McDavid: Consider Your Options

by Michael McDavid | 9/23/14 5:55pm

Corporate recruiting exemplifies Dartmouth’s pre-professional, business minded culture. A career in the corporate world often seems the default expectation for a Dartmouth student, which can be frustrating to those who have no interest in the participating industries. The recruiting process provides an opportunity for many Dartmouth students to connect directly with potential employers — something that does not happen with other career paths, at least not to the same degree. Its extensive influence and culture can quickly become exasperating, and we must remember it isn’t the only option on campus.

In many ways, the College ought to be proud of its reputation as an educator of business leaders. With our strong network of alumni, history of fruitful relationships with big-name, blue chip corporations and the presence of the Tuck School of Business, few schools are better suited for the aspiring businessperson. Each year, the College undoubtedly draws students based on these very opportunities. Corporate recruiting is a part of Dartmouth’s success.

Yet so much campus energy focused on corporate life detracts from the experiences of students interested in other post-graduate activities. This is by no means to suggest that one cannot graduate from Dartmouth and find success in fields like academia, public service and theater. After all, the College provides a stellar education and offers a lot more than economics classes. But the frustration stems from our culture — business comes first and everything else comes second.

However, though 34 percent of members of the Class of 2012 pursued finance or consulting careers, the most recent figures available from Dartmouth’s Graduation Outcomes Report show that a majority of students find their calling elsewhere. The corporate culture’s insistence on having a job lined up as soon as possible is intimidating and impossible to replicate — especially when students do not have a concrete plan, a suitably lucrative passion or a long term career arc. We must remember that finding a job early in senior year should be the exception and not the rule.

No university is under any obligation to provide every student with the same level of professional opportunity; Dartmouth does not have to provide a system like corporate recruiting for every career. But as the College finds itself in a state of flux, a moment of self-examination, perhaps the time is ripe to examine what fosters this corporate culture on campus. Though a school should be proud to be known as a pipeline to a certain field, no school — especially a liberal arts college — wants to over-specialize. Doing so ultimately limits the options of its students.

Dartmouth ought to give students a chance to meaningfully explore both their passions and their skills. Too much pre-professional preparation can quickly block the educational mission of the liberal arts. To risk over-focusing on one post-graduate option is to risk the character of the College.

Thankfully, we are not quite there yet. Corporate recruiting is not going to bring Dartmouth Hall crumbling down. Indeed, for those entering the process at any point in time this year, I wish you luck. But we must all bear in mind that it is but one option as we approach that world beyond Hanover, neither better nor worse than any other.

McDavid is a contributing columnist.

This column is part of a special insert on corporate recruiting.