Students to explore unique career fields during Reading Days in Richmond, NYC

Three different Reading Days trips will expose students to potential career paths in STEM, fashion and humanities

Alexandra Cline

While some students reclaim lost sleep or study for midterms during Reading Days, others will see a glimpse into their potential future careers.

This year, three separate trips will afford Washington and Lee undergraduates the opportunity to explore career options in less traditional fields.

Assistant Director of Career Development Molly Steele serves as the leader for one of these trips, which focuses on the STEM field outside of the premed track.

“The purpose is to show students all sorts of different experiences career-wise and get an indication of what the jobs are out there,” Steele said.

She plans to bring students to laboratories, drone and agricultural research sites, hospitals and private practices in the Richmond area to offer an interdisciplinary approach to the experience.

With these trips, the Career Development office hopes that students not only learn about certain careers, but also network with experienced professionals and gain insight into their career paths.

“It’s not just about the industry in which a student is drawn to, but it’s also the job function and skill sets they have that they could apply in an industry they may not think of immediately,” John Jensen, director of career development and associate dean of students, said.

One of the more unconventional fields explored by W&L alumni in recent years is the fashion industry, with students looking to pursue both the creative design and merchandising sides.

Caroline Schmidt, assistant director for recruitment, will guide a trip to New York during the fall break to let students discover the fashion world and understand the diversity of job prospects available.

Confirmed stops on the trip include visits to Ralph Lauren, Chanel, Valentino and J. Crew, all of which will provide an in-depth look into luxury design and branding.

The third trip option aims to serve another underrepresented area of student interest, one with fewer definite career paths – humanities.

As a graduate of W&L with a history major, Jensen understood the worry many students feel when deciding to embark on an English, philosophy or sociology major, in particular.

“The trip is to show these students all the different options they have, because they truly have a skill set they can bring to any organization,” Jensen said. “Students sometimes worry they have to be X major, and they don’t have to be – they can follow their academic passion.”

Jensen will travel with the group of students to New York and visit organizations such as the American Red Cross, Grey Advertising and the Michael J. Fox Foundation, where a W&L alum leads the non- profit’s fundraising efforts.

“This trip is really my passion because I want students to look at career development as a way to complement whatever they want to pursue academically,” he said. “You can be an English major and not only have a really cool job, but be really successful in it.”

Aside from these upcoming trips, Career Development also sponsors programs at other points during the year, notably partnering with the Williams School for an advertising- and marketing-based trip for February break.

“These trips really give confidence to students in that they can do whatever they want to do,” Jensen said. “They don’t need to pursue a typical path.”