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Student interest in business clubs increases

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The business clubs on campus have seen a great increase in interest with the new incoming class this year.

At the beginning of this semester, students filled up Science Center 199 at the info meeting of Redefine Her Street, a business club on campus that supports women in economics.

“It was like crazy. I was like, this is too good to be true,” said Irene Xiang ’18, one of the co-founders and board members of Redefine Her Street.

The consulting group on campus, 180 Degrees Consulting, has also seen an increase in interested students. They had 39 students who applied to join the group this year, of which they accepted 12.

“This year the acceptance rate is 33 percent. Usually it’s 40 to 50 percent. The acceptance rate is lower this year even though we took a lot more applicants this year,” said president Simran Singh ’19. “Half of new incomings are freshmen, which is pretty rare,” said Singh.

On the Handshake Recruitment System used by the Career Services Office, students need to indicate their career preferences when they first register. A search of the system also shows the interest of first-year students in business.

Thirty-six of the 99 first-year students who have registered have indicated an interest in business careers, ” said director of career services Nancy Burkett.

180 Degree Consulting started four years ago, while Redefine Her Street started two years ago. As more and more Redefine Her Street members obtain internships and jobs, their credentials and credibility have grown, and so it has become easier to recruit incoming students.

“Once [we] have more upperclassmen …  we can talk about our credentials. ‘Okay, so this is where our members have interned.’ That’s definitely made us look more credible,” said Xiang.

However, Xiang believes the growing interest could also be due to student groups on campus being more active.

“I don’t know if it’s a trend, to be honest. I think it helps that there are more student groups on campus. We only started recently. But I think like other groups like 180 [Degrees] and Clarus [another business club] are recently getting more and more active. I think that’s definitely helped. I think there’s always been an interest in those areas, but it’s definitely got more encouraged by the formation of these groups that are well-formed and providing good resources,” said Xiang.

The freshmen who joined the business clubs are generally interested in going into consulting, finance, and other business-related fields after graduating.

I do see myself getting into professional consulting after graduation for a few years, with the eventual goal of establishing a small business or nonprofit of my own one day,” said Connor Gill ’21, one of the six first-years who joined 180 Degrees this year.

Isabelle Ewart ’20 joined Redefine Her Street this year. She is not completely certain that she would work in finance but does have an interest in the field. But she is also concerned with the potential setbacks of attending a liberal arts college when it comes to entering business-related fields.

Swarthmore’s liberal arts education is helping me achieve this goal because it provides me with a diverse education. I am, however, worried about getting my ‘foot in the door’ for a finance career because Swarthmore is a small liberal arts school, and finance is such a competitive industry. Many other young people looking for these finance jobs come from finance-oriented schools,” said Ewart.

Swarthmore, as a liberal arts college, does not offer any majors related to business or finance. The closest major is economics, and there are only two business classes offered at the college. According to Xiang, these student groups realize the students’ needs and strive to meet them.

“We have bi-weekly meetings. That’s where we provide updates on the market in terms of what’s going on, like financial news. We also provide workshops, like technical workshops and soft skills workshops. We also have a meet-and-greet series to speak to accomplished alums. So basically it’s like a class, but much less formal,” said Xiang.

180 Degrees Consulting, on the other hand, set their first and foremost goal to create social impact.

“This is a way of dipping your toes but still a way to increase social impact, which is what I think a lot of Swatties are interested in. I think there is a misnomer and predisposition that you’re selling out if you go into consulting or finance. I think 180 is a great opportunity to understand what consulting and working with small businesses and organizations is, in a way that still allows you to be doing good for your community,” said Singh.

This emphasis on social impact was exactly what first drew Gill to join the group.

[180 Degrees Consulting] seemed like a fantastic program aimed at helping students gain valuable consulting experience, while at the same time providing struggling small firms with free consulting service — a “win-win” in my eyes. … Also, the diversity of projects that they work on really impressed me, from global non-profit social impact groups to local small businesses,” said Gill.

Redefine Her Street attracts students with similar needs.

[Redefine Her Street] is a support group of women with similar ideals and career goals. Finance is also a heavily male-dominated industry, and it is great to know that there is a club of women who are driven to enter a finance career. The experience so far has been great: the meetings are very informative, and we have access to unique networking and learning opportunities,” said Ewart.

180 Degrees and Redefine Her Street both try particularly  to meet the needs of first-years, since there are more of them involved this year.

“Some of the professional skills, like knowing how to dress, like knowing how to construct a resume, knowing how to present well — I think a lot of those skills are acquired over time. So I think a lot of the times, we take extra attention …  are the freshmen are coming in with those skills? Or is something we need to pay attention [to] and give them extra time to do?” said Singh.

