Nancy A. Roseman, President
Commencement is a good time to step back and reflect on so many things. Certainly it is a time to recall that special day in our own lives and the journey that brought us to where we find ourselves today. For some it is not so long ago, for others it has been decades. Could you have predicted where you would be sitting today, reading this copy of Dickinson Magazine, as you were handed your diploma?
As we all congratulated our newly minted alumni and sent them on their way, I couldn’t help but think about what lies ahead and how we have prepared them. They are entering a world where being able to navigate difference is so critical, and we help them do this by bringing together an extraordinarily diverse community. This year’s graduates come from 29 states and the District of Columbia and 25 countries. They represent a spectrum of political views, socioeconomic status, academic interests, dreams and aspirations. By living and working with their classmates, they have been well prepared for the diverse workplace they are about to enter.
Many of our alums who are employers tell me that their biggest challenge in hiring recent college graduates is that so many lack the social skills needed to succeed in the workplace. This is why I think a residential liberal-arts experience is so valuable and will become even more valued in the years ahead: Our graduates time and time again are notable in their ability to be members of a team and to solve problems collaboratively.
A Dickinsonian I met recently told me a story that illustrates this point. When she first graduated, more than 10 years ago, her computer-science degree opened the door to a job in a new company. One day, in one fell swoop, the vast majority of her colleagues were let go — but not her. Being an inquisitive Dickinsonian, she asked her supervisor why. Given the seemingly superior computer-science credentials of her now former colleagues, why was she retained? She learned that it was because she had developed healthy and productive working relationships with her colleagues. She was valued because she had helped to foster an environment that allowed for greater synergy and success within the company. She didn’t say this to me, but it was clear that she made everyone around her better. What she did say was that her Dickinson experience was what made the difference; it had formed her perspective and approach toward working with others.
How else do we help our students succeed once they have that diploma firmly in hand? Over 70 percent of the class of 2014 completed at least one internship. That’s real life experience. Many of those internships led to job offers or to more informed decisions about career choices. Few things are more valuable. We integrate hands-on experiences throughout the curriculum, from archaeology to sociology to art history and, of course, the sciences. Our students enter their first job or graduate school knowing they can do the work, because in many cases they already have.
How else do we have confidence that our graduates will succeed? Fifty-five percent of them studied abroad. This means that they have a facility with cultural difference and language that will serve them well in the years ahead and will open doors to personal and professional opportunity. I constantly meet graduates who are doing interesting work and, so often, for some part of their lives have lived and worked overseas. In fact, 92 percent of our graduates are employed or in graduate school within one year of graduation. Those who question the value of a liberal-arts education — and the ability of that education to translate into a successful career — are just plain wrong.
As a community, there is much we can do to help our graduates succeed. We are working hard to improve our network so that all Dickinsonians, no matter when they graduated, can connect with one another. Using social-media platforms such as LinkedIn, we are developing a framework whereby our graduates can tap into that collaborative spirit that defines Dickinson. If you have not yet done so, please join the official Dickinson College alumni group on LinkedIn, which already boasts more than 5,600 members. Together, we can function as an extraordinary team—continuing to strengthen our vibrant, diverse community and making Dickinson an even better place.
the summer 2014 issue of Dickinson Magazine.
Published July 22, 2014