Glowing rows of luminarias mark the opening of the new Career Center in College Hall.
Career Center gets a new home
The Amherst College Career Center has always been an important source of information, advice, experience and encouragement for students. But its cramped quarters in Converse Hall and the formality of its location next to the offices of the dean of faculty, registrar and president made it the sort of place that students would go because they needed to, not because they wanted to. In March, however, all that changed.
The Career Center now occupies an elegant new architect-designed space in College Hall. With muted colors, stylish contemporary furniture, track lighting, inviting seating areas and a sophisticated computerized coffee and tea station, the new Career Center looks and feels like an upscale Barnes & Noble store. Boldly patterned easy chairs and clean-lined maple bookshelves in the resource library are flooded with light from a tall window, creating a particularly inviting space, and teardrop-shaped tables and café-style chairs near the coffee station serve as a venue for socializing. Two interview rooms and a secluded corner nook provide privacy for student discussions with a professional
or peer career advisor or meetings with potential employers. A video camera in one of the interview rooms allows students to record a mock interview, critique their own performance and hone their skills for the real thing.
“We wanted it to be a place where students would want to come and make it their own space,” says Rosalind Hoffa, the director of the center. “We wanted state-of-the-art resources and equipment, but the crucial thing was to retain that human touch, so that it isn’t sterile.” The plan seems to be working: Students now visit the Career Center just to study and relax, and one student wrote a chapter of his thesis there in the last weeks of March.
The stylish comfort of the Career Center resource library makes it a place where students want to stay and learn.
The new space is more inviting for staff members, as well. “Everybody now has their own office; that’s something we’ve never had,” Hoffa says (space in the Converse Hall office was at such a premium that some Career Center staff members had to alternate their work days and hours, so they could share a desk and computer). Kuhn Riddle Architects, the designers of the new center, emphasized multiple doors, glass walls, varying ceiling height and long sight lines to create a feeling of openness in the offices.
While the improved aesthetics are most welcome for students and staff, the main advantage of the new space is that it enhances the center’s ability to provide career services for students. One of the
elements of the new space that Hoffa is most excited about is the conference room, which features a large table, a video projector, a white board, a podium and wireless systems for teleconferencing. “We never had a conference room before,” Hoffa says. “So we had to go running all over campus looking for a space whenever we wanted to do a presentation.” The room has already hosted a series
of Friday afternoon career discussions with alumni and a women’s network lunch. “We get about 12 people on average for the alumni discussions,” Hoffa says, “and that’s good for a conversation, which is what we want—not a lecture or formal presentation.”
“The new facilities allow us to do more creative things,” Hoffa continues. “It’s like
having a party in your living room instead of the hotel down the street. It’s nothing we didn’t do before, but because it’s easier, we can do it more casually, less stressfully.”
The Career Center works with students throughout their four years at Amherst and beyond, Hoffa says. Among the center’s many offerings are services like counseling for career and academic decisions and specialized advising in subjects like pre-law and medicine; events such as career fairs and alumni presentations; and information about study-abroad programs, internship programs and fellowships. The Amherst Career Network, one of the center’s newest services, connects willing alumni with students interested in their professions. About 1,000 alumni currently are registered with the network, and Hoffa hopes to recruit many more. “In all our efforts,” she says, “we want to make sure students get the most out of their Amherst experience.”
Professor Frank Trapp >>
Photos: Samuel Masinter '04