FEATURE—Soll Center, Combining Liberal Arts and Career

As a prospective student I remember doing extensive research on the incredible opportunities my future college could offer. When I visited Claremont McKenna College (CMC)—the college I eventually attended—its Soll Center for Student Opportunity touted an abundance of professional opportunity, ranging from networking trips to internship-study opportunities, like the Silicon Valley and Washington Programs, to sponsored internship experiences. In fact, many of us probably remember writing about one of these in our “Why CMC?” prompts during the college application process.

Career opportunities are near the top of the list for many college students, and this promise of opportunity was fulfilled upon my arrival on campus. As early as orientation week, a specific time was carved out where all first-year students were required to check in with the Soll Center. Freshmen were provided the opportunity to learn how to use VMock, a resume algorithm platform which helps put together an efficient resume, and Handshake, a job search and recruiting website utilized by many universities.

Each week, the Soll Center’s Director for Student Opportunities, Ursula Diamond, sends out a career inform email, detailing relevant internships/networking events according to specific interest clusters. These interest clusters include Consulting, Government, Law & Public Policy, Non-Profit & Education, Technology & Entrepreneurship, Creative & Entertainment, Medicine, Healthcare & Biotech, Science & Environment, and Accounting & Financial Services, each of which is headed by a career coach—a specialist who is easily accessible upon appointment.

What strikes me is how early we were introduced to these opportunities. Diamond confirmed this sentiment, stating that “we strongly encourage them to begin exploring academics and co-curricular opportunities at an early stage.” Many services within the center are open to freshmen, including generic interview prep, resume guidance, and learning about standard interview protocol (e.g. interview attire, sending thank you notes, and drafting follow up emails).

Students preparing for specific industry interviews can benefit from Soll Center’s mock interviews with current seniors who have return offers from relevant firms, one-on-one career coach consultations, and job shadowing with CMC alumni. In addition, a networking trek open to all students is organized in most major cities at least once a year. This allows students of all levels to get a first-hand impression of different companies and what their work environments are like. Past networking treks have included Chicago and Boston for biotech and medicine, San Francisco for technology and consulting, and New York City for financial services.

While career services may be effective in preparing students for internships and job interviews, they only go so far. The other vital aspect job placement requires lies in CMC’s alumni and parent network. “We aim to equip students with the necessary skills to locate alumni, reach out, and build long-lasting connections,” Diamond enthusiastically further explained.

CMC makes their all-encompassing internship and alumni database accessible to students, allowing easier connections of their relevant interests to be made. The school also regularly invites graduated students on campus for Athenaeum talks, panel events, and even intimate coffee chats. Each winter break, students are afforded the chance to shadow parents and alumni for a day in their work place. In effect, as early as freshman year, students get a sense of the day in the life of successful individuals in their future line of work.

CMC is lucky to have such a robust and helpful alumni network. One reason that postgraduates are so interested in giving back to current students is the Soll Center “continues to be a resource for them even after they have graduated.” Additionally, “Alumni are loyal to the school’s mission of leadership with a social responsibility, so they want to give back by being helpful to current students,” stated Diamond.

With all that being said, Soll Center actively marks its presence on campus through hiring career consultants from CMC students. By doing so, it becomes a friendly and accessible space, with upperclassmen bringing it to life in discussions within dining halls.

Because career services are so vital to the job search and placement process and the Soll Center has proven to be such an effective resource, I am optimistic and excited to begin taking advantage of all their opportunities. To be in a liberal arts college with a robust career services wing is the absolute best of both worlds.

As a consequence of all its efforts to be integrated within the student culture, the center for student opportunity ensures that it does not become an underutilized service for CMC students. The Soll Center is perfectly in line with what CMC boasts as its “learn to do, do to learn” philosophy. The school guarantees that its students are not disadvantaged in any way with the liberal arts curriculum by offering marvelous opportunities to students on a golden platter.

 

Photo: Claremont McKenna College

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