The Boston College Career Center is approaching its second full year without a director. As Vice President for Student Affairs Barbara Jones and Career Center Associate Director for Employment Recruiting and Relations Lou Gaglini, along with many others associated with the center, understand better and better what direction the Career Center must take in the future, the trouble is finding the right person to steer it there.
The former director, Theresa Harrigan, left BC in July of 2012, and the position has remained vacant since. According to Jones, the prolonged absence of a director has been the result of circumstance. Harrigan left in the middle of the summer-a bad time to start the hiring process in higher education. Then, in early November of 2012, Patrick Rombalski, former VPSA, announced he was leaving BC. The University decided to make the hiring of a new VPSA its first priority, and the Career Center, which falls under the larger division of student affairs, remained director-less. Jones was hired to replace Rombalski and arrived at BC in July of 2013. At the start of the school year, she decided to bring in a consultant to evaluate the career center and give her a better idea of where it needed to improve. Also in the fall, a search committee to find the new director was formed.
“We brought a couple of applicants in late January, early February, and we are still looking at the pool,” Jones said. “The people we brought in were very talented, just not quite what we were looking for.”
Jones wants the right person to establish and implement the vision for the center-a vision that both she and Gaglini believe should take a more well-rounded and complete approach to the process of helping students find a career. Traditionally, career centers have taken a more “transactional” approach to helping students, Jones said. They were places where students would come in, receive information, and leave-maybe once, maybe regularly, maybe never. Both Jones and Gaglini see the Career Center at BC moving away from this model by focusing on fostering a “career community,” in which the process of discerning one’s career will not be limited to time spent within the physical Career Center and talking to its staff.
“A career community is what we’re all a part of,” Gaglini said. “That means the faculty have input, the administration has input, I want the students to have input, the employers have input, and I want to see a Career Center director who can bring all that together. As career development professionals, we do have expertise in certain areas, but we certainly do not own the business of careers here. It’s the whole University that really plays a big part.”
Both Jones and Gaglini believe that the Jesuit process of discernment is inextricably linked with the process of deciding which career path to pursue. In this way, they believe that the mission of the Career Center fits in well with the mission of BC as a whole. Jones remarked that the three questions she heard Rev. Michael Himes, S.J. pose to the incoming class at orientation last year describe perfectly the approach a successful career center should take: What do you like to do? Are you good at it? Does the world need it?
In order to be truly effective in implementing this philosophy of leading students to the right career, however, the Career Center must reach more students and reach them earlier. It has already begun making strides toward accomplishing this by partnering with other departments, such as the Office of Residential Life or academic departments, to bring its services to more students.
In addition, it has begun holding office hours in 825 Centre St. on Newton Campus in order to make become more accessible to the 700 freshmen there. The staff of the Career Center also works hard to expand the number and variety of companies that recruit at BC, according to Gaglini, so it can cater to all students’ interests. He spoke of recent career fairs that focused on jobs in education, non-profits, and “green” businesses.
Still, he and Jones both admit that more must be done to reach students. While Jones stressed the need to improve their use of technology to connect with undergraduates, Gaglini cited the location of the Career Center as the primary hindrance to making it a significant fixture in a students’ time at BC.
“It would be terrific to be a centralized location, where students do not have to make the Career Center a destination,” Gaglini said. “It could be on their way to class or on their way from class.”
Currently, the center is housed in Southwell Hall, a small brick structure located on Comm. Ave. just between 66 and St. Ignatius Church. The building is over 100 years old and still very much resembles a family home, which it was until about 20 years ago. Gaglini remarked that more than once, an old resident of the home has stopped in asking to see the upstairs because that was where his or her bedroom was as a child.
Due to a combination of age, an original purpose very different from the one it serves now, and the rapidly changing landscape of career services, Southwell Hall is in constant need of updates. Added to its out-of-the-way location, these factors make Southwell Hall a place that some students never set foot in before graduation. Jones, too, hopes to change this.
“Eventually, the University is going to build a new student center where the Rec Plex is now, and I’d love to see the Career Center as a part of that new building,” she said.
For now, however, the main search is not for a new location, but for a new leader. The staff members have put in extra hours and taken on extra responsibilities over the past 19 months to ensure that nothing fell behind in the absence of a director, according to Gaglini, and Jones recognizes the need for the role to be filled soon. She has high standards for the person who will eventually fill the position, though she jokingly remarked that her ideal time to hire someone new is “yesterday.”