Resources v. Advice: One Dean/Parent's Story
Posted on March 9, 2011
By Mark Hoesly, Dean of the Filene Center for Academic and Career Advising
I write this entry from my vantage point as both the Dean of Wheaton’s Filene Center for Academic Advising and Career Services and the father of a college sophomore. In these distinct but, in this case, related roles I have come to appreciate the value that well-informed, and appropriately involved, parents can have in the lives of college students.
My son is a sophomore at a fine college about five hours from Wheaton and this semester circumstances are converging in such a way that he is now (finally!) beginning to appreciate the benefits of my, and his mother's, life experience and to seek out our advice and assistance. In addition to a full academic course load he is simultaneously searching for a meaningful internship for this summer, planning his study abroad experience for next spring and also searching for off-campus housing because, unlike Wheaton, his college doesn’t guarantee housing for juniors and seniors. That is a lot of things for this particular nineteen-year-old to juggle, but so far things are going well. It has been helpful that I have spent some time on his school’s website checking out the career services/internship programs, the global/study abroad programs and policies regarding off-campus housing. I have been able to refer him to particular programs and to suggest that he make use of campus resources.
He seems to take it better when I refer to the programs I’ve read about and urge him to take advantage of the resources available to him rather than giving "my" advice too directly. I have to force myself to remember that even if he doesn’t yet fully appreciate my advice as a college administrator who has done this work for a quarter of a century, it likely has something to do with the fact that to him I am his father, not his dean. I cling to the hope that comes from the old adage, "the older I get, the smarter my parents get" and wait, with varying degrees of patience, for some acknowledgment that there is truth in that statement.
Some parents are fortunate enough to have (or to have produced) children who are planful, focused, organized, who seek out opportunities to take initiative and innately seem to understand the educational value of experiences that happen outside the classroom. I know that these parents exist because I work with your children every day and it is a true pleasure. Other parents, probably the majority of us, are not quite so blessed. Our kids are good (or even great) young people who have brilliant, shining moments during which they display wonderful potential and then they go and slip back into being nineteen-year-olds.
Maturation is a process that can’t always be charted on a graph as a straight, steady incline. In many instances there are moments when, or experiences from which, young people really learn a lasting life lesson—and that line shoots up at an impressive angle. Other times it tends to plateau. Some of those lessons are learned spontaneously and others are learned from intentional efforts to expose oneself to opportunities for such learning. The college years are filled with these moments—informal interactions with professors, coaches or staff members around the Dimple or on the field/court, surprisingly meaningful discussions that occur at 2:00 AM in the residence halls, sudden breakthroughs in the lab, studio or library that seem to materialize out of nowhere. It is our goal at Wheaton, and specifically in the Filene Center, to create the opportunity for as many of these intentional "teachable moments" for our students as possible. These include summer internships (and jobs), research opportunities, workshops and networking events at which students get "real world" advice from Wheaton alumnae/i.
Part of being a well-informed parent is being knowledgeable about opportunities, programs and services to which our students are not always paying attention. Career Services at the Filene Center has a wealth of such opportunities. Consistent with Wheaton’s overall approach to education, our services are anchored in the idea that individual advising, sitting with students and getting to know their interests, passions and skills, is preferable to expecting students to take on-line career interest or skills inventories (even though those instruments can be valuable tools in some instances). In addition to this personalized career advising we offer a number of other programs and services for our students:
Career Curriculum—Career Success By Design
The Career Curriculum is our four-year career plan that lays out what students can and should be doing in each of their four years at Wheaton to prepare themselves for their success beyond campus. Explore. Connect. Focus. Apply.
Summer Internships and Funding Opportunities
We encourage students to meet with a career services advisor as early as their first semester on campus and to check out the Job and Internship Databases on our website. Wheaton also provides almost $500,000 per year in stipends to students participating in unpaid summer internships.
Here is a sampling of the workshops that we offer:
- Career Services for First Year Students
- Sweats to Suits: From Wheaton to the Workplace—A Four Part Professional Development program for Seniors that includes:
- Dress for Success and Networking Reception with Alumnae/i,
- Social Media and the Job Search,
- Personal Finances After Wheaton, and
- Customized Informational Interviews with Alumnae/i.
- How to Use Your Merit Scholar Stipend
- How to Find an Internship
- Resume and Cover Letter Workshop
- LinkedIn Lab
- Information sessions on many of the curricular and experiential programs that we offer.
Networking with Alumnae/i and Trustees
One of Wheaton’s greatest assets is the willingness of our alumnae/i to give back to current Wheaton students in the form of panel discussions, networking receptions, individual informational interviews, and resume review. They also generously post internships and jobs in our databases so that Wheaton students can benefit from their professional success.