Yesterday’s presidential debate began with a question from a student who is worried about finding a job after graduation. In this economy he expressed a valid concern.
At Whittier College we are looking to one of our most important strengths – intense faculty and student interaction in small class settings – to address this same concern, and we have an excellent base to build upon. We know that the qualities employers want to see in candidates for jobs map nicely onto what our faculty want to instill in every graduate: writing and oral communication skills, ability to work well in groups to achieve complex tasks, a propensity to think through challenges from multiple points of view, and cultural competence evidenced by understanding and respect for people of all backgrounds.
Whittier has always focused on providing these educational outcomes. However, this summer, the faculty took this focus up a notch by spending time thinking through how the faculty might better integrate career development and tracking into the curriculum and into departmental activities. The faculty even made career preparation the subject of their August retreat, and brainstormed about what skills and experiences students should have by the end of their first year at the College and each successive year. While a group of faculty leaders continues with this “whole campus” discussion, our Dean will work with individual departments to enact changes to particular disciplines to benefit our students.
And with all of this activity as background, I look forward to next week, when over 250 people – most of them former students – will come back over Whittier Weekend to celebrate three professors who for a combined 125 years of teaching have exemplified our faculty’s devotion to students’ success after college. Professors Fred Bergerson, Mike McBride, and John Neu have provided generations of Whittier students with foundational academic excellence in the classroom, connections to professional networks leading to graduates’ first and subsequent jobs, and countless hours of inspirational advice, encouragement, and resumé reading on the side.
I wish all students could experience a Whittier education.