Second Decade Society Forms Link Between Alumni, Students Symposium, award contribute to efforts to help shape careers By Lisa Mastny Despite what its name may suggest, the Second Decade Society is not an organization of lingering students who haven't quite made it to graduation. Actually, it's just the opposite. All the 135 members of this elective organization have not only made it to graduation, but have also gone on to become leaders in their professions and communities. They continue to contribute their considerable talents to the Hopkins community, serving as the leadership development organization for the School of Arts and Sciences and assisting faculty, staff and students in areas with specific needs. Since it was founded five years ago, the Second Decade Society, composed of undergraduate alumni of the School of Arts and Sciences who are elected 10 to 20 years after graduation, has proved invaluable in establishing links between successful alumni and students seeking career advice. "Often the best career advice a student can receive comes from someone who has been through Hopkins, has been successful in a particular field and, most importantly, who knows what the expectations are for that field," said Jill Paulson, SDS director. Among its many initiatives to make alumni resources available to students, the Second Decade Society, along with the Office of Career Services, sponsors a yearly career symposium, bringing together panels of alumni from a variety of backgrounds to discuss the ins and outs of their professions. Following the brief presentations, during which panel members describe their backgrounds as well as the expectations of a particular field, students are encouraged to ask questions about anything from the work environment to how to market themselves. "With more and more students going to work immediately after college, they're going to be competing with students who come from graduate and business schools and who already have the experience in how to market themselves. Our students are going to have to familiarize themselves with the professional world before they leave," Paulson said. According to Student Council president Jamie Eldridge, the SDS Career Symposium is the most successful program around to help Hopkins students in their career development. "Hopkins has immense resources in the country and around the world, but the university has to reach out, to connect undergraduates to the world and to other fields that alumni excel in," Eldridge said. "With events like the symposium, Hopkins students can hopefully get a competitive edge by utilizing alumni support." In the past, the symposium has attracted a diverse cross-section of the student body, from freshmen beginning to figure out their career paths to seniors frantically trying to figure out how to enter the job market. No matter who comes to listen to them, though, most alumni tend to offer similar advice. "Of course the No. 1 thing alumni encourage students to do is network," Paulson said. "But they also tell them to take other courses they are interested in, not just all pre-med or all political science. The most important lesson to get across is that people want to see well-roundedness." The 1995 SDS Career Symposium begins with a panel discussion led by alumni in the health care profession, which will be held on Monday, Feb. 13, at 5 p.m. in the AMR1 Multipurpose Room. Speakers will include John Colmers (B.A. '75), executive director of Maryland Health Care Access and Cost Review; Susan Tucker (B.A. '75), division chief of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene; Leslie Matthews (B.A. '73), chief of orthopedic surgery at Union Memorial Hospital; and Frank Spellman (B.A. '72), vitrioretinal surgeon and director of Retina Services at Howard University Hospital. Other panels will be held consecutive weeks and cover four additional career fields: law, business, communications and financial services. Organizing the yearly Career Symposium is only a fraction of the responsibility of the SDS members, however. Throughout the rest of the school year, these alumni serve as personal advisers to students seeking specific career advice through the SDS Career Advising Program, which is run in conjunction with the Office of Career Services. By establishing specialized, one-on-one communication between SDS alumni and students, the program goes one step beyond the resources of both the Alumni Career Network and the Office of Career Services, which provide only a broad introduction to a specific career. "If the students who come to the Office of Career Services have a fairly focused idea about what they're interested in and need information about particular areas or career fields, we try to match them up with an SDS adviser," said Jane Nini, assistant director of Career Services. "The SDS program complements ours by taking students to the next stage in the career development path." The SDS Career Advising Program acquaints students with the role of networking in the job search; it does not find jobs or secure interviews for students. "In the past, advisers have become real mentors for the students, and career opportunities have arisen from the strong connections made, but usually they just help students figure out what they need to do to reach a particular goal," said Paulson. Not only do they discuss their own experiences in the profession, but SDS advisers may also conduct mock interviews, review cover letters and r‚sum‚s, and be honest with students about their chances of employment in the field. In addition to its role in career development, the Second Decade Society supports a number of other initiatives in the Hopkins community, responding to both student and faculty needs. For example, funds raised by the society support the SDS Career Development Professorship, held by Maria Zuber, associate professor in Earth and Planetary Sciences, as well as the popular dean's fellowship courses taught by upper-level graduate students. The society also contributes its networking skills to the admissions process, assisting the Admissions Office in recruiting African American students through phone-a-thons as well as arranging annual receptions for accepted students in New York and San Francisco. Beginning this year, SDS will award a yearly $1,000 prize to a graduating senior who has displayed considerable leadership, either at Hopkins or in the surrounding community, and who has helped raise the public profile of the university. Information on the award will be sent out to students, faculty, staff, community groups and student organizations beginning Feb. 8, and nominations will be accepted until March 1. The final decision, made by SDS in conjunction with Dean of Students Susan Boswell, will be based on both nominations and subsequent interviews.
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