“Obviously, everyone who goes here is not studying finance. Even if it’s econ, it’s only marginally closer. For them [Redefine Her Street members], the goal is to learn the lingo and the difference of the terminologies, what are the current deals that are going on that are important to know.” said Xiang.

To meet the increased interest in business, Career Services also has been creating events and programs to help students.

On the whole, we have seen an increase in student interest in business careers over the past five years and have offered [programs] as a way to help students network with alumni and prepare for the competitive application process in these fields,” said Burkett.

However, she also mentioned the importance of being open to other career possibilities. There are resources that either student groups or Career Services can provide if students ever want to explore their fitting career paths, interests, values, and other ways they can make a difference or have meaningful impact.

Letter to the Editor: Why Teach for America

in Letter to the Editor/Opinions by

Shawn Sheehan is a career teacher from Oklahoma who cares about her students, but simply can no longer put her heart and soul into teaching without a living wage. Her dilemma is one felt and lived by many teachers in Oklahoma, the state where I grew up. Since high school, I had been aware of the plight of public education in my home state. Currently, Oklahoma leads the nation in funding cuts to public education, forcing administrators and teachers to find other jobs. Having failed our last public referendum in November, my state ranks 49th in the nation for teacher pay. All of these factors affect the quality of education given to students. When I started teaching last August, there were 1,200 unfillable teaching positions across the state. Now, with budget shortfalls cutting into teacher pay and education resources, I fear that the gap between the number of teachers willing to continue to teach and the demand for qualified educators will only widen.

The current crisis in education in Oklahoma is why I want to encourage Swatties to re-evaluate the role of Teach for America (TFA) in schools and communities. I understand TFA can promote a neoliberal agenda that can be detrimental to social justice. But in a place where the organization provides much-needed educational resources and research through collaborating with schools and districts, TFA is one solution, albeit an imperfect one,  toward the educational equity of underserved school districts. During a time of severe teacher shortage when Title One schools face sequestration, the choice to use TFA gives community leaders a chance to provide their communities with the opportunity of education, far from the ideal educational equity it may be.

What is causing such problems in schools in Oklahoma you may ask? First, I would consider the effect of legislation from the last decade, such as No Child Left Behind that used standardized tests from the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to hold teachers and schools accountable through legal and fiscal ramifications for poor performance. Teachers are responsible for making their students pass standardized tests, or risk losing federal funding for their school. Administrators and schools also jump on this bandwagon by purchasing test-prep materials and technology that orients students toward testing strategies and learning. For underserved schools, poor test grades strip schools of even the most basic resources to support teachings. Such is my case, as I only got two class sets of textbooks to begin teaching three subjects. And the cumulative effect? My students’ test-taking behavior is flawless, but the same cannot be said about their test-taking abilities. It is regretful that such well-intentioned legislation can generate results that could not be further from its intent.

Second, the day-to-day experience of working with kids who may not have had the opportunity or environment to develop academic habits presents an ever-recurring mental and emotional obstacle. When I experienced teaching at my school first-hand, I started to understand the many challenges of teaching at an underserved school in 2017. I quickly learned that students can, and do, refuse to do work, listen to instructions, or partake in academic instruction. Disciplinary action often left me drained and deprived of any control of my class as other students watched on in amusement. The entire experience of the daily grind is overwhelming socially and emotionally, and colleagues tell me a good day in my placement school is a bad day anywhere else—so just imagine what a bad day was like. The tragedy of the situation is that students refuse what it is that you know they need the most to be successful members of society, begging me to ask whom social justice is for; it is dismal that I have recently developed a sense for picking out students who have “mastered the art of abusing the system” to shirk ever further from leaning,

These are just a handful of challenges teachers and administrators face day after day, week after week, and year after year. With such high academic expectations, little support, and classrooms of students who act apathetic toward academics, who would want to work in such an environment? Teachers are ready to leave the profession, and I have had many conversations with veteran colleagues who want to leave the profession because of all the issues with teaching, discipline, funding, and resources. Due to these challenges, proficient teachers I know have stopped caring about teaching: they are too burned-out from being unsupported, underpaid, and putting up with the daily “disrespect.” It can be a demoralizing experience to work through a year with classes of students whose actions and behavior indicate their apathy towards academics, and with broken tools to discipline students in the hope they adopt a more academics-prone behavior, and for many older teachers, with paychecks that cannot pay their bills. This is my conclusion on why teachers leave: they cannot financially, mentally, and emotionally afford to teach anymore.

It is no coincidence teachers who leave will adversely affect the educational opportunities of students, but what can administrators and school districts do in the wake of dwindling funding? Therein lies one role for Teach for America. When the challenge simply is trying to find teachers who want to teach, TFA provides a solution to a long-term substitute. While I understand the drawbacks of my two-year commitment, having a career science teacher for my students is not currently a reality for the community or students whom I teach. Perhaps my contributions may not be the closest option to educational equity and social justice, but the alternative is not having someone to teach my students. When comparing the choice between not having a teacher and having someone who wants to do his or her best to teach students, like myself, considering TFA as an option becomes paramount.

