Career Communities Prepare Students for Life After Oberlin

September 4, 2019
Amanda Nagy
Four men pose back stage in theater.
From left, actor Harrison Lee, Jad Kaiss ’19, Jahkeem Wheatley ’19, and management consultant Mitch Weiss ’74 get a backstage tour of The Lion King on Broadway. Photo credit: Courtesy of Jahkeem Wheatley

By joining Oberlin’s Career Communities, students learn how to apply their transferable skills and liberal arts training to an employment area of interest.

An expanding internship initiative launched last year is helping students in their third and fourth years to visualize career outcomes through fully funded positions offered by alumni and Oberlin parents. 

Developed in collaboration with Career Development Center, the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and the Office of Development and Alumni Affairs, Oberlin’s Career Communities connect students with alumni, parents, and faculty who share an interest or expertise in a particular employment sector. This summer, 80 students were selected through a rigorous application process and placed in financially supported internships in the areas of business and finance, nonprofit and public sector, arts and creative fields, and entrepreneurship.

The initiative is extending its reach in the 2019-20 year. Several new communities will be offered: education; law and public policy; medical, public, and global health professions; science and technology; and a music and leadership community launching later in the fall. The fall semester track will accept up to 120 students. 

The mission of Career Communities is to create an opportunity for students to gain the skills and training they need to thrive beyond Oberlin, explains Dana Hamdan, associate dean of students and interim director of the Career Development Center. 

Over the last three years, the college has implemented strategic programs aimed at improving retention and supporting students in their learning goals, all with the shared ethos of “Obies Helping Obies.” Beginning in their first year, students receive guidance and mentorship through the Peer Advising Leaders (PAL) program. The Sophomore Opportunities and Academic Resources (SOAR), launched at the end of January 2019, was an outgrowth of PAL. Career Communities was conceived as the next building block in a student’s academic blueprint.

“What our Career Communities are fundamentally about is helping students in the early stages of their undergraduate careers think about their lives after Oberlin,” says President Carmen Ambar. “Through the Career Communities internships, students get the experience necessary to build strong careers and make positive change in the world.” 

Students who are accepted to join a career community are required to complete a one-credit cocurricular course taught by Career Development Center staff and faculty. The career communities meet in interactive workshops six times per semester with the learning goals of understanding and articulating the transferable skills they’ve learned at Oberlin, how to develop a professional network of potential mentors and employers, and exploring potential career paths through an internship.

Obies Make a Difference

Oberlin Board of Trustees Chairman Chris Canavan ’84 hosted an internship for fourth-year Maya English at Soros Fund Management. Canavan says what makes Career Communities a success is that the interns are Obies.

“They bring to work those qualities we fellow Obies recognize immediately: the instinct to question, to probe; a cool skepticism of received wisdom; and a healthy irreverence,” Canavan says. “An intern who arrives with a fresh perspective and the self-confidence to ask questions—an Obie—can make a difference. That’s why I would host another intern again in a second, not only because it’s one way I can give back to Oberlin, but because it’s another way that Oberlin continues to give to me.”

Jahkeem Wheatley ’19 applied for the arts career community because he intends to pursue a career in entertainment law. He says he gained exceptional knowledge of the entertainment industry from both a legal and creative perspective in his summer internship working with theater professional Mitch Weiss ’74 and his New York-based production and management company MW Entertainment Group. 

“The mentorship I have received from Mitch Weiss and everyone involved with the company has been amazing,” says Wheatley, a sociology and law and society double major. In terms of networking, I have been introduced to many individuals on Broadway in the theatre industry in various roles from house managers to presidents of organizations. I truly feel that everyone has been supportive of my career path and has provided advice and help in anyway they could.” 

View gallery of the spring 2019 career community internships

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