Career Services Gets New Name to Better Reflect Student Engagement

By Danica Fisher ’05, January 27, 2023

A Q&A with Dave Curry, director of the Center for Career Exploration and Development.

Question: Can you tell us a little bit about why your office recently changed its name from Career Services to Center for Career Exploration and Development

Dave Curry: We had gotten feedback from students, faculty and staff that “career services” didn’t fully encapsulate all that we do with our students, and a lot of students had the idea that they didn’t need to come to us until they were ready for their career. We want our students to engage with us as soon as they come to campus, and we want to build and grow that relationship throughout their time here and beyond. 

There is a huge component of assessment and development involved in career planning, and career journeys are not necessarily linear, they are always changing. We wanted to engage with our students earlier to help them through that exploration piece and to be there with them to help them come up with new plans as their journey changes. We’re finding that our push to do so with our first-year students has produced that type of engagement already, and we want to continue to grow that because now that those students have started to engage with us, we can build their personalized four-year plan, and then we have four years to navigate it with them.  

Question: Why was it important to your team to have a name that better reflects how you’re interacting with students? 

Dave Curry: We’re here to benefit the students, and that means every student. We want to make sure that our services are made known to all our students, not just the ones that want it, or the ones who have family members who implore them to pursue it, but all our students, no matter what their situation is. Many students don’t know that we can help them, or at least they don’t know how, so we are working hard to find new and innovative ways to connect with our students and establishing engagement with them as soon as they get to campus which will help make their career journey less stressful, more efficient, and more likely to lead to internships and jobs that they truly want.   

Dave Curry

Dave Curry, director of the Center for Career Exploration and Development. (Photo submitted)

Question: What are some of the recent changes or initiatives that you’ve already implemented? 

Dave Curry: One of the things we’ve done is we’ve created a model where each of the schools across campus has its own career engagement specialist that is designated to that school, so they’re more focused on the specifics around how to help students pursuing the careers that their school is preparing them for. It’s also important for us to be able to share our services in a more unified way so more students can benefit from employer visits, guest speakers and information sharing opportunities across schools and career fields. We want to do what we can to provide more opportunities for students across campus and not just have those opportunities offered to students in one school. 

Question: Are there other changes that we should know about? 

Dave Curry: Yes, this year we have implemented a new career caravan, which is just another way for us to get across campus and find pockets of students to engage with in their environment. It’s not always easy for a student to walk through a door and think that they have to ask a bunch of questions to somebody that they don’t know, especially when they have no idea what questions they should be asking, so for us to go to the library or the LGBTQ Center and set up a table, and just be an inviting and trusting presence to students on their turf is important.  

We’re also growing the number of opportunities that we are offering to our students on campus. We are creating events like our career opportunities week, where we will have more than 80 employers on campus, alumni for our students to meet and learn from, and a number of info sessions and workshops to help students in a variety of career-focused ways. We are also finding more opportunities to bring students off campus, and we are working to combine what we have done in recent years with virtual engagement with new in-person opportunities and find even more ways to be creative and innovative to benefit our students and to connect them with alumni and employers.  

There is a podcast on the horizon, which I would expect later in 2023, as a way for students to hear some easy quick tips, learn from alumni, and hear about jobs and job fairs coming up. 

Question: How are you working to prepare students for trends that you’re seeing coming out of employers right now? 

Dave Curry: Our workforce has changed so much that there are entire industries out there that didn’t even exist three or four years ago, let alone jobs within those industries. For us to be able to develop college students who have communication skills, critical thinking skills, global awareness, tech skills, the ability to work well within a team and the ability to problem solve is increasingly important. These are things that a liberal arts and sciences college like Ithaca can provide our students regardless of what school they’re in. Our students are getting the hands-on application, they’re getting the performance piece that we offer, but that liberal arts education that provides each student with a well-rounded toolbox of skills is really what’s at the top of what employers in most industries are looking for now and our students excel at that. 

Question: What makes Ithaca as a place special? 

Dave Curry: The students and the staff and the faculty are genuine as can be, and they want to help students here. There is not one person on this campus that is in it for themselves, and that’s something I want to be a part of. I think that’s really a big draw for students to come to a place where not only can they see themselves for the next four years, but they can see themselves for the next 40.  

Question: Can you explain the importance of staying curious? 

Dave Curry: This is not an industry where you can just feel settled. Everything’s constantly changing in higher education and our students right now are in the middle of this, and they’re changing too. My curiosity is, how can we reach that one more student that we haven’t reached? What do we need to do that we haven’t done yet? And what do we need to do that no one’s done? That’s fun for me and this team really embraces that kind of innovation. 

Question: How would you define progress for yourself? 

Dave Curry: Progress is knowing at the end of the day that I’ve helped as many students as possible, and knowing that I’m going to get up tomorrow and help more. You know there'’s always a way to do something better. There’s always a way to be more efficient and more effective.  

Question: Anything you’d like to add? 

Dave Curry: Just that we’re very active in connecting our students with alumni, but at the same time we want to help our alumni as well, and they’re just as welcome to take advantage of our services as our students. Our alumni engagement spiked during COVID, and it’s maintained. We’re seeing that we are dedicating a lot of our time to our alumni and that’s important to us, and we want to continue to do that as well.