Nearly two years after the departure of the last Career Center director, career services at Boston College can claim a new commander. Joseph Du Pont, Esq. joins BC from Brandeis University, where he worked since 2007 to expand the reach and capabilities of their Hiatt Career Center. With a resume that boasts the introduction of innovative ways to engage students and an extensive history of collaborations with other departments, Du Pont brings to the Heights all the things BC’s career center needs, according to Vice President for Student Affairs (VPSA) Barbara Jones.
“He certainly has a wealth of experience, but it’s more than that,” Jones said. “He really has a vision of where a career center can go-what it needs to look like in the future to best position our students to be able to get not only that first job but to have the skills that they’re going to need for their lifetime.”
Du Pont’s position will be slightly different from that of past career center directors, however. He will assume one of five associate VPSA titles under the reorganization of the division of Student Affairs that was announced on April 2. Designed to foster greater collaboration within the division and beyond, the reorganization will give associate vice president (AVP) designations to Du Pont, Executive Director for Student Affairs Katie O’Dair, Director of the Office of Residential Life George Arey, and the new Dean of Students, when he or she is appointed. Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Thomas McGuinness, who oversees University Counseling Services, Health Services, Eagle EMS, and the Office of Health Promotion, will retain his AVP designation.
Under the new structure, Arey will continue to oversee all things pertaining to residential life, while O’Dair will assume direction of graduate student life, Title IX compliance, assessment, and the Women’s Center (formerly the Women’s Resource Center), as well as a new leadership center. Du Pont’s responsibilities will be predominantly the same as those of previous career center directors, but Jones said she hopes that the new structure will elevate the role by prompting and facilitating greater collaboration with other programs and departments.
Jones began thinking about a restructuring soon after she arrived at BC last summer, when she learned from current Dean of Students Paul Chebator that he would be retiring at the end of the academic year. After spending a semester familiarizing herself with all the parts and functions of student affairs, she began the reorganization in January with the goal of having the new job description prepared for when the search for a new Dean of Students began.
Her examination of the division of student affairs led her to the conclusion that its purpose is to provide three things to students-services, support, and engagement. When beginning the reorganization, she tried to create subdivisions that would not only inspire collaboration, but also made sense within the framework of these goals.
She noted that the Dean of Students Office (DSO) as being the primary place for providing services to students, while the health-related programs under McGuinness are the primary source of support. O’Dair’s responsibilities focus on the engagement of students, while both residential life and career services can be seem as a melding of all three, according to Jones.
Jones’s decision to give the career center director the AVP designation is also in line with a larger trend occurring across the country.
“Nationally, the titles for career folks have really started to change,” she said. “You were seeing more positions out there that were assistant or associate vice president or vice provost, or some title like that-higher in the hierarchy to reflect the institutional nature of the position. So we went back and took a look at it and decided that we would change that title while we were still in the process of looking. Part of it is just to be competitive with other top schools.”
This change in title was partially what attracted Du Pont to the position-he said he believes it is a reflection of the value BC puts on career discernment. In addition, he is eager to explore the collaboration opportunities presented by the new structure.
“Career services really sits at the nexus of a lot of really important stake holders on campus, and if you have an opportunity to collaborate and work with faculty and alumni and the Board of Trustees and friends of your school and students, you could do some really tremendous, dynamic things,” he said.
Having studied history and religion at Duke University, and later earning a law degree from Georgetown and a Masters in Student Personal Administration from New York University, Du Pont’s professional experience is as varied as his education. He spent his first year out of Duke serving in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in New Orleans before working as a teacher and guidance counselor for a Catholic prep school in Long Island. After a year in that role, he went on to law school. Following graduation, he worked as a real estate attorney for the next five years before going to school for his masters. He has worked in career services since 1997 at both NYU and Brandeis, and Teach for America, where he was the Vice President of the Office of Career and Civic Opportunities.
“I love working in value-driven organizations,” he said. “I’ve sought that out in my life, and BC is certainly a value-driven organization. When you talk specifically about the Jesuits, you have to think about personal discernment, high educational achievement, and an emphasis on helping others … That’s just a tremendous community to be a part of and to do this important work.”
As a father of three and someone who experienced first-hand the increasingly non-linear nature of career paths, Du Pont said he hopes to foster a culture around career services at BC that is welcoming to students who are unsure of what they wish to do after graduation. He also wants to ensure that students remain open to the serendipity inherent in college life and are unafraid to explore unexpected opportunities. These ingredients to a successful career discernment environment are largely cultural, however, and therefore do not lie in the hands of the career center alone. Thus, Du Pont hopes to incorporate all areas of BC-academic and administrative-in the development of career services on campus.
“Career success for students is an institutional priority,” he said. “It’s not just the career office that has to work on that. The career office should be an integral part of that, it should be a thought leader for the campus community and at large, but when you have the entire community working toward that and a culture that’s set up like BC where that’s possible, the possibilities are pretty amazing.”
Jones is confident that Du Pont has the vision necessary to transform career services at BC from something utilized by the career-conscious few to a productive, far-reaching, and individualized experience that lasts four years.
“He has really taken [Brandeis’] career center, and built it into something very special, and I hope that we’ll see that same thing happen here,” she said.