January 21, 1999
Vol. 18 No. 8

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    Alumni, Office of the Dean of the College prepare third-years for their futures

    [bob levey], by lloyd degrane

    Third-year students surround Bob Levey, an alumnus of the University and a Washington Post columnist, who gave the keynote address at Taking the Next Step. The program is designed specifically to help students in their third year prepare for the real world following graduation. Funded by the Office of the Dean of the College, Taking the Next Step gives students a chance to ask questions of University graduates and learn how they can plan now for their futures.

    By Jennifer Leovy
    News Office

    They’ve been accepted into the College, they’ve asked tough questions, they’ve studied diligently and have completed a portion of their education at Chicago––so what’s next for third-year students contemplating their futures? To give students a better sense of direction about what they will do once they graduate from the University, the Office of the Dean of the College funds the annual Taking the Next Step program.

    Nearly half of the Class of 2000 spent the day planning their futures when they attended the second annual, all-day forum in downtown Chicago Saturday, Jan. 9.

    Taking the Next Step is a celebration of the third-year class with an educational twist––hearing real-world career stories from Chicago alumni about how and why graduates got where they are today. Sessions ranged from “I Had No Idea What I Would Do When I Graduated” to “Using Your Chicago Experience in Government and Politics.”

    The event is sponsored by the Maroon Key Society and the Student Alumni Association in conjunction with the Dean of the College, the Alumni Association, Career and Placement Services, the Office of the Dean of Students in the College, the Office of the Reynolds Club & Student Activities and the University Community Service Center.

    “Taking the Next Step has become the collective effort of students, staff, faculty and alumni who have cooperated to create a major College event,” said John Boyer (A.M. ’69, Ph.D. ’75), Dean of the College. “There are dozens of heroes who make this successful.”

    Third-year Ian Thomson found attending the panel session “Using Your Chicago Experience to Effect Social Change” useful because alumni addressed broader issues than job possibilities, such as lifestyle changes required for careers in community service. Overall, Thomson appreciated the daylong event as “a day set aside from studies to reflect and talk to alumni and get their perspectives on careers.”

    Organizer Jessica Kinney, a fourth-year student and President of the Student Alumni Association, emphasized the value of interaction with Chicago graduates because “they show you there is a light at the end of the tunnel. It will work out. You will get a job.”

    Kinney also noted that students become more unified as a class at the event, which is planned solely for the third-year class. “Class unity is something you miss from high school and you get it here,” said Kinney. “Students get a fun and inspiring break in the midst of winter.”

    For alumni, the event is a reunion of sorts as well as a chance to go back to their Chicago roots. Keynote speaker Bob Levey (A.B. ’66), President of the Alumni Association and a columnist for the Washington Post, received a complimentary football and helmet from the Maroons––a light-hearted reminder of his days spent protesting the return of football.

    During the luncheon in the downtown Marriott ballroom, Levey explained why the Class of 2000 is excellently positioned to take the next step and why their parents can relax. “This is the most bankable education you can get,” said Levey. As proof, he suggested students send their parents the Taking the Next Step program, which includes an impressive list of alumni and their vocations.

    Levey said the Chicago education gives students the tools they need to make it in the world, especially when they discover how well they stand out in the workplace. “You will have faith in your own ability, a level of intellectual sophistication and an ability to cope with the world that allows you to look at something you’ve never seen before and get your arms around it intellectually,” said Levey.

    Many alumni concurred, including screenwriter and playwright Dave Auburn (A.B. ’91), who shared his experience with students at the session “Being Creative with your Chicago Degree.” “I received no ‘professional’ training from Chicago, but I got great preparation for my career––I learned how to educate myself.”

    Matt Calef (A.B. ’94) echoed the importance of self-education, noting how often he teaches himself how to do something new in his work as an engineer at Lockheed Martin. He emphasized how well a Chicago education provides important critical thinking and analytical skills. “There are a whole lot of people out there who seem like really impressive people, but then you find out they aren’t good communicators or they can’t write,” Calef told students.

    In another discussion, Susan Popper (A.B. ’97) said when a student’s resume arrives at Andersen Consulting, they know “you have well-developed analytical skills if you graduate from the University of Chicago.”

    Herman Kattlove (S.B. ’58, M.D. ’62) supports the liberal education of Chicago because of its flexibility, which Kattlove said is needed in today’s working world. “The world is changing so rapidly. There are jobs that exist now that no one heard of two years ago,” said Kattlove. “Even if you work a long time in one area, it is definite that your job will change.”

    Alumni commented on the vast improvements in Career and Placement Services and encouraged students to take advantage of the expertise in Ida Noyes. Kalpesh Patel (A.B. ’97), who works at Boston Consulting Group said, “I learned to customize my resume, but it took three trips to CAPS to get it right and it was worth it.”

    “Taking the Next Step provides a terrific setup for third-years to learn from alumni working in a wide range of fields,” said Bob Riesman (A.M. ’88), Director of CAPS. “Our students get coaching, guidance and encouragement from tremendously credible people.”

    Fourth-year organizer Rajeev Ramchand said, “It’s definitely good to hear from alumni and use their experience to help us with our career decisions.”

    Bill Michel (A.B. ’92), Director of the Reynolds Club & Student Activities, said student attendance doubled from the first all-day forum last year, and third-years have already volunteered to plan next year’s event.

    “Taking the Next Step has a very positive vibe to it,” said Michel. “And it’s more than a career conference––it’s an opportunity for third-years to come together as a class and be reminded that they are important and central to this institution.”