Undergraduates will not be the only students walking into 55 Whitney Ave. this year.
Formerly known as Undergraduate Career Services (UCS), Yale’s career advising office has expanded and rebranded itself as the Office of Career Strategy. In a Monday email to the student body, Yale College Dean John Holloway announced that the new office will advise both graduate and undergraduate students beginning this year. Previously, graduate students were advised by Graduate Career Services (GCS), which was disbanded in June after its director Victoria Blodgett left the University to become an assistant dean of graduate and postgraduate affairs at the University of Connecticut.
Though Blodgett’s position as the advisor primarily tasked with counseling graduate students has yet to be filled, Jeanine Dames, the former director of UCS who will now head the Office of Career Strategy, said the replacement process is ongoing and one of her most urgent priorities. In the meantime, both she and director of employment programs, Kenneth Koopmans, are acting as the primary advisors for graduate students.
Dames said undergraduates will not be negatively affected by the unification of the offices. If anything, undergraduates will benefit from the merger because alumni of the graduate school will now be accessible through the alumni database hosted on Symplicity, she said.
Although the number of advisors accessible to the graduate student body will not change, Koopmans said the unification of the office will empower the advisor who specializes in graduate student advising to spend more time on face-to-face sessions with students.
“By combining the offices, we can streamline a lot of work and expand employer outreach for both pools of students,” said Koopmans, who is also the deputy director of the Office of Career Strategies. He added that it was very difficult for Blodgett to cultivate employer relations while advising an entire student population on her own, whereas the Office of Career Strategies can spread that back-room work across a group of advisors.
Brian Dunican GRD ’15, a former president of the Graduate Student Assembly (GSA), said he is excited about this move because it follows years of administrative inactivity. Dunican said the GSA had been lobbying the administration for a number of years, asserting that its students were being underserved by the existing career resources available relative to students in other graduate schools. Although University officials were sympathetic in conversations with the GSA, Dunican said he saw little evidence that there would be administrative changes until after Blodgett’s resignation.
Joori Park GRD ’17, the current president of the GSA, said changes in the academic market have made it more important for students to have access to professional career counseling beyond their academic departments.
“Although your department might be the best source for finding a job within the academy, an increasing number of students are considering private sector jobs that their faculty advisors may not be best equipped to help you with,” she said.
Dames echoed Park’s statement, citing a case where one of her first graduate students, who was studying for a PhD in a STEM field, was interviewing for a position as an in-house science advisor for a top New York law firm.
Both Park and Dunican said the structural changes are important not only because they will free up the time of the full-time graduate student advisor, but also because they will provide graduate students with resources already available to undergraduates, such as Symplicity and an alumni database for references and networking.
Still, Dunican said it is important for Yale to follow up on this move by adding more advisors who specialize in advising graduate students.
“This is very much a step in the right direction, but I still think that the nearly 3,000 graduate students can use more than one advisor,” he said.
Citing a report compiled by the GSA last year, Park said both the graduate schools of University of Pennsylvania and Columbia have four career staff compared to Yale’s one. According to the GSA’s report, both Yale’s professional schools and Yale College also have much better advisor-to-student ratios.
Both Dames and Jane Edwards, dean of international and professional experiences and Yale College senior associate dean, said it is difficult to predict how this integration will affect the day-to-day routine of the office because the GCS did not record comprehensive data on subjects such as how many students utilized its services or at what times during the calendar year most students sought its counsel. It also did not have a robust online portal for students to use in lieu of in-person sessions.
“We’ll be carefully tracking the data in the first months to see if there’s a need to adjust or add resources,” Dames said.
Edwards said the transition comes at a fiscally challenging time for the University, adding that the Office of Career Strategy had its budget cut by approximately five percent this year. Still, she said the office will petition for more resources if students’ needs are not being met.
In order to prevent any potential confusion between the Online Course Selection (OCS) system that students use to select courses and the Office of Career Services, Koopmans said the office would try to reduce its usage of the acronym.
The Office of Career Services will maintain an office in Hall of Graduate Studies with walk-in hours from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. every weekday for graduate students.