Working to improve relations with students and alumni


In the first week of April, students received an email asking them to participate in a competition between the classes.

The Resume Challenge, sponsored by the Office of Civic, Global and Professional Opportunities, pitted each class against each other in seeing who could bring in the most resumes to be evaluated by the office.

Rajai Bimbo, assistant director of Global Opportunities, and the other opportunities office members created the challenge to give students a reason to come in and talk with them.

After one successful semester of new arrangement with all three offices located together in the Union Building, the office's goal was to keep the students coming.

Originally the offices were spread apart in different buildings on campus and suggestions from students motivated the decision to bring the offices together.

So far, the central location has offered more chances for students to drop by for spontaneous chats. According to the office, around 900 students came in last semester without appointments, sessions, or classes.

The purpose of the resume challenge, said Coordinator of Bonner Scholars Jessie Scott, was to remind students of the services they offered.

"It was a way to get new faces in who hadn't had their resumes looked at by us," she said. "Hopefully we got people to write a resume for the first time."

The challenge brought in a number of students who were entered in a drawing to win a lunch with President Brian Casey if their resume was reviewed. With the sophomore class submitting the most resumes, sophomore Stephen Buchholz was selected as the winner of the lunch with Casey.

Buchholz walked in right before class and got pointers and advice on his resume. He said it was his first time seeing the staff of the opportunities office and plans on going back again.

"I'm going back more after I realized exactly who they were," he said. "It got their name out there in terms of what they're able to do and what they can do for me personally."

The main goal of the location of the office in the Union Building was for drop-in advising. Along with the new location, members of the office have started referring to themselves as CG-Pops informally to create a catchy moniker for the monster of a name the office holds.

Staff members are available to help from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., even though there can sometimes be a wait. The busiest time is during lunch, but there are at least two people ready to talk. That way, people can grab food and wait in line, usually for 30-45 minutes.

Langerud's leadership

Steve Langerud, hired in the fall of 2009 as the director for Career Services, has settled into his new title of director of Professional Opportunities and helps students with internships and job opportunities. He said he focuses on students getting experience, rather than simply studying about it.

"What we're trying to create in students are life-transition experts," he said. "It goes back to Aristotle: What we have to learn to do, we learn by doing."

Langerud makes sure that students have the opportunity to talk with a director-level staff member, rather than a secretary or a student assistant. Even though some appointments have to be made eight weeks in advance, those directors are the ones meeting students at the drop-in times as well. The drop-in times are a way to get acclimated with the system, and Langerud said that once a student has an appointment, they usually talk about something completely different.

Langerud has experience advising numerous professionals outside of the DePauw realm. He has given advice to companies like MSNBC, Christian Science Monitor, Philadelphia Enquirer, and other national publications. The topics range from resume tips to employee policies regarding illness — but for Langerud the most important factor is the association with DePauw.

"People don't remember me, but they do remember DePauw and it's good for our perspectives and gives a sense of credibility," Langerud said.

He stresses that the counseling DePauw students receive is not just catered to college students — he treats them the same as everyone else he works with.

Alumni relations

This summer, the staff of the opportunities office will come together to clarify their missions, goals, and objectives.

One major plan they will focus on concerns student access to alumni.

The most frequent student complaint about the office stems from not having readily available access to the alumni database.

Looking to go into the medical field, junior Andrew Pfaff wanted to contact alumni about possible internships and general advice. When visiting the opportunities office, he said he didn't get the information he was looking for and wound up making the contacts himself.

Pfaff said the office had binders with alumni listed, but the contact information was outdated and wasn't sorted by profession.

"If we're really going to utilize that, we should have a system for people to get in contact with them," he said.

Making and maintaining stronger alumni relations stands as Langerud's main goal for the upcoming years. He is planning an online database that would be formatted by groups, departments, and areas of study. He said he hopes to see a significant increase in communication between students and alumni.

"It's pushing the alumni, in a way, to be able to offer their volunteerism to us," he said. "They can go on our network to say they'd like to host an intern."

Don Phelan '79, a financial adviser for Wells Fargo in Indianapolis, has been a strong connection to career services and heavily promotes that students use LinkedIn, a job networking website.

A member of the Alumni Board, Phelan said he and other alums are trying to be technologically savvy by listing job opportunities within their company on LinkedIn for students to see.

Phelan urges other alums to contact the opportunities office and said that student's connections are the most important.

"They are realizing that it's not what you can do, it's who you know that's really going to help you get that first opportunity that you're seeking," he said.

As for Langerud, he's not afraid to shoot high when networking relationships for students, aiming to have 500 established internships with alumni for Winter Term in the next five years. Ideally, he said, he would have a Google Map, showing where available internships are, and accessible audio from other students who have previously completed them.

Langerud also stressed that the services of the opportunities office do not stop after one's journey at DePauw ends. Langerud still works with DePauw alumni every day, whether on Skype, over the phone or in person. He goes to a host of different cities to visit recent graduates and has individual appointments with them, talking about their current careers and other possible opportunities.

He said he wants students to be comfortable in coming back to DePauw for help.

"When you graduate, it's not over, it's just starting. Decisions in the first five to ten years after you graduate is when everything happens," he said. "DePauw wants to be part of that."