem to be a keystone in almost all of your initiatives. Would you agree?

RW: The alums are the most critical piece. We couldn’t do any of this without our alumni base. We have alumni who are very engaged with this office. I think there are more alums who want to engage with us probably more than we have students.

TDR: Do you think that the CPD has done a good job in the past year with improving students’ preparedness for postgraduate success?

RW: I hope so, but I can’t answer that question. I think that the success of our brand is managed by the students, so you have to ask the students that. My team can do their best to listen to students and listen to employers and try to address [their] needs, but at the end of the day, it’s the students that judge us. I can tell you that employers are more satisfied. The resumes coming out of Dartmouth in the last year and a half are much more consistent and better organized with better content. It’s not just us. When you of what the CPD is doing, I think our brand is much greater than the sum of all of its parts. We rely on a community based effort to prepare students. [We] partner with Rocky, Dickey, Tucker, the athletic department, and the Alumni Relations Office, as well as really partnering with the President’s Office. You have to give a lot of credit to President Phil Hanlon. Here’s a president who has great initiatives – one of them being experiential learning, which is extremely imperative in preparing the young men and women of Dartmouth for leadership. We’re all working together as one team.