Students share concerns with new CAPS co-directors

By Joe Riina-Ferrie

About 15 students met with recently hired Career Advising and Planning Services (CAPS) co-directors Linda Choi and Meredith Daw Tuesday to discuss changes to the program and voice their concerns and suggestions over a pizza dinner in the Reynolds Club.

“We wanted to get some input to better define our goals for the school year,” said Choi.

Student discussion focused on concerns with making CAPS more accessible, friendly, and helpful to students of all disciplines.

“I think a lot of students have a very intimidating and impersonal impression of CAPS,” said Dana Kroop, a fourth-year in the College.

Students and co-directors agreed that the association of CAPS with the task of searching for a job or applying to graduate school contributed to the negative impression that many seem to have of the program.

Some students said long e-mails and complicated procedures made them feel overwhelmed. Many wished they had learned about the CAPS services earlier so they had more time to meet deadlines.

The CAPS co-directors said they would address concerns about inaccessibility and intimidation in the upcoming year.

The co-directors talked about the CAPS career advising programs, stressing that CAPS is not only a place for students with a set career path. They have also collaborated with RSOs by setting up workshops and alumni networking opportunities.

Several students at the dinner suggested increasing involvement with both RSOs and the housing system to help CAPS reach students more directly.

CAPS and the Office of the Dean of Students are piloting ChicagoREADY, a new program designed to help students applying for internships, RA positions, and other college opportunities by improving their application materials and interview skills. The program will employ peer résumé reviewers to help first- and second-year students.

“Our goal is for 90 percent of students, by the end of second year, to have a one-page résumé and have done some career exploration,” Daw said.

Many students said CAPS focused too strongly on financial services and business opportunities and did not have enough resources for students in other disciplines. Students in both the humanities and the sciences expressed dissatisfaction with the options they had encountered.

In response to these concerns, CAPS is working to expand its program to be helpful to all disciplines. The new PRISM program supports students in eight majors: comparative literature, history, english, philosophy, psychology, human development, romance languages and literatures, and international studies.

The program includes a journalism advisor. New programs to develop opportunities in government and law have also been added, as well as careers in non-profit.

For science students, opportunities have been added at Argonne, and CAPS is working to increase employer development with pharmaceutical companies.

Other students suggested offering the Venture to Adventure program earlier, restructuring it, or requiring a mandatory meeting to introduce first-years to CAPS. Not all students agreed, however, and no action is currently being taken to follow these suggestions.

“By continuing the discussion at quarterly brown-bag lunches, I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to make our services more relevant to all students,” Daw said.