Hamline News

Launching Careers

Bew Lowndes

By Dave Hrbacek

Perched on a freeway overpass near downtown Saint Paul, Ben Lowndes JD ’14 can’t help but smile as rush hour traffic swooshes by beneath his feet. To some degree, Lowndes can take credit for the smooth flow of traffic on I-94 this day.
 
Immediately following his graduation with a Juris Doctor from the School of Law and a Certificate in Advocacy and Problem-Solving from Hamline’s Dispute Resolution Institute, Lowndes accepted a full-time position as assistant ombudsman at the Minnesota Department of Transportation. The office he works for helps resolve transportation conflicts that arise between different interest groups.

Lowndes says the assistance he received from the law school’s Career Services Office helped him land a job that’s a perfect fit for his skills and education.

 
“To be honest, I didn’t know that jobs like those at the MnDOT Ombudsman’s Office even existed before applying for a semester-long externship,” he says. “The externship program helped me learn more about the broader field of dispute resolution, develop strong professional relationships with my supervisor and co-workers, and prepare for the day-to-day work after law school.”

Lowndes’ experience is exactly what law school placement staff are hoping for as they work intensely with students to help them find jobs after graduation. Nancy Lochner, director of career services at the law school, says the process begins the minute students arrive on campus to begin the three-year program.
 
“We are present at day one of law school orientation,” Lochner says. “We remain in consistent—at least monthly—contact, offering assistance and referrals and doing what we can with each graduate until he or she finds a job. We also serve alumni forever.”
 
That same commitment to career preparation and placement is offered to all undergraduate and graduate students at Hamline.
 
“The career-development process really starts from the first day students get to campus, all the way through their senior year and beyond,” says Christine Francis, a career counselor in the Career Development Center. “There’s a wide variety of things we can do along the way. It’s much more than getting that internship or getting that full-time job.”
 
For undergrads, it starts with choosing the right major. A key resource to help is the Major Decisions Fair held each fall for students who are undecided about a field of study or who are uncertain about how they might apply their major in a future career.
 
At the fair, students hear from alumni, faculty, and other students who can articulate the reasons why they chose their major. The fair helps students not only understand the majors offered at Hamline, but puts them in touch with a network of alumni who can help them in other ways. Last year, about 400 students attended the event.
 
Another important resource is called Piper Connect, a database of more than 600 Hamline alumni who have volunteered to help students. Students can reach out to the alumni with quick questions about majors and career fields or develop longer-term relationships.

For graduate students in the School of Business, Clare Foley is there to help with both job-search workshops and one-on-one counseling.
 
There’s even an annual Etiquette Dinner that helps students learn the proper way to hold a fork and knife as well as other business etiquette. Last year, 134 students and 34 alumni volunteers took part.

Hannah Plagman ’14, who graduated with a degree in communication studies and a minor in religion, was the head student in charge of the most recent Etiquette Dinner. She now works at Carrousel Travel in the Groups Travel Department as a full-time intern with the possibility of the job becoming permanent in the next few months.
 
“I think the Etiquette Dinner is one of the best events on campus,” Plagman says. “It helps you become confident with professionals and peers. It’s an open and safe place to ask Hamline alumni how interviews normally work, what companies are looking for right now, and how to stand out [as an applicant]. I think once you know the highest level of etiquette, it’s easy to feel confident and comfortable in every other eating setting. I have to use the knowledge I learned at the Etiquette Dinner in my work field very often.”

Career success stories for Hamline students abound. Sherrie Fernandez-Williams MFA ’05, Bridges Scholars Program director until September, points to Jean Xiong ’14 as a recent example.
 
“During her junior year, Jean, a criminal justice and forensic sciences major, had the goal of applying for a competitive internship with the BCA [Bureau of Criminal Apprehension],” Fernandez-Williams says. “The application was due in March. However, throughout the month of February, Jean came to me week after week with new edits on her application materials. We refined and refined until we both felt good about the final product.
 
“When Jean was called in for an interview, again she came to me week after week to practice her interviewing skills,” Fernandez-Williams says. “In addition, I connected her with a former police officer turned criminal justice scholar. My contact provided Jean with career-specific advice and gave her an understanding of how to stand out in the field. Jean was offered the internship and spent the summer before her senior year gaining valuable work experience.”
 
Not long after graduation, Xiong landed her dream job as a Hmong women’s advocate.