Shin: NU should support non-econ, non-engineering, non-pre-meds more


Heiwon Shin, Columnist

Northwestern has so many economics and engineering majors and students on the pre-med track. It also has an incredible support system for such students in the form of career fairs, professional fraternities and many information sessions to provide students with advice and opportunities to network and find internships or mentors. But what about other majors?

I’m a journalism and art theory and practice double major and a French minor, so I can only speak for those particular fields in the humanities. But from my experience so far, there is a considerable difference in organized efforts for professional opportunities, at least for art and French: There are interesting speaker and social events, as well as movie screenings and on-campus support systems like Northwestern Career Advancement and respective school and department advisers. However, there aren’t as many occasions or platforms like the career fairs, professional fraternities and info sessions that fields like consulting have.

Not all students are completely devoted to one particular field and have everything planned out. For the most part, we’re here to explore, so NU should implement a school-wide support system to help all students in this process. Of course, it’s the individual student’s responsibility to find opportunities on his or her own, but the entire university can also benefit from large-scale efforts to bring in outside parties or alumni to NU.

First, there should be more non-business-related info sessions for those who are still exploring different fields. Because most info sessions are business-oriented, many humanities majors like myself and my friends can only find out whether we like business or not. We don’t know enough about the non-business careers, so academic departments and NCA should encourage a more diverse range of industry representatives to come to NU.

There should also be more peer support groups, like pre-professional fraternities, to nurture diverse non-business and engineering interests. Groups like the Medill Undergraduate Student Advisory Council or the Block Student Advisory Board can, to an extent, help interested individuals, but strictly speaking, they serve Medill and Block Museum of Art, respectively, and are limited in creating strong mentorship programs that pre-professional societies have.

Finally, there should be more non-business career fairs to allow students to actually meet recruiters. Many students, myself included, apply to internships that are not strictly in the business and consulting arena. We don’t get the advantage business-oriented students get. I visit NCA and Medill Career Services at least once a week. I get wonderful advice about how to fix my resume and cover letters, but this cannot be the same as talking to actual recruiters. Oftentimes job descriptions are vague and, at best, we can only guess what they’re looking for and what the work atmosphere will be.

Even non-pre-professional fields can benefit from school-organized opportunities such as Northwestern Career Advancement’s annual externship program. The Northwestern Externship Program allows students to shadow alumni for a day in professional work places all over the US and abroad. Not only can students experience the industry first hand, they can network with alumni and develop lasting mentor-mentee relationships. Plus, recent or established graduates can offer insight professors can’t.

For some subject areas, it doesn’t really make much sense to have such formalized and standardized forms of networking or career-advancing opportunities. Some majors may lend themselves to post-college academia, so internships may not be the norm. Students might find themselves happy with the on-campus opportunities to research with NU faculty. Even if this is the case, however, it never hurts to meet more people outside of NU.

To make all this happen, students and faculty have to work together to strengthen and see the full potential of all disciplines and interests on campus. NU’s decentralized organization structure allows freedom but it also poses a challenge to connect different entities. If we connect the dots, however, we can be a stronger and better school. It’s easy to provide mostly business-centric career support on campus just because there are so many students and established company-school relationships, but that is no reason to underestimate the professional potential of humanities majors.

Heiwon Shin is a Medill sophomore. She can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].