Changes Made at UMass Amherst Career Center

AMHERST, Mass. - The Mather Career Center at the University of Massachusetts is changing its name, its focus, and its way of delivering services.

In an announcement today, Thomas R. Robinson, vice chancellor for student affairs, said services now delivered primarily from a central location will be both expanded and re-located to within seven academic areas. A team of two career specialists in each of the seven areas will provide career and job placement assistance to students and consulting for faculty. The areas are: humanities and fine arts; natural sciences and mathematics; social and behavioral sciences; engineering; food and natural resources; management; and education, nursing, and public health and health sciences.

From now on, the Career Center will be called the Campus Career Network.

The changes, which include the hiring of five field experience coordinators and two career advisors, will cost about $250,000.

Joan M. Stoia, director of career services, said: "We are convinced we need to offer different career services to different types of majors. What works for students in the humanities is very different from what works for engineers." She said the new set-up will also help students to better see the relations between school and work.

Stoia said the teams in each academic area will consist of a career advisor and a field experience coordinator with expertise in relating specific academic fields to specific career options.

The advisors will provide one-on-one coaching and advice to students; offer classroom-based career education programs in consultation with faculty; involve alumni and employers as role models and mentors; organize plant tours and employer presentations; teach career and life planning courses; and instruct students in the job search methods best suited to their majors.

Field experience coordinators will network with employers; coordinate and monitor students’ work experiences; help students build individualized portfolios of progressively more responsible learning experiences from part-time and summer work, to co-op and internships, to volunteer and service-learning experiences; help students acquire abilities that employers in their fields require; and help students develop their own networks of professional contacts.

According to Stoia, the redesign was in response to research both on and off campus about the ways students want to access information and services. "People respond to niche markets," she said. "They want specialized services." Also, she said, the University must constantly update ways of doing things as times and students change.

The teams are to be in place within the individual schools and colleges by this fall, with the teams managed from a central office, currently located in Mather building. Employment services, such as on-campus interviewing and electronic resume referral, plus job development will remain centralized. Alumni will also access services in the central office.

Stoia said while the central office will remain in Mather building at present, decentralizing most functions should make it easier in the future to find smaller quarters for the central office closer to the center of campus.

She said the impact of technology and organizational change in the job market helped drive the transition from a centralized model to a network model.

"We are looking at a future where learners are more diverse, where education and training take place across the lifespan, and where employment occurs in patterns and contexts we have yet to imagine," she said. "The strategies we use must reflect changes such as an increasingly global playing field, more dynamic and volatile organizations, and the replacement of lifelong jobs with specific time-limited tasks. To survive, our students will need to understand their options earlier, take charge of their own learning, and be strategic in pursuit of their goals."

Also, she said, today’s students are more diverse and preparing them for employment demands more specific expertise. New customers - including graduate students, students with disabilities, older students, ALANA (Asian, Latino, African, and Native American) students, foreign students, and both recent alumni and mid-career professionals - require more sophisticated approaches than have been available in the past.