When Laura Faulkner ’10, M.P.A. ’11, reviews her list of Clark University mentors, it’s a series of dotted lines that eventually led her to her current role as a community engagement manager for Opportunity@Work’s TechHire initiative.
The nonprofit social enterprise, based in Washington, D.C., pursues its mission to “expand access to career opportunities so that all Americans can work, learn and earn to their full potential in a dynamic economy.” Faulkner helps lead and support the TechHire movement, a national initiative that creates access to employment in technical careers for individuals who have been overlooked by traditional hiring practices and underrepresented in the tech sector.
At Clark, Faulkner’s list of mentors included Jim Gomes, director of Clark’s Mosakowski Institute for Public Enterprise, where she interned as a research associate her senior year, developing a comprehensive data dashboard for midsize cities in Massachusetts.
Then there’s Robert Ross, research professor of sociology, who provided her career advice and connected her with professionals in the social sector. And attorney and author Lauren Stiller Rikleen ’75, who hired Faulkner during her fifth-year M.P.A. program to work at the Boston-based law firm Bowditch & Dewey. Faulkner still works closely with Rikleen, managing her institute’s website and social media presence.
But the Clarkie who ultimately launched Faulkner’s postgraduate career was former Trustee Barbara Dyer ’73. She hired Faulkner as communications manager and program associate at The Hitachi Foundation, a nonprofit philanthropic organization based in Washington, D.C.
“I met Barbara at an event at then-President John Bassett’s house while I was a Clark undergrad. I mentioned my interest in workforce development and economic mobility, and she encouraged me to reach out to her should I ever be in D.C.,” Faulkner recalls. “Fast-forward a few years later and my then-boyfriend and now husband, Andrew [Ninnemann ’10], and I were headed down to the D.C. area as he was starting graduate school. I tapped into my Clark network and gave Barbara a call — and there just happened to be a position at the foundation that was a good fit for me. So I went for it.”
It’s stories like these that Faulkner hopes will become commonplace with the University’s new initiative, ClarkCONNECT, an online and off-line opportunity for networking between students and alumni.
“I’ve joined ClarkCONNECT to serve as a resource, mentor and champion for Clark students and recent graduates as they identify their next steps toward a meaningful career,” Faulkner says. “As an alum, I have a responsibility to remain engaged with the Clark community. My own connections to the Clark network created opportunities for me. I would encourage all alumni to be creative in thinking about how they can help support the next generation of Clark leaders — whether that’s through job shadowing, mentorship, or simply sharing your own experiences working in your field.
“One of the biggest benefits that mentors can provide is validation. When someone like Barbara can vouch for you and recommend you to potential employers or connections, it sends a clear signal about the quality of the Clark community member. Authentic relationships are the cornerstone of a strong network.”
To that end, Faulkner made sure that the Opportunity@Work internship was posted at Clark last spring. She was thrilled when Madelyn (Maddie) Bowers’ name rose to the top, based on her stellar experience and recommendations.
Bowers, a member of the class of 2018, seemed a prime candidate for the internship. Over the past year, the international development and social change major from Marietta, Pa., had interned at Graham-Pelton Consulting, which aids nonprofit organizations with fundraising management, and, as a Forest Foundation Fellow, at Bright Horizons Foundation for Children, which builds safe, enriching Bright Spaces® to support children and families experiencing homelessness and other crises. She also had mentored 9- to 15-year-old girls through the Clark-Worcester organization All Kinds of Girls and served as a peer reviewer and copy editor for the student-run Scholarly Undergraduate Research Journal.
Once hired by Opportunity@Work, Bowers immediately started contributing to a number of teams and projects. She then switched over to assisting with the organization’s newest initiative, Talent Alliance.
“We were charged with developing the idea of an action-oriented employer organization into an actionable plan that would drive all other aspects of our organization,” she says. “We saw the initiative through its first round of conversations with top employers in the country. I personally managed the organization president’s outreach and communication pipeline to CEOs of top employers.”
Working for an organization like Opportunity@Work has been extremely fulfilling, Bowers says.
“Opportunity@Work is attempting to create a national movement to support skills-based hiring, enabling more people who are typically screened out of the hiring process to begin well-paying tech careers. They are developing solutions that have the potential to change the labor market,” she says. “The ‘mission first’ structure of Opportunity@Work showed me that nonprofit organizations are capable of doing incredible work with the right leadership and comprehensive funding.”
Bowers met with Faulkner frequently to swap Clark and work stories and receive the alumna’s advice. They’re now working together on a project this fall as Bowers continues to intern with Opportunity@Work from Worcester.
“Maddie’s persistence, work ethic and willingness to play a variety of roles at our growing organization have made her an invaluable part of the team,” Faulkner says.
“Mentorship is a two-way street,” she adds. “One of the reasons I’ve loved connecting with Maddie is that she provides insightful feedback and advice that has shaped my thinking. Maddie brings new perspectives that have shaped my approach to work and relationships with the Clark community.”
Bowers likewise sees the benefits to mentorship. “The connections I made over the summer are invaluable as I move from student to professional,” she says. “Laura inspires me to be a mentor when I graduate. Connecting individuals and sharing opportunities is something I am passionate about.”
Clark University has launched a major initiative that brings together students, alumni, faculty, parents and friends to expand students’ knowledge and prepare them for a successful career launch. ClarkCONNECT provides opportunities for mentoring, career exploration, and internship and job opportunities. Learn more.