October 7, 2021
The following is adapted from an announcement circulated to SIPA faculty and staff by Meg Heenehan, executive director of the newly renamed Career Advancement Center.

On September 1, 2021, SIPA’s Office of Career Services adopted a new name that better reflects the office’s role in advancing the professional aspirations of SIPA students and graduates. The former OCS is now known as the Career Advancement Center, or CAC.

The name change comes on the heels of a comprehensive audit of SIPA’s career services undertaken in partnersjhip with Huron Consulting in Fall 2019. Drawing on input from students, alumni, employers, concentration directors and coordinators, and SIPA leadership, Huron made a series of recommendations in January 2020.

The findings inspired several initiatives, including the following.

1. Closer Coordination with Concentration Directors and Managers

The audit confirmed that SIPA students look to faculty in the various concentrations as informed sources of relevant career advice. CAC is now redoubling its efforts to enlist this invaluable expertise—working, for example, with concentration directors and managers on concentration-specific job search strategy sessions for students and recent graduates. The office also created a “Career Series,” by concentration, that brings together employers and alumni from around the world to share region and sector-specific advice and information regarding professional opportunities. CAC is now planning similar programming and collaboration with all SIPA academic units.

With over 1,200 students from around the world with professional ambitions as varied as SIPA’s multiple academic paths and concentrations, engaging the expertise of professional and alumni networks within SIPA’s concentrations and specializations is a critically important—and effective—means of advancing the career aspirations of SIPA students and graduates alike.

2. Empowering SIPA Students

CAC aims to empower students with the resources and skills to take ownership of their professional development both during their time at SIPA and long after they graduate. The unit is delivering on this goal through a variety of new initiatives and programming. For example, it has made recent strategic investments in technology and AI platforms (like VMock and Big Interview) to provide students and alumni with instant, personalized feedback on their resumes and to assist in their interview preparation based on input from CAC advisers, employers, and industry best practices.

These platforms also will help interested SIPA students improve their English-language skills and thereby access more professional opportunities. Indeed, one of CAC’s priorities is to work closely with SIPA’s Office of Academic Affairs and Office of Student Affairs to create academic support programs for students who wish to become more proficient in writtten and spoken English.

Finally, these platforms enable CAC advisers to meet students and alums wherever they are, in real time—ensuring that time spent with students and alumni in one-on-one career counseling sessions is both focused and productive. Leveraging technology in this way also helps CAC advisers serve as many students and alumni as possible.

3. Enlisting Outside Support of Career Services.

Another recent initiative that expands opportunities for students and alumni is CAC’s partnership with Localized, a talent tech company that connects SIPA students and alumni with employers and industry experts worldwide. CAC launched the partnership last year and will assess participation and outcomes this year. If interest is high, CAC can continue the relationship and consider expanding it. Either way, CAC will work to extend the range and scope of employer opportunities available to SIPA students.

4. Maintaining the Advisory Role of CAC’s new Steering Committee of Faculty and Administrators.

In Spring 2020, CAC worked with Senior Associate Dean Colleen Toomey to organize a steering committee of faculty and administrators that would provide advice and feedback regarding career services for SIPA students. The onset of the pandemic delayed the effort, as SIPA shifted administrative resources to support online operations.

Now Toomey and CAC are taking steps to inaugurate a steering committee in earnest this fall. Among early agenda items will be (i) re-assessing employer expectations in the post-pandemic market; (ii) taking a fresh look at CAC’s professional development course and whether it should carry academic credit; (iii) assessing how to enhance support of all international students, including those who intend to return to work in their home countries post-graduation; and (iv) assessing and planning for the implications of SIPA’s newest STEM-designated concentration/specialization pathways (including increased expectations of U.S. employment opportunities for graduates who are not U.S. citizens).

5. A New Name

In practice if not in name, the office now known as CAC has long functioned at the hub of an interconnected network of career and professional development-related resources throughout SIPA—a network that relies on contributions by staff, faculty, alumni, and students themselves. The former OCS became the Career Advancement Center to better reflect the office’s central role in supporting this collective effort to help advance the professional aspirations and careers of SIPA students and graduates.

“These are just a few of CAC’s many initiatives,” says Executive Director Meg Heenehan. “We’re excited to pursue this path and deeply grateful for the partnership and support of everyone in the