EDITORIAL: Career Services Could Expand Urban’s Horizons

Jack Cogen, Staff Writer

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One of the Urban School’s core values states that “learning extends beyond the classroom to instill in students a sense of mission and purpose as citizens of the larger community and world.” Urban reinforces this mission with the Service Learning program, an effective way to involve students with various nonprofit opportunities. Additionally, sophomores spend a day in the offices and workplaces of Urban alumni. This includes everything from doctors, to sportswriters to Pixar animators. But there is no concrete program to help students get afterschool or summer jobs, whether they be prestigious industry internships to entry-level, paid jobs such as waiter, barista, or cashier.

Both kinds of jobs develop work experience and can be an important addition to college applications. Internships may help a student explore the professional side of a possible career and forge connections within the industry. Service jobs, on the other hand, can have a profound impact on character.

“I personally believe that everyone should work in the service industry at some point in their lives,” Chris Lanser, the Associate Dean of Admission at Wesleyan University, told the New York Times on July 10, 2015. “I think it engenders respect for others, by virtue of the position you find yourself in, which is not a position of power and is a position that other people feel like they can abuse.” Service industry jobs can pop the often affluent and liberal ‘Urban bubble’ and get students more involved in the local community.

Currently, there are opportunity disparities based on whose parents have connections to internships and jobs — whether it’s an internship in the tech industry or a job at a parent’s friend’s coffee shop. This privilege was vividly illustrated by the Urban fundraising auction this spring, in which a summer internship at EventBrite was auctioned off to the highest bidder. While a summer internship like this may be valuable to an individual student, an Urban career or job services department could act as an equalizer, providing employment  opportunities to Urban students regardless of their parents’ connections or income.

At present, the school’s student work policy is more focused on letting students seek out their own job possibilities.

“There have been students who have gotten internships or jobs through our alumni network. But while we can arrange introductions to alumni who work in various fields [who may or may not have jobs or internships available], students need to take the initiative to pursue any potential opportunities themselves,” Marianne Evans, Urban’s Director of Alumni Relations said. Though there isn’t anything wrong with this system, a formal career services program would help students become aware of existing opportunities and promote Urban’s values of independence and connection with local communities.

A career services office would give students a clear space for students to find the help they may need. Students could expand their range and depth by working anywhere from internships in industries they may want to pursue to a cashier gig at Walgreens. Urban, which prides itself on innovation, could build on the work done with alumni and parents to create an effective career and job placement program for all students.