Having gone through the controversy of joining Teach for America from Swarthmore, I understand full and well the implications of being a teacher from the organization. I have heard and deliberated the arguments about TFA, but still decided to become a TFA corp member because I do not believe sacrificing the education of those today will bring about a better educational revolution tomorrow. Yes, I have heard the claim that TFA actually hurts underserved communities and that TFA co-opts community and resources for neoliberal school reform. Yes, these are all legitimate arguments, but they are only speculation without a concrete study of the role of TFA in each school and community. When my TFA friend’s first graders cannot tell her why they are important, perhaps my role, and hers as well, may be as simple as showing the students that some strangers really care about them enough to devote two years of their time trying to teach them. Just perhaps, I might suggest that these simple intentions are social justice too.
The more I teach, the more I believe teaching is becoming an unsustainable profession. Too often teachers are blamed for the faults of our schools and failing education system. I love my students, and I want to be their teacher and try to teach them something every day at school. Yet, the extra duties, responsibilities, and accountability of teaching strongly discourage me from pursuing it as a career. Of 15 teachers at my school, I will not see six of them next year, and three of which have already left before the end of the year. Yes, I could have selected a better program to partake in the education of students, but my school, like many others out there, do not have the privilege of receiving the assistance from such programs. This is where my and TFA’s reformed, broader definition of social justice begins to take form.

From juniors to sophomores: majors we love

in Campus Journal by

As spring semester trudges on, sophomores officially declared their majors on Monday, Feb. 6. While the college offers around 50 major and special major programs, some are more popular than others.

Raina Williams ‘18 is majoring in economics, one of the top five most popular majors at the college. Although she originally considered majoring in biology, another popular major, her first course in the economics ultimately swayed her course of study.

“Amanda Bayer was my first econ professor, and just an awesome woman in the field. [She] works at the fed, for women, women of color too, I don’t know -— just an awesome first impression,” Williams said.

Bayer has not been a singular influence on Williams; the department as a whole has contributed to her learning.

“I think there’s really good support with the professors. I’ve gotten passed along between a couple professors because of pregnancies or people going on sabbatical and stuff, and I haven’t had a problem going seamlessly into another professor’s office, so I’ve been really comfortable with it,” Williams said.

Despite the support, Williams does note that Economics, while a popular major, is not a very diverse one.

“Being a black woman, you don’t see too many other black women in econ, I think there’s like two, maybe, in my class, and it tends to just be very male dominated, very white male dominated, which is fine … it’s been okay for me but it can be overwhelming for some people. Luckily I have friends that are in that kind of group so it works for me, but you do see a lot of like, damn, I think if I wasn’t on a [sports] team I think it’d be hard sometimes, just for (things like) study groups,” Williams said.

In terms of advice to newly declared sophomores, Williams says the best thing to do is to go visit professors.

“They want to do nothing but help. They honestly, like — everyone is so nice in the department … they’re waiting to help you with an internship, too, so it’s kind of lit!,” Williams said.

Another benefit of econ, Williams believes, is its capacity to be part of a double-major combination.

“It’s a good major I think to pair with others like poli-sci, psychology, even history, just like a lot of different other majors, so I think that kind of just being a little proactive in terms of meeting people, too,” Williams said.

Hayley Raymond ‘18 is part of another such other major, albeit a less popular one— chemistry. Her love for the subject began during her freshman fall.

“I wound up placing into honors chem my freshman fall … and I wound up loving it and decided this was what I wanted to major in. I pretty much knew right off the bat, just being in that class for a couple of weeks,” Raymond said.

Raymond’s favorite part of the major is its capacity and potential for specialization.

“Even though it’s all chemistry, there are so many different subtopics and subfields that we look at, and I always think it’s so interesting that even within the chemistry and biochemistry majors … you have people who are so focused in certain areas, like some of my friends will love organic, or will love inorganic, because their brain works one way but not in the other. And it’s always so interesting just to see how people’s brains work and see how you can be so subspecialized in a field that’s all still considered chemistry,” Raymond said.

However, this broad range of specific topics does have its drawbacks.

“There are things that you’re really really gonna love about chemistry, but there are also some sub-fields that you’re not gonna love so much. So I think that navigating those courses and maybe doing something, not necessarily that you don’t like, but something that doesn’t come as natural to you, because some chemistry is very math-based, then others is very much like visual thinking and flipping molecules around in your head … if your brain works in one way it’s not necessarily going to work in another way and that makes things challenging because you still have to take all of the courses to be a major,” Raymond said.

