Jan. 8, 2004
Vol. 23 No. 7

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    Alumni encourage third-years to ‘take the next step’

    By Josh Schonwald
    News Office

    Unlike in previous years, the third-year students who attend the College’s Seventh Annual Taking the Next Step event Saturday will have little choice: they will have to interact with alumni.

    More than 170 alumni of the College—80 from around the country, who are participating as panelists, and 90 local alumni invited specifically to the lunch—will swarm into the Westin Hotel on Michigan Avenue. Each of the 450 to 500 students expected to attend will be assigned to a lunch table where three alumni will be seated. Students also will have the chance to talk with alumni at a dessert reception at the end of the day’s events.

    “If there was only one member of the alumni community at the table, even two at the table (which seats 10), they could get away with not talking to each other. But with three alumni, there’s no way they won’t engage each other,” said Linda Choi, Director of the College Programming Office.

    The goal of the assigned seating is, of course, networking. Last month, third-years chose tables based on their career interests, and many are still registering. In the informal setting of lunch, the expectation is that students interested in teaching, politics, investment banking, art and writing will develop valuable friendships with alumni who are working in those fields.

    “From a University standpoint,” said Liz Michaels, Director of Career and Placement Services, “we’re trying to put together an ‘old boys network.’” Michaels said she hopes the networking creates stronger bonds between alumni and College students as well as encourages alumni to get involved in other College-sponsored activities.

    As in previous years, the primary goal of the daylong event is to introduce third-years to possible career paths and show them the wide variety of ways a degree from the College is applied in the real world. Choi said the message to students is: “It’s OK not to know what you want to do with your life. Taking the Next Step is a time to explore.”

    While 17 fields and industries will be represented in the lunch roundtables, this year’s event also will feature 15 panels, including Careers in Law; Go Global: International Opportunities; Show Me the Money: Careers in Financial Services; Education: Teaching and Policy; and So You Want to Work in Entertainment.

    In addition to the lunchtime influx of alumni, this year’s event will have several other features, including a group of alumni who are participating in the event for the first time.

    In their preparations for this year’s Taking the Next Step event, CAPS urged students last summer to fill out Monstertrak career profiles to gather information on students’ career interests. After compiling that data, William Lan, Associate Director of Employer Development in Career and Placement Services, coordinated an effort to find alumni who matched students’ interests.

    Working with the University’s Alumni Association and the Office of Development, Lan compiled a database with both occupation and interest of more than 250 alumni. Over the course of the Fall Quarter, members of the Taking the Next Step student planning committee used the Monstertrak data and searched through the new database to select panelists best suited to the needs of the Class of 2005.

    “One of things we’ve found,” said Lan, “is that a small group of really active alumni have been involved year after year. That’s great, and some alumni should be here year after year, but we really wanted to give other members of the University’s alumni community a chance to get involved as well.”

    The event also will feature for the first time a student emcee, fourth-year David Goodloe. “He’ll tie the day together,” said Choi. And it will feature not one, but two keynote addresses. David Medina (A.B.,’91), director of external affairs for the Democratic National Committee, will present the morning keynote address, and Marc Evans (A.B.,’89), a vice president at Paramount Pictures, will address participants in the afternoon.

    Taking the Next Step will be held from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 10, at the Westin Hotel, 909 N. Michigan Ave. For further details, please visit http://takingthenextstep.uchicago.edu.