Heather LaClare ’11 was diagnosed with a rare heart disease at age three. She spent her childhood testing medications and visiting the doctor every time she caught a cold. “Because of my condition, I was involved with organizations like Make- A-Wish Foundation, Camp Odayin, and Children’s Hospital,” she says. “It led meto my career path—to work with kids with chronic illnesses. I want to be what those organizations were for me.”
LaClare wasn’t sure where to start until she connected with Molly Lamon ’02, a volunteer coordinator at Children’s Hospital. Lamon described an internship that would allow LaClare to make rounds on inpatient floors and meet with hospital staff members. LaClare secured the internship last January and also volunteers at the hospital, holding babies and playing games with kids. “It’s neat to work at the hospital I’d been in and out of my whole life,” she says.
Hamline alumni are an integral part of the university’s Career Development Center (CDC). Alumni volunteer to perform mock interviews, explain how majors adapt to professional life, and help students find internships. The CDC has a professional network of more than 270 contacts, most of them Hamline alumni, who have greed to talk about their careers to interested students. “[Alumni] have inside information on companies and can explain how they got from Hamline to where they are now,” says Terry Middendorf, CDC director. “It’s a natural connection for students, and it’s another way for alumni to give back.”
Sue Kotila ’76, the Guthrie Theater’s director of visitor services, is grateful to Hamline for giving her an education. Kotila grew up in South America without running water or electricity, and came to Hamline on university-funded grants.
“Hamline didn’t tell me no, so I never tell myself no,” she says.
To show her appreciation, Kotila talks with students at on-campus career panels and job fairs.
“When I look at my career stepping stones, I see that it was mostly who I knew, not what I knew,” she says.
Matthew Reuter ’10 capitalized on connections he made while interning at Greeman Toomey law firm (partners James Greeman ’88 JD ’93 and Patrick Toomey ’98 JD ’02 are Hamline graduates) to land a full-time job upon graduation. Reuter is now a paralegal manager and oversees the firm’s growing internship program. “I see opportunity for the company and for Hamline students,” he says. “We train students and see what their capabilities are, and, if they prove themselves, we take them on. They then help us grow.”
These connections continue to play an important role in the job market. “As the market gets tighter, networking is where it’s at,” Middendorf says. “It’s even more important than in the past.”
To help students gain professional skills, Hamline typically brings in 75–100 alumni volunteers per year to conduct mock interviews for the Practice Interview Program (PIP). The program, now in its seventh year, started as a response to several employers who said Hamline students weren’t interviewing as effectively as other graduates. “The students had talent,” says Middendorf. “But they weren’t telling their stories well. We wanted to teach them how to articulate and sell the value of a liberal arts education.”
Maryan Saad ’04, a volunteer interviewer who works at the Minnesota Department of Public Safety helps students develop this art. “Its a tough market,” she says. “You have to be a shining star in an interview.”
PIP is proven to work. Student evaluations consistently indicate that they benefit from the training, and their connections with interviewers have led to internships and jobs. They also gain the confidence to approach other professionals.
The CDC’s newest program, the Career Advisors Network, is a growing database of alumni from myriad career fields. The system is searchable by major and employer, and all of the sources listed are willing to answer student questions. Middendorf hopes to encourage more alumni participation. “We’re pushing thishard,” he says.
Also new is the Major Decisions Fair—a one-stop-shop for students declaring majors. This year’s fair drew nearly 200 students who met with faculty members, alumni, and current majors to learn how various disciplines can evolve into careers. Artika Tyner ’03 sat with the English department and described her work as a practicing attorney. “It’s a great opportunity for students to practice their networking skills and learn about various careers,” she says.
First-year Carissa Wallerich attended this year’s fair with a big agenda: double major in biology and psychology. At the fair, she met Joel Oberstar ’97, a doctor at the University of Minnesota, who offered her an opportunity to shadow a child psychiatrist.
The experience opened Wallerich’s eyes to the challenges doctors face. She observed inpatient rounds and appointments with children battling serious medical conditions, including bipolar disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorders. She saw the doctor buried in paperwork and continuing education classes. “I didn’trealize doctors have so much outside work,” she says. “They work a ton of hours. I could still have a family, but I probably wouldn’t have as much time as I would with other jobs.” Still, the experience confirmed her desire to work in the medical field.
LaClare agrees that the professional connections she’s made through the CDC have cemented her career goals. “It began with a passion to make a difference in the lives of kids with chronic illnesses,” she says. “This confirmed it.”
Get involved! Contact the CDC at 651-523-2302 or firstname.lastname@example.org to see how you can help Hamline students on the road to success.