Alumni impart career knowledge during CPD interim events

by Michael Qian | 3/30/15 7:07pm

Twenty-one students traveled to Los Angeles on March 19, meeting with alumni film industry leaders Chris Miller ’97 and Phil Lord ’97 — the directing duo behind “The Lego Movie” (2014) and “21 Jump Street” (2012). Though this trip might sound like the beginnings of a film foreign study program, the event is actually part of a two-day long “Off the Green” industry tour sponsored by Dartmouth’s Center for Professional Development.

In addition to the entertainment-based tour, which was developed in collaboration with the Hopkins Center for Arts, the CPD organized a March 18 nonprofit-focused trip to Boston, where 11 students heard from alumni.

“The goal is quite simple,” CPD assistant director for experiential learning and advising Leslie Kingsley said about the programs. “It’s intended to give students an opportunity to explore within the confines of the physical space. We want to bring them to the different locations that careers exist.”

Many of the sources associated with the CPD said the trips thrive on the Center’s expansive network of professional alumni contacts, as well as its collaboration with other Dartmouth organizations, including the Dartmouth Alumni in Entertainment and Media Association, Dartmouth for Life and the Tucker Foundation.

During both of the “Off the Green” events over the spring interim, students moved between different sites, networking with alumni and joining conversations along the way.

“If you looked at LinkedIn, there are over 40,000 alums,” CPD assistant director Matt Kuchar said. “It’s a really nice way for alums to give back in a non-financial way.”

When interim dean of the Tucker Foundation Theresa Ellis ’97 graduated Dartmouth and wanted to work in the nonprofit sector, no such programs existed. She said her motivation to participate in the Boston trip came from her desire to support students interested in pursuing nonprofit careers.

“I think the students were quite positive about the event,” Ellis said. “People stayed well beyond the eight o’clock time that it was supposed to end.”

Kingsley, who helped develop and pilot the first “Off the Green” program in 2013, also participated in this year’s Boston trip. She said that many people do not understand the breadth of nonprofit work, and that students left the day feeling more aware of what this kind of work entails.

Kuchar, who participated in the LA trip, said the program was especially valuable in the context of how the entertainment industry operates because it allowed students to network with current successful alumni. He said that, unlike many other career opportunities where recruiters come to campus and students can stand out through their accomplishments, the entertainment world is less of a meritocracy.

“It’s one of the most difficult fields to break into,” Kuchar said. “It’s incredibly network-dependent. One of the themes we heard throughout the trip to LA is that it’s really about getting your name in there, and then sweat equity once you’re in the door.”

Like Kuchar, Hopkins Center director Jeff James went on the LA trip and said he understands the entertainment industry’s competitive nature. As a member of the arts community, however, James also said he wants to give students a deeper look into the field so that they might seriously consider the arts as a career possibility.

“It’s hard to imagine that anyone who has a ghost of an interest in the world of entertainment couldn’t have walked away from that with a much more informed and exciting perspective on what is possible,” he said.

Deana Chou ’18, who went on the LA trip, reinforced James’ sentiments. She said the opportunity to ask specific questions was extremely helpful and that the whole experience was sweetened by the available financial aid.

Alison Flint ’15 said she left the trip with a comprehensive knowledge of how the entertainment business works and how she would enter the industry. Though she said she is on the fence about pursuing entertainment as a career, she said listening to alumni give career advice could only be helpful.

Dartmouth for Life director Dan Parish ’89 joined Kuchar and James in LA, and said that a particularly helpful aspect of both trips was that students heard from alumni at different stages of their careers.

“To sit and listen to someone who runs a studio and is making really big decisions about what ends up being produced for films is great, but it’s equally valuable to hear from alums who are two or three or four years out and are trying to put together their career path.”

Parish said it was easy to rally alumni support for the program. Each trip also ended with a nighttime industry gathering, where alumni could chat with each other, share their experiences and make connections.

“When I was a student, having a career in the entertainment industry felt really far away,” Dartmouth Alumni in Entertainment and Media president Schuyler Evans ’10 said. “This program seemed like a great opportunity for students to be exposed and get some perspective.”

The “Off the Green” trips further reinforce College President Phil Hanlon’s vision for experiential learning, program organizers said. CPD director Roger Woolsey said that these immersion experiences provide a knowledge base that the CPD professionals do not have.

“To date, students have unanimously said they would recommend their peers to do this program,” Kingsley said, adding that she hopes to expand the initiative in coming years.

Since its inception in late 2013, the CPD has coordinated four “Off the Green” programs. Students indicate the fields in which they are interested, and CPD subsequently chooses the program themes.

Several representatives from the Center said further expansion is constrained by current staffing and budget numbers. Students are eligible to receive need-based funding. The programs require applications, but so far no students have been turned away.

This story ran in print under the headline "CPD hosts interim career events."

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