Date August 30, 2023
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Brown launches Center for Career Exploration, significantly expanding support for students developing career paths

Deepening the University’s legacy of student-centered learning, the center will expand career advising, resources, programs and partnerships to position students to achieve successful lives and careers.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Through personalized advising, one-on-one mentoring and an expansive array of experiential learning opportunities, a newly launched Center for Career Exploration at Brown University will transform career support for students and empower them to achieve meaningful lives and careers.

Anchored in Brown’s Open Curriculum and signature student-centered learning, the center will build on the University’s vast network of campus advisers, alumni, parents and family members who support students in exploring potential careers. With more funding for internship and research experiences, additional staffing, new partnerships and an approach centered on career advising tailored to a wider range of defined professional pathways, it will offer robust programs that equip graduates for the evolving opportunities and challenges of the 21st-century workforce.

Brown President Christina H. Paxson shared details about the center in an Aug. 30 letter to campus.

“Brown students are ambitious and driven, and the Center for Career Exploration will provide them with exciting opportunities to grow personally and professionally while they develop their skills and explore career possibilities,” Paxson said. “In addition to re-imagined career advising, the new center will spur significant growth in support from our extended Brown community of alumni and families. They play a vital role in contributing both their job opportunities and their experiences as mentors, opening new paths for successful lives and careers for our students.”

Career services at Brown previously were provided through CareerLAB (the Center for Careers and Life after Brown). Its relaunch as the new Center for Career Exploration follows two years of research and development spearheaded by the President’s Working Group on Career Services. The model for transforming the way Brown provides career preparation and support grew from aligning Brown’s academic strengths and the University’s focus on intellectual exploration, community engagement and hands-on learning.

When its expansion is complete, the new center will offer advising, opportunities and resources for career pathways in five areas: technology and tech ventures, finance and consulting, arts and media, science and engineering, and careers in the common good — including nonprofit, government, education, policy and climate change sectors. This is in addition to existing pre-professional advising for careers in health and medicine and law.

Matthew Donato, executive director of the Center for Career Exploration and associate dean of the College, said the center marks a shift from approaching career services as generalists, to instead launching knowledge bases around specific industry sectors and professional areas so students can engage in a cycle of exploration.

“Exploration is a critical activity that students undertake as part of their Brown education — not as something in addition to academics, but as something integral to the student experience,” Donato said. “Through more internships, research opportunities and shadowing experiences, we can help students prototype career possibilities for themselves. We want students to be able to try lots of things out, test their assumptions, reflect on those experiences, and think about whether an experience has changed their interests.”

To support students in exploring the new industry pathways, the center will include four teams of staff: a professional pathways team, a career counseling team, a student exploration team, and a mentor and partner engagement team. As part of an in-progress expansion that will double the size of the Center for Career Exploration team, the center will add more than a dozen new staff members — including five new assistant deans to oversee each of the career pathways.

Preparation for a lifetime

The Center for Career Exploration builds on an approach to career exploration rooted in helping students chart their own course and develop skills to successfully navigate a lifetime of changing career opportunities, said Dean of the College Rashid Zia.

“Students make choices at Brown about the courses they take, the concentrations they pursue and the activities in which they engage, both during and between semesters,” Zia said. “Just as we have a system in place for students to explore course options, speak with advisers and meet with peers about concentrations, it’s equally important for students to engage with others about careers and their lives after Brown.”

The center’s expansion is being funded with the generous support of donors through the BrownTogether campaign, the most ambitious fundraising effort in Brown’s history. The goal is to ensure the center can offer more services to larger numbers of students.

“The idea is that career exploration can begin on the first day that a student arrives at Brown,” Zia said. “We’re investing in these significant resources so that each and every student is supported in career exploration throughout their time at Brown with both mentoring and opportunities to truly test out and pilot multiple future pathways and learn about what is possible.”

The center expects to expand its advising support by nearly 600 students in the 2023-24 academic year alone, providing direct support to more than 4,500 undergraduate and graduate students throughout the year. The Center for Career Exploration will provide direct counseling and programming to undergraduates, Ph.D. students and recent Brown graduates. Master’s degree students are primarily supported through tailored career services in their master’s programs and through the School of Professional Studies and the School of Public Health.

