‘Beyond Your Backpack’ Examines Life After College

College is a time of growth, both academically and personally, that prepares students for the next chapter of their life: employment. While classes help students expand their knowledge in certain subject areas, there is always more learning to be done outside the classroom. The objective of Beyond Your Backpack, a new program offered by the Student Engagement Center, is to acquaint students with these extracurricular learning experiences.

The program is comprised of six workshop sessions, occurring weekly in Reid Campus Center, every Thursday until Oct. 24. The workshops are intended to be applicable to all students, although some subjects might be more relevant to certain students.

“It really depends on the student and where they are in the process,” said Director for Business Engagement Kim Rolfe. “I wouldn’t say that out of any of them there’s one that everyone should go to. It’s all based on where you’re at in the process.”

In each workshop, various SEC employees, chosen depending on their field of expertise, will give students insight on how to best prepare themselves for employment and life after school.  The first workshop, titled “Where Do I Begin?” took place on Thursday, Sept. 19 and focused on personal development on the path towards finding a career.

The first workshop consisted of reflective exercises that helped students discover what subject or field they are passionate about. From there, the workshop dealt with how to use that knowledge in order to acquire beneficial work experience relating to their passion.

The second workshop, following “Where Do I Begin?”, is titled “Resumes, Profiles and Letters,” and is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 26. This second workshop will cover the process necessary to present oneself as an appealing employee to employers.

In addition, there are workshops that cover networking, interviews and making the best of your time on the job.  The only section targeted at a specific field is centered around business writing.

Although the program attempts to cover a wide variety of subjects, the program is more oriented towards upperclassmen who are closer to starting their careers.

“It’s probably more geared towards upperclassmen,” said Rolfe. “There are some freshmen who could definitely benefit from the first two workshops, but in terms of where a student is in the process in their first year, given how early we’re offering these in the semester, first year is a time where students need to embrace where they are. They just got here.”

Over the course of the Beyond Your Backpack program, students will learn the skills, tools and savviness necessary to secure themselves success in the career field the pursue. Each week the workshop topic is designed to add another level of insight into career success, as well as walk students through everything they might need to exceed expectations in the workplace.

The idea for the program was something Rolfe began planning before she was even hired to the Whitman staff, although she imagined it on an even larger scale, with many more components.

“It’s something that I take back to when I was a student going through college. That’s not something that’s ever really taught but it’s very valuable,” said Rolfe. “The reality is that at the end of your time here there are some skills that you need that don’t necessarily play into your liberal arts education, and I want to make sure we can provide those in addition.”

Ultimately Rolfe would like to make this an annual program that the SEC offers in the fall and make it more applicable to underclassmen.




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