Raymond believes that labs, too  — characteristic of many STEM classes— are a challenge.

“Labs are hard and time-consuming, you spend three to six hours in lab per week, and then have hours of data analysis on your own on top of that. Especially in the upper level courses, the lab reports are challenging … but they really do add to your learning in the end. I mean, you have to love it, because it’s a lot of time,” Raymond said.

This passion, Raymond believes, is beneficial regardless of your field of study.

“I think that goes for all majors, [it’s] something that you’re passionate about and that you want to put the work in, because you’re going to be putting in a lot of hours in the department and a lot of hours in class. So it’s not always fun, but you do have to enjoy it at the end of the day,” Raymond said.

Delivering on the promise of a Swarthmore education

in Op-Eds/Opinions by

One of the greatest promises of a Swarthmore education is the chance to be a part of an exceptional community that extends well beyond the grounds of our campus. As many students have searched for opportunity in their lives after Swarthmore, this community has often proved an invaluable source of support. In 2014, two members of the Board of Managers, Rob Steelman ’92 and Ruth Shoemaker Wood ’01, initiated an effort to make this support system much more accessible to all Swarthmore students.

To help navigate the sometimes obscure path to post-undergraduate opportunities and careers, they launched the Career Collaborative — a formal program meant to match current students with relevant alumni mentors. After extensive discussion with the deans and other members of the Board, considering dozens of communities that alums already had strong connections to (including various Men’s and Women’s athletic teams and the BCC), the Greek Life organizations were selected to take part in a pilot version of the program.

The program has matched over 70 students with alumni mentors to date. While students’ requested professional or academic fields were given priority, the matching process was far more tailored, considering various other factors to ensure the best possible student-alum pairs. Steelman, with significant help from DU and Theta alums, Brandon Carver ’04, Chris Ciarleglio ’04, Melissa O’Connor ’14, and Ashley Gochoco ’14, spearheaded the matching process, devoting time to personally meet with students to understand their goals before connecting them with most appropriate alumni.

The program hopes to formalize and expand on the success that Career Services has had in the numerous networking events and Wall Street receptions it has organized in the past.  In less than a year, the pilot has connected Swarthmore students with leaders in a broad range of professional and academic fields, including educational services, political activism, banking, medicine, marketing, law, and consulting.

One of the reasons that I can speak so easily to the success and benefits of the Career Collaborative is that it has proved, very literally, life changing to me. Late last year, I was paired with Zack Ellison ’04, a Director at Sun Life Investment Management. After taking the time to understand and flesh out my career objectives, Ellison personally reached out to and put me in touch with contacts he had at almost every major bank.

Three months, numerous interviews, and a couple offers later, I was accepting the opportunity to intern at William Blair & Co., a leading international middle market investment bank. Fast-forward another 7 months, I found myself with a full-time offer to work with the Technology Investment Banking group that I had spent my summer with. Having had the opportunity to meet my mentor in person since then, I know that the program has not only afforded me an incredible opportunity for my first years after Swarthmore, but has also given me a lifelong mentor, who is genuinely invested in my success and ambitions.

My experience is only a small example of the power of the connections the Career Collaborative has helped build. Jessica Seigel ’16 had similar results: “My mentor, Martha, provided me insight on how to navigate the job and intern search in Washington, D.C.. She was able to give me advice on the various types of careers that I could explore in politics, as well as ways to tailor my resume for these opportunities. Every industry and every city has different practices for networking and job hunting, and it’s enormously helpful to have someone to guide you through these processes.”

Braeden DeWan ’16 also weighed in on his experience and the value of the program: “Mark Bode ’80, my mentor, is genuinely involved in my career process. He has been a very reliable source of information and has helped me make many contacts that have led to interviews and offers. Through the program, Rob Steelman has assisted me in obtaining a summer internship, and introduced me to a variety of Greek life alums. My experience showed me that many alumni really do want to help, but do not always know how or the best way to do so. [The Career Collaborative] offers a structured way to make a difference.”

Recognizing the unique success of this program, Lenny Nathan ’92 is initiating a similar program for the Men’s soccer team. With the guidance of Alex Unger, an Associate Director of Leadership Giving at Swarthmore, Clarus Capital Investments, a student-run investment club on campus, also began a similar effort for its members.  Both these initiatives represent an organic extension of the pilot program that will hopefully be folded into a broader version offered to all Swarthmore students in the near future.

Above all, the resounding success of the pilot’s first year is proof that we have an incredible alumni base that is eager to mentor and share their experience with current students. The Career Collaborative has proven itself a self-sustaining outlet for their energy and offers the chance to catalyze opportunity and, more importantly, build lifelong relationships within our community.

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