A liberal arts education combined with UChicago’s preprofessional services are “a one-two punch” of career preparation, Daw says.

A liberal arts education combined with UChicago’s preprofessional services are “a one-two punch” of career preparation, Daw says. (Photo courtesy CAPS)

Future perfect

Career Advancement executive director Meredith Daw discusses the growth in services that assist students in preparing for the future.

I remember the day I first entered Ida Noyes Hall in 2003—it’s hard not to be inspired when stepping into a building with that history. I was joining the office of Career Advising and Planning Services (CAPS). Like its physical home, CAPS had an impressive history of serving the students of the University. Over the past decade, I’ve been part of a large team that has transformed CAPS into a world-class model charged with no less than the future success of each University of Chicago student. This transformation reached a milestone last year when we rebranded our office as Career Advancement.

Our new name reflects the broader mission and deeper student engagement that we now have. During the past year, we worked with more than 4,300 undergraduate students, and we now also invest in supporting students earlier. We’ve launched a new series for first-years called Steps to Success. This class-wide program provides a foundation for career exploration and readiness. Students say they really enjoy the program, and we’ve increased our engagement with first-years from about 25 percent to over 80 percent. We are also connecting earlier with graduate students as more PhDs explore job options outside of the academy.

I’m constantly impressed and inspired by our students. The best feeling in the world is when a student I have been working with secures his or her dream internship or job, or is accepted into a graduate or professional school program—and I helped them get there.

Career Advancement also provides a rich set of professional development and experiential education opportunities. We now offer nine unique UChicago Careers in… programs that enable College students to explore education professions, public and social service, health professions, law, business, and other career areas. This past year, we also helped facilitate over 570 Metcalf internships across nine countries and 45 US cities. In response to high student demand, we now offer 29 annual treks to visit employers in places like New York, São Paulo, Silicon Valley, and Singapore, and we’ll be expanding our trek program even further over the next several years. Finally, we provide job shadowing opportunities to help 250 first- and second-year students hone in on their field of interest.

None of this would be possible without the extraordinary support we receive from our alumni. It’s an amazing feeling to have a former student contact me and say, “I appreciate everything that your office has done for me, and now I want to give back.” Almost all of our programs are made possible by generous alumni who not only give financially but also give their time and talents to support current students. I really thrive on seeing our students grow, succeed, and give back.

Which brings me back to Ida Noyes Hall: completed in 1916, the building was designed to be a social center for women on campus. We want it to be seen now as the center for Career Advancement, where students, staff, and employers engage as a career community. This community is made up of the hundreds of students that we work with individually, the thousands of students that our office serves in some way each year, and the generations of alumni who support us day in and day out. I hope that the next time you visit campus you will stop in Ida Noyes and join us in continuing to grow this Career Advancement community.