CAPS mission: Making successful transition from classroom to career
New Director announces plans for expanded services While the classroom experience teaches students to stretch their minds and expand their horizons, it doesn't necessarily provide them with the concrete skills they'll need when it comes time to pound the pavement for employment. This, says Robert Riesman, is where Career & Placement Services can complement a student's education.
Riesman, who becomes Director of CAPS on Nov. 1 after being on staff for eight years in Human Resources Management, including four years as Director of Staff Benefits, would like to see the services offered by CAPS become an integral part of students' education. For this to happen, he thinks CAPS needs to become a more service-oriented operation.
"I think there are ways the challenges at CAPS are similar to some of the challenges that faced the Benefits Office six years ago when I came here. Namely, there was a recognized need to expand the range of activities and services that the office could provide to the University community. As Director of Benefits, I've also found that if people have successful interactions with an office, they're more likely to tell friends and colleagues that they will get their needs met there. You build that kind of trust brick by brick, interaction by interaction."
Though the resources and programs currently offered by CAPS have served students well over the years -- Riesman himself benefited from a resume rewrite as a graduate student in the School of Social Service Administration -- he said there is room for expansion and improvement. While CAPS will continue to engage employers to recruit on campus and assist students in honing their interviewing skills and refining their applications for graduate school, one of the first items on Riesman's list as Director is to work with faculty members and administrators to develop more internship programs.
"One of my goals is to find ways to complement the tremendous classroom experience that students get here by providing opportunities for work in the field," he said. While a few internship programs exist at the College level, they are small and rather targeted, Riesman said. He hopes to offer many more programs for College students and to offer a broader range of programs for graduate students as well.
Another priority of Riesman's is to work with master's and Ph.D. students to identify options for jobs and careers beyond academic positions. "The job market for academic positions is such that many of the graduate students in the arts and sciences are exploring other options, and they are well-positioned for a wide variety of jobs and careers in fields outside of academia. The role of CAPS is to help identify the skills they've acquired in the classroom and in their work experience that can make them successful candidates for these positions."
His third goal is to expand the services offered to alumni. "For recent graduates of the College, it is reasonable to expect that their first job may not be in the firm or industry that they want to stay in for the next period of their lives. It would be wonderful for them to be able to return to the University and get guidance about how to think about their next job and the next stage in their career. If we're successful, these same alumni could very well serve as referral points for future users of CAPS."
Riesman joined the Human Resources Management staff in 1988 and was Director of Staff Benefits from 1991 to January 1995, when he was appointed Deputy Director of HRM. Under his direction, the Benefits Office added the Staff and Faculty Assistance Program, the child-care referral program, the First Commonwealth dental plan and TIAA's Long Term Care Insurance plan. He received his B.A. from Harvard in 1977 and his A.M. from Chicago in 1988.
The move to CAPS is one he's looking forward to, Riesman said. "I'm really excited about this opportunity. CAPS is in the sector of the University that is concerned with the quality of the student experience, and this is a tremendously exciting time to be at CAPS, to be in this sector, because of the extent to which the University wants to make sure that this experience is satisfying. There's a real commitment to preserving the extraordinary nature of education at the U of C while at the same time helping students translate their experiences here -- and in the rest of their lives -- into meaningful career choices."