Inaugurating Haverford’s First Liberal Arts Career Conference

The CCPA event opened dialogues about career paths, networking, and professional resources between attendees from a variety of disciplines and industries.

Haverford’s Center for Career and Professional Advising (CCPA) launched its first ever Liberal Arts Career Conference to warm reception and robust attendance last Sunday as College alumni shared their wisdom and experiences with students at different stages of their academic and professional journeys. Conversations over lunch, panels, and workshops bridged majors and professions, giving students a glimpse into the many paths a liberal arts education can help forge.

The day started with a keynote conversation with Jenny Bogoni ’88, executive director of Read by 4th at the Free Library of Philadelphia Foundation, and Mark Naples ‘84, managing partner of WIT Strategy. After students got the chance to talk with alumni over lunch, they broke off into discipline-specific panels, followed by CCPA-led workshops and a panel of young alumni. The conference brought a multitude of excited alumni back to campus, and drew students from all class years. Dean of Career and Professional Advising Kelly Cleary said that that was the goal: to start conversations between students and alumni.

“Alumni are the foundation of our career-education program and our recruiting program,” she said. “An important piece of almost every conversation we have with a student is encouraging them to talk with alumni who’ve been through the process before or who work in the industries they’re interested in and can give them first-hand advice.”

The conference was a culmination of several years of brainstorming and experimentation on behalf of the CCPA. Five years ago, the office reorganized from a Bi-Co entity to a Haverford-specific career center that shares a recruiting program with Bryn Mawr and Swarthmore. Since the change, alumni interaction has only expanded with events like Fords in Finance and the Women’s Leadership Tea, as well as the Fords on Friday talks, which give students face-to-face time to discuss careers with alumni in different industries. Sunday’s event built on smaller-scale relationship-building events that give students a chance to practice networking skills in a low-pressure environment.

Throughout the day, alumni stressed the value of a liberal arts education and reiterated how important its focus on critical and creative thinking, writing, and communication are to forming the backbone of any profession. Though each alum’s story was unique, they demonstrated that no career path is linear, and that passion for a cause and a willingness to talk to people across industries can lead students to places they might not expect.

“If you stay fascinated with what you do and you stay focused on service, whether it’s helping a certain community or certain individuals… your career can do anything,” said Mark Naples ’84, who majored in religion, started his career as a school teacher, and eventually ended up in consulting.

Alongside widely applicable advice shared throughout the day, two “decoding the disciplines” panels for natural science, social science, and humanities forged spaces for alumni to share anecdotes about how their specific academic studies translated into skills in their careers.

Katie Van Aken ’12, who works in materials science and engineering with a team at Drexel, says she practiced explaining her work and studies to non-technical people at places like her dorm on campus and the Haverford Dining Center.

“I need to convince a venture capitalist to give me five million dollars so I can make iPhones that last twice as long,” she explained. “There’s some nuances there in how to explain that type of thing… at Haverford, I think you learn how to do this kind of thing without realizing it.”

Alongside learning from alumni, students also took away tips from the CCPA team about networking and job searching in the modern world using social media.

“I knew about LinkedIn, but I felt that this event would help me expand my tool belt.” said Andrew Eaddy ’19. “I learned how effective Twitter can be when it comes to networking and searching for jobs and internship positions.”

The CCPA is hoping to continually improve this event and others to open avenues between students and arguably their best resource in Haverford alumni. Though the office is still in the process of gaining student feedback, Cleary says, for an event that makes networking and knowledge accessible to students who may or may not have attended a CCPA event before, the future looks strong.

Photos by Holden Blanco ’17.