Trustee Gift of $5 Million to Support GW VALOR, ‘Trek’ Program, Tech Room, Career Mentoring

Spring 2015 will usher in expanded programs for university career services.

November 24, 2014

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Assistant Provost for University Career Services Rachel A. Brown, Board of Trustees member Mark R. Shenkman, M.B.A. ´67, and his wife Rosalind with George Washington President Steven Knapp.

By Brittney Dunkins

Abigail Howard, now a senior in the George Washington University School of Business donned her best business attire and traveled last year to New York to meet with representatives from top firms—Gallup Inc., IBM, Ernst & Young, PricewaterhouseCoopers and CCS Fundraising.

She was one of more than 80 students selected for the GWSB New York Networking Trek—a program that began several years ago to offer GWSB’s sophomores, juniors and seniors a coveted networking opportunity.

“The trek provided a unique opportunity to visit firms and get a feel for their company cultures by visiting the companies back to back,” Ms. Howard said. “Networking is essential—the trek allowed us to get to know each company better since we visited their offices and met several employees.” 

With thanks to a $5 million dollar gift donated by Board of Trustees member Mark R. Shenkman, M.B.A. ´67, and his wife Rosalind, the Center for Career Services and Career Services Council will launch Career Quest, a university-wide trek program open to juniors, seniors and graduate students.

Career Quest is one of a host of initiatives that the university will roll out during the spring 2015 semester to support undergraduate and graduate students who are exploring industry and job opportunities.

In addition to Career Quest, the university will launch university-wide career-mentoring programs that pair students with alumni and friends of the university. The Center for Career Services also will open Shenkman Technology Room, a digital mock interview and virtual career-coaching space for students, located at Colonial Crossroads on the fifth floor of the Marvin Center.

Students can take control of their job search preparation by registering for a mock interview with a career coach through the GWork portal, recording an interview and taking home a flash drive to review their performances.

“These initiatives came from the university community, including feedback from students, the Career Services Council and the Shenkmans’ vision for the gift,” said Rachel Brown, assistant provost for university career services. “Trustee Shenkman pulled from his experience in the business world to help the university build programs that prepare students for the interview and job search process.”

The Career Quest program will include visitations to companies in advertising and design, broadcast, print and digital media, civic engagement and public service and sustainability. Ms. Brown estimates that 50 students will be able to participate during the spring semester.

The GWSB treks—in consulting and financial services, sports marketing, marketing and real estate—also will continue.

“These initiatives are just a sampling of the career services opportunities we can now build on in future years as a result of this transformative gift.” 

- Rachel Brown, Assistant Provost for University Career Services

Gil C. Yancey, executive director of the F. David Fowler Career Center, said that the existing mentorship program at GW was launched five years ago in cooperation with alumni who are members of the Real Estate Finance Alliance (REFA) and the Luther Rice Society in New York.

Since then, more than 50 students have participated in the program, which pairs each mentee with alumni and peer mentors. According to Mr. Yancey, 100 percent of participants have gotten an internship or full-time job in their fields of interest.

“One of the best ways to ensure that students are ready to compete in the job market, and subsequently perform when they get the job, is to partner them with someone who is doing or has successfully done the work they hope to do,” Mr. Yancey said. “We have built a mentorship program on that premise, and because of this new funding, we can add programs for students with other career interests who are ready to put in the hard work.”

Patrick Smith, a senior in the Elliott School of International Affairs, will advise clients on investments at the Investment Association for Cambridge Associates next summer because of connections he made in the REFA mentoring program.

“I think the most valuable part of the experience was working with senior and peer mentors toward pinpointing my career goals and ambitions,” Mr. Smith said. “The program really steers you to take a serious view of the job search early on, which can be extremely beneficial in this tough job market.”

In addition to expanding experiential career opportunities, funding will support the Knowledge in Action Career Internship Fund and enhance specialized programming for veteran and military students.

Ms. Brown said her office would continue to work with Operation GW VALOR to help the military student community translate their experiences in the working world. They also will provide travel vouchers for distance-learning students to attend networking events on campus.

U.S. Air Force veteran Shane Ryan, a graduate student in the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration, said that his participation in career services events have helped him to pursue his aspirations.

“As a veteran, I have gained so many different skills—from life-saving and security to leadership skills—after serving in the U.S. Air Force for seven years, but it is difficult to describe these experiences to potential employers,” Mr. Ryan said. “The events during Veterans Day week were extremely beneficial and increased my confidence and ability to gain employment in the civilian sector.”

Funding will also benefit international students.

“Job searching is tough for everyone but many of our international students have added challenges such as language proficiency, work authorization and building a network in the U.S.,” Mr. Yancey said. “This additional funding permits us to add resources aimed to assist our international students with addressing these unique challenges.”

Ms. Brown said that going forward the university plans to use the funding to provide an expanded level of support to a wider array of students.

“These initiatives are just a sampling of the career services opportunities we can now build on in future years as a result of this transformative gift,” Ms. Brown said.