The liberal arts college is on the ropes. Five years of economic chaos have left many B.A.s without work, and institutions once considered the jewels of American higher education have become objects of scorn.
The loud classes, composed of self-satisfied Baby Boomers and embittered Gen Xers, now gleefully proclaim the death of undergraduates-only institution while openly and maliciously excoriating those bright-eyed millennials still foolish enough to believe that they can study something other than marketing or finance and make a career out of it.
Here in the Carleton bubble, this criticism has a particular sting. An insult to one’s alma mater – or U.S. News category – always cuts deep.
That said, colleges like Carleton do have certain disadvantages when it comes to preparing students for their future careers, both because of the more limited resources that they can bring to bear on career services, but also because of the particular set of cultural priorities that tend to define liberal arts colleges.
Last year’s strategic plan sought to address this fact, outlining as it did the college’s goal to “prepare students more robustly for fulfilling post-graduation lives and careers.” And two new initiatives unveiled recently—Carleton Profiles and Pathways—are intended to fill a critical gap in Carleton’s career advisement services, chiefly by putting greater power directly into the hands of students.
The Carleton Profiles program allows students to create public pages for themselves à la LinkedIn that are accessible through the student directory. The Pathways program helps students explore potential pre-professional opportunities through an online portal that students can use to help plot particular courses of study and pre-professional exposure.
The two programs are designed to interface with one another, as students can use their profiles to connect with alumni whose backgrounds they find interesting and use their connections to understand how alumni have gone about building their careers.
Carleton students appear receptive to the new services. “I think it is an excellent system,” said Sacha Phillips ‘17, in reference to the new profile tool. “It seems like it gives you better opportunities to interact with alumni and other students.”
Some are less certain. “It sounds a bit scary, because making a profile is like writing a college application: you have to present yourself perfectly,” said Jackie Dowling 17.’