SOM career development office gains new director

The School of Management’s career development office will gain a new director in March, and SOM students and administrators are hoping the new leadership will increase collaboration between the office and students.

SOM Dean Edward Snyder announced Monday that Julia Zupko, the former director of operations at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, will replace Ivan Kerbel as head of the career development office after he steps down for personal reasons at the end of the academic year. Considering that some SOM students feel the office does not provide the services it should, Senior Associate Dean for the MBA Program Jeanette Gorgas said Zupko was selected for her experience in career services across many sectors at Booth and will lead her office in partnering with student groups.

“People come to places like SOM … to get career opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise have,” Snyder said. “We have a challenge — it’s a fun challenge, an exciting challenge — to be able to develop high-quality opportunities in all sectors.”

Zupko has worked in the career services department at Booth since 2001, where she witnessed the school expand its career services in several sectors, such as non-profit and government work, Snyder wrote in a Monday email to SOM students. Zupko also directed career management operations for Booth’s international campuses in London and Singapore, Snyder wrote, which he told the News will be important as SOM pursues its goal of building partnerships with international business schools.

Zupko could not be reached for this article, and Kerbel declined to comment.

As SOM is a relatively small school that can sometimes have difficulty bringing recruiters to campus, Gorgas said she hopes Zupko will work more closely with student groups in her new role at SOM to cater to their interests.

Jeanette Gorgas, SOM’s senior associate dean for MBA programs, said SOM students have diverse post-graduation plans ­— ranging from careers in finance and consulting to non-profit work and the public sector — and have equally varied expectations for what services the career development office should offer.

“The expectation of what the CDO should deliver varies widely,” Gorgas said. “Pretty much, the expectation is that we be great in all of these areas.”

SOM professor Ravi Dhar, who was on the search committee that appointed Zupko, said many schools struggle with the “development” aspect of career services offices because providing students with individualized counseling is difficult.

Search committee member Sura Tilakawardane SOM ’13 said Zupko had “really thought about” the challenge SOM faces in coordinating career recruitment for a small student body, Tilakawardane said. He added that Zupko proposed a number of solutions to the school’s recruitment issues, though he declined to discuss them in detail.

Gorgas said some of the school’s professional clubs — organizations that cater to students interested in specific careers — provide members with career counseling services. She added that the career development office is working to foster dialogue with students to set clearer expectations about the office’s work.

Two SOM students who lead professional clubs said their organizations tend to provide the skills needed for obtaining a job, while the career development office maintains relationships with employers.

“There is a perception gap between expectations and delivery of the CDO, which is rooted in the name of the department,” consulting club co-chair Sanjin Bicanic SOM ’12 said in a Thursday email. “Development suggests professional development, when it really stands for the development of relationships.”

SOM finance club president Michael Nichols SOM ’12 said in a Thursday email that his club offers one-on-one counseling, mock interviews and other training services to its members, sometimes charging a fee to help fund the opportunities. The career development office should include the members of professional clubs in planning, Nichols said, adding that while the office is involved with some of his club’s efforts, no formal partnership is in place.

Greg Jacobs SOM ’12, co-president of the general management and operations club, said in a Thursday email that students in his club often look for jobs that employ few MBA students. He added that these students often find the career development office’s services less helpful than their peers pursuing traditional business careers, in which on-campus recruiting efforts are more prominent.

Zupko will formally assume her new position March 5.

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