For student-athletes, whose time is consumed by practices, conditioning, and games, attending campus events can be difficult. And when scheduling challenges mean missing out on critical opportunities to prepare for a life and career after college, the problem is amplified.
ClarkCONNECT has helped bridge the divide through its Clark Student-Athlete Career Seminar Series, which launched last fall.
During hour-long sessions on three Sunday afternoons — when scheduling conflicts with practices and games were lowest — student-athletes worked with alumni, faculty, and other partners to strengthen their resume-writing and interviewing skills, and recently had the opportunity to network with alumni partners for career mentorship and industry expertise.
To shape the programming for the three seminars, rising sophomore, junior, and senior student-athletes were surveyed to identify areas of career development that most interested them. Sixty-four student-athletes from a variety of varsity teams selected professional networking, résumé presentation, and interview preparation as their top three topics.
Each session was moderated by Cindy Michael-Wolpert ’90, P ’18, vice president of human resources at Fidelity Investments and a member of Clark’s Board of Trustees.
The seminar series culminated in a Feb. 25 Alumni and Student-Athlete Networking Event, with student-athletes encouraged to connect with Clark alumni in attendance. Michael-Wolpert introduced the event by recommending that students step out of their comfort zones for the evening.
“There’s no safer environment than this room,” she said. “There isn’t a job on the line, but the connections made here could turn into an opportunity after graduation. So take risks, be curious, have conversations. That’s what today is about.”
President David Angel echoed this message, stressing Clark’s commitment to student success after graduation. He said Clark alumni — thousands of accomplished graduates in every field imaginable across the country and around the world — are the most important resource for new graduates. Alumni present at the ClarkCONNECT event included former student-athletes representing a variety of fields, from health and medicine to consulting, to education and law.
“The issue with preparing student-athletes for career readiness is that the athletes don’t know how to talk about being athletes,” explained Trish Cronin, director of athletics and recreation. She said it’s key for athletes for be able to “sell” the investment they’ve made in practices and games as evidence of a strong work ethic, resilience, collaboration, and other skills prized by potential employers.
Sara Conroy ’20, a political science major who plays on the women’s soccer team, described the networking event as a “unique experience.”
“I don’t normally have so much in common with potential employers or professional connections, but given that they were all former Clark athletes, it ended up being a very welcoming atmosphere to be surrounded by successful people who understood how much time we put into our sports,” she said.
As student-athletes mingled with professionals, some were determined to network outside of their intended career fields, following the advice of Dr. Kate Kelly ’93, who encouraged them to remain open to all possibilities. “You will find your path eventually,” she said, “even if it isn’t what you originally had planned.”
In addition to Cindy Michael-Wolpert and Trish Cronin, the organizers of the Clark Student-Athlete Career Seminar Series were Donna Curry, executive director of alumni and student engagement/ClarkCONNECT; Callie Lekas, head field hockey coach; and Brie Smith ’01, head women’s soccer coach.