The expanded staff and pathways-driven approach will enable career advisors to provide more specialized expertise on career development and recruiting, increase career counseling appointment availability for students and recent alumni, shorten wait times for students at busy recruiting moments, and offer the careers team more opportunity to build relationships with students, advisers, employers and others.

The new center also calls for the creation of shared learning communities where students work with peers and industry experts to explore different pathways with planning and intention throughout their educational journey. In addition, new types of mentoring and support will help prepare students for increasingly structured recruiting processes in today’s shifting employment landscape, Donato said.

“Moreso than ever, the power of the Brown network is incredibly important for students,” Donato said. “Our students have always been successful at attaining internships, jobs, graduate school admission and competitive fellowships, but we’re adding value to how they engage in that exploration and making sure they really achieve the outcomes that they want.”

For one on-campus initiative, the new center is partnering with the Student Employment team in University Human Resources to create more campus-based work opportunities.

“Through our new structure, we’re not only directly supporting students, but we’re also energizing the entire Brown ecosystem of campus partners, faculty, staff, alumni and families,” said Donato, who noted that there will be training and support for Brown faculty and staff to expand career advising. “Students can connect with members of the Brown community to help to identify what career possibilities might look like, and how an individual student’s skills, values and needs might map on to career possibilities.”

Industry partners and alumni mentors

Experiential learning and alumni and family engagement are two key elements of Brown’s expanded approach. The center’s launch follows years of University investment to increase experiential learning opportunities, including approximately $5 million in 2023 alone to provide students with paid research and teaching experiences through the Summer/Semester Projects for Research, Internships and Teaching (SPRINT) program, Zia said.

By increasing partnerships with local community organizations and others nationwide, the Center for Career Exploration will create more off-campus job and internship opportunities across industries.

“When Brown students arrive on campus, the range of career opportunities they think about is finite compared to the range of true possibility, so our goal is to ensure that every Brown student can see the full range of options that they have,” Zia said. “True to our Open Curriculum, we’re encouraging students to reflect upon all that they are learning while in college and to explore all the choices they have for their lives ahead.”

For years, engagement with Brown’s expansive network of alumni, parents and family members has been a mainstay of career development at the University, and with a new mentor and partner engagement team, those partnerships are poised to grow in new and dynamic ways, said Vice President for Alumni Relations Zack Langway. A new team of four in Alumni Relations will bridge alumni and family engagement, working with the center to recruit, train and manage a network of more than 500 alumni and parents to serve as industry experts and mentors to students.

“We’re creating connections between students and alumni so they can explore their future and also learn from someone who perhaps has had a similar lived experience, or a similar journey,” Langway said. “This benefits both alumni and students, and the values that serve as a foundation for the Brown community give alumni and students a common language to easily develop meaningful and deep relationships.”

The ways in which alumni and family members will help to promote student career preparation will range from individual and small-group mentoring, to interview preparation workshops and mock interviews, to the direct creation of new internship and job opportunities. And beyond harnessing the power of the Brown network to benefit students, the new career engagement model will encourage deeper campus connections for alumni.

“This will help bring alumni into our classrooms and back to campus to engage with students about their career journeys and to participate in teaching and learning experiences on campus in a more direct way than they’ve been able to previously,” Donato said. “Plus, giving our faculty colleagues the opportunity to connect with the alumni and family network can also support their own teaching and approach to career support for students.”

Building on the success of the existing BrownConnect networking platform, which connects students directly with more than 60,000 Brown alumni and family members worldwide, the Center for Career Exploration will lead the redesign of an even more robust platform to offer curated mentoring experiences between students and alumni and families that can help lead to more career opportunities, according to Langway.

“Brown alumni are generous with their time and they’re enthusiastic in wanting to be a resource to current students as well as their fellow alumni,” Langway said. “They appreciate the opportunity to help students think about ways to combine their interdisciplinary academic experiences at Brown and help students figure out what might come next for them in life after Brown.”