The privilege of attending an educational institution like Vassar College is presumably includes a virtual guarantee of employment upon successful completion of a degree.
The name and reputation of the school alone lend prestige to a résumé and put graduates ahead in the job market. However, those privileges are not always enough to ensure employment in students’ futures. Undergraduate students often struggle to find jobs and internships in the semester interims, despite the resources that Vassar offers in the Career Development Office and Field Work Office.
We at The Miscellany News believe that Vassar students would benefit from alternative programming during the school year and additional support materials to encourage a successful search for both entry-level job and internship opportunities.
Vassar celebrates the diversity of its student body, but it does not accommodate the needs of many students once they have arrived on campus. While the CDO provides many useful resources, they are largely inaccessible to students who may not be aware of how to approach them.
For low-income and first-generation students, taking the first steps in the job or internship search can be incredibly difficult, especially since there is little outreach to these groups. Instead they are expected to take the initiative in kickstarting their own career development.
In recent semesters, the CDO has sponsored field work fairs and similar events for publicizing professional opportunities and we believe that more of these events would be helpful for guiding students on these initial steps.
While useful in theory, CDO resources such as VCLink sometimes fail the students who stand to benefit from them the most. The listed job opportunities are geared mostly toward a select few majors or alumnae/i, and the positions offered are predominantly unpaid internships.
Not all students can afford the luxury of an entire summer of wageless work. It is an inherently classist concept, and the emphasis of the CDO on this system excludes students who rely on paid work to support themselves and finance their education. It would be useful if the College worked towards destigmatizing paying options like part-time and service jobs outside of students’ majors or desired careers.
Such jobs are a financial necessity for many people, and the college should focus on supplying a wider array of resources that would be beneficial to them. The Internship Grant Fund (IGF) is one example of Vassar’s commitment to making internship opportunities more accessible to students with financial need. But the IGF does not go far enough in offering a diverse array of career development options for low-income students.
The CDO needs to more fully embrace the world of wage labor and seek creative ways to give current students footholds into new fields without costing them all their savings.
Students who do accept unpaid internships may find it difficult to finance their living expenses, particularly since most opportunities publicized by the CDO are located in New York City and other large cities with high financial demands.
We believe that the College should provide more information on how to successfully balance an unpaid internship with living expenses. While the CDO offers many workshops for networking, interviewing, and resume writing, in many ways the support stops once the job starts; there is little programming that offers advice for living in a city on a budget, which is just as much of a reality for thousands of college students.
In addition, the CDO could make a more concerted effort to expand its geographic reach in its career listings. Most people cannot afford rent or transportation in New York City but many more might be able to accommodate the costs of Denver, for example.
While there are certainly valuable employment and internship opportunities in large metropolitan areas across the country, the Hudson Valley also offers ample possibilities in a diverse range of career paths just beyond our walls.
However, the College does not always advertise these opportunities well enough, and VCLink notoriously offers job leads in disproportionate numbers for some fields over others.
A student who wants to work in law or finance or medicine can find relatively established infrastructure for pursuing their career dreams.
Students who are instead seeking futures in alternative careers, like psychology, art and music or journalism have far cloudier trajectories. In these cases, Vassar would benefit from bringing in career insiders who could offer the same kind of practical advice that representatives from law and medical schools provide.
We do acknowledge the College’s efforts on behalf of students seeking community field work. Vassar provides transportation during the school week to field work locations, and makes housing available on campus during the summer for students working at or near Vassar in that period. Those resources should be more publicized so that students do not feel they have to exclude possible employment opportunities for lack of transportation or a place to live.
Many students who approach the CDO at the beginning their job search find that the resources are difficult to use and the opportunities are sparse.
Some majors may experience more difficulty in securing professional opportunities in general, but the CDO should be able to better assist these students with increased support services. We suggest a more user-friendly alumnae/i directory, through which students may be able to connect with representatives from a variety of fields in a more reliable way.
Additionally, a periodic update of this stronger directory would avoid the frustration of attempting to contact alumni no longer involved alumnae/i activity or unwilling to assist current students. It should be more obvious which alumnae/i are active in the network, in order to facilitate better alumnae/i-student interactions and achieve real placements in internships and jobs.
There is no excuse for Vassar to continue to look away from its students’ needs. The College takes it upon itself to be aware of the identities and interests of its students, and should apply that information to its career programming and resources. We believe that students can be better served by the institution which aims to prepare them for life beyond college.
—The Staff Editorial expresses the opinion of at least two-thirds of the Miscellany News Editorial Board