This past Saturday, second and third-years gathered at the Hilton Chicago for Taking the Next Step, the College’s annual program that brings students together with alumni from a variety of fields. Featuring panels on everything from Advertising to Entertainment and Creative Arts to Sustainability, the event highlights the impressively wide range of career paths taken by alumni. Unfortunately, many of the University’s other career advising efforts do not share Taking the Next Step’s commitment to equal representation of different career paths. In recent years, the University has expanded its CCI (Chicago Careers in…) and CCC (Chicago Career Connection) programs as well as the number of internships offered, but these changes still fall short of meeting student needs in terms of internship and job diversity.
This lack of diversity is particularly evident in the Jeff Metcalf Fellows Program. In spite of steady growth over the last 15 years, the program still features internships mostly in finance or business. Industries like science and technology, in contrast, are largely neglected; of the 170 currently posted Metcalfs, 104 are in finance, banking, or business, 11 are in journalism, nine are in science and technology, six are in law, and a whopping one internship is in manufacturing. As a result, a large number of students interested in lesser-represented industries vie for just a few select internships. This is especially problematic because many internships not offered through the University are unpaid. CCI grants address this issue in part by permitting students to find their own opportunities, but are nevertheless flawed since they require students to have received and accepted an internship offer by early April, before many companies make final decisions.
On-Campus Recruiting, a subset of CCC, likewise falls short in its array of options. The program relies heavily on companies with large alumni bases, resulting in recruitment mostly from the same financial institutions and small boutique firms from year to year. As CAPS continues its expansion, it should look to diversify by seeking out and bringing in as many Fortune 500 companies as possible for campus recruitment, in addition to companies with strong UChicago ties like Morningstar or Morgan Stanley. Even though a good portion of the student body is looking to one day go into finance or business, it is certainly not guaranteed that each of these students will be able to secure a coveted job at a big-time bank or firm. Additionally, students with diverse interests—including finance—can find many positions offered by companies in industries like consumer products, retail, and manufacturing. Reflecting this, CAPS should consider broadening the depth and scope of each CCI program to match the comprehensiveness of CCIB, and each should offer a greater number and variety of internships in their targeted industries.
While CAPS has gone a long way toward addressing the needs of an increasingly career-oriented student body facing a difficult economic climate—Taking the Next Step is a testament to this progress—there is room for improvement. It’s unreasonable to assume that students can build large networks on their own based on their specific interests without the University’s assistance. UChicago students have a wide range of interests and aspirations, and it’s about time CAPS worked for everyone, not just the future one percent.
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