OCS, coaches, athletic alums advise student-athletes on post-grad plans
While juggling sports and academics, graduating student-athletes have utilized resources ranging from the Office of Career Strategy’s newly created Affinity/Identity Community to alumni, team and coaching support to begin their professional paths.
Anasthasia Shilov, Illustrations Editor
Women’s basketball guard Ellen Margaret Andrews ’21 will be working for Teach for America in Newark, New Jersey this fall after participating in Division I basketball for four years and receiving advice from teammates, alumni, coaching staff and the Office of Career Strategy on her post-graduation plans.
OCS maintains an Affinity/Identity Community for student-athletes — one of seven such communities created last August. Other OCS Affinity/Identity Communities include ones for students of color and international students. According to Jeanine Dames, director of OCS and associate dean of Yale College, the Affinity/Identity Communities were created with the guidance of experts in the Yale community and serve to allow students to “pursue their career search within a community of peers.”
OCS offers a range of programming opportunities for student-athletes and releases outcome reports for the group. This year, graduating student-athletes are leaving New Haven for graduate schools, service careers and professional careers in a range of industries.
“The Athletic Department and Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) work closely with the Office of Career Services to provide opportunities for all student-athletes to take advantage of the programming offered by OCS,” Yale women’s lacrosse head coach Erica Bamford wrote in an email to the News.
Through the affinity community, student-athletes receive specialized advising, programming and resources to aid their career exploration and job search process. In typical years, Robyn Acampora, director of Strategic Initiatives and Public Service Careers at OCS, offers advising sessions for athletes every Friday in Payne Whitney’s Trophy Room — an opportunity that has adapted to a virtual format this year. In addition, Acampora gives specialized talks for individual varsity teams, who are able to request a specific topic of interest — such as the job search process, mock interviews and internships.
Further, OCS organizes an annual “Student Athlete Resume Blitz” event — where athletes participate in 15-minute resume reviews with an advisor — and have designed resources geared toward student-athletes, such as a document about transferable skills from sports to the workplace. OCS also encourages student-athletes to network with alumni who have walked in their shoes, Acampora said.
“I emphasize networking as a very critical part of the career exploration and internship/job search process,” Acampora wrote in an email to the News. “It is important for student athletes to connect with former student athletes who have previously been in their shoes and understand the demands of juggling both the academic schedule along with the 20+ hour demands during one’s athletic season.”
Acampora added that all of Yale’s varsity teams maintain alumni groups on Yale Cross Campus. She noted that although some teams have more extensive alumni networks than others, she encourages student-athletes to make connections beyond their own sport.
For women’s rower Jenna Van de Grift ’21, advice from an alumnus aided her graduate school application and transfer process. She is set to enroll at the University of Southern California as a graduate student at the Marshall School of Business’s Master of Science Marketing program this summer.
“If you wanted help from alumni, you could reach out and they would help you. I did reach out to an alum,” Van de Grift explained in an interview with the News. “One girl from my class of 2020 graduated and grad-transferred to Texas, so I did use her as a resource. I didn’t reach out to much older alumni just because there was so much going on and it happened so fast, but I know that they would be supportive of it.”
With unused NCAA eligibility from spring 2020 and 2021, Van de Grift plans to continue rowing at USC.
OCS has also released first destination outcome reports for student-athletes in the classes of 2018 and 2019. In 2018, six percent of student-athlete survey respondents reported entering a career as a professional athlete; in 2019, the number rose to 10 percent.
Professional athleticism takes on a different form across different sports. For women’s crew, a professional career would revolve around international competition representing one’s nation while other sports provide direct access to professional competitive leagues, such as in the case of men’s hockey captain Phil Kemp ’21, who is signed to the Edmonton Oilers of the National Hockey League.
Women’s basketball captain Andrews, a former sports reporter at the News, did not consider professional sports as a career option.
“I had as much of a passion for academics as I did for athletics,” Andrews explained. “I liked that sports and being a part of a team could be an added element of my life, something that is part of me, but that doesn’t define me and something that brought me a lot of joy and learned a lot of great lessons from, but I never envisioned it as being the heart of my identity or my career.”
When compared to the student body as a whole, student-athletes entered finance at around twice the rate of the overall class — 34.2 percent in 2018 and 27 percent in 2019, compared to 15.4 percent for both the class of 2018 and the class of 2019 as a whole.
Van de Grift, who will look for jobs during her marketing program, noted that the job market’s uncertainty during the pandemic influenced her decision to attend graduate school.
“When COVID hit, it was looking like things were pretty bad in the job market obviously and I wasn’t one of those finance people who had an internship two years before for that summer,” Van de Grift reflected. “Last spring, I started exploring graduate schools and the option of grad transferring came up … I just thought it was such an amazing opportunity to still row and close the chapter on my rowing career as well as continue my education.”
While Andrews applied for Teach for America in September, committed to the program that fall and was hired by a school in March, she also cited uncertainty around what she wants to pursue long-term as a reason for choosing the program.
“I was in the mindset that I wasn’t ready upon graduation to totally decide my career straight up right then, [and] pick something right there and be committed to it for the rest of my life, and the good thing about TFA is that it’s a two-year commitment,” Andrews explained. “I know that it’s only two years, but if I find that I really have a passion and love for teaching, then it’s a great jumping off point to continue.”
During her application process, Andrews was expected to apply first to Teach for America and then to partner schools after acceptance. She said she received support from her teammates in the form of written references for applications and from her head coach, Allison Guth, in the form of encouragement and letters of recommendation.
Women’s lacrosse coach Bamford noted that coaches “share opportunities, offer advice and often provide letters of recommendations for both our current students and alumnae.”
The Office of Career Strategy is located on the third floor of 55 Whitney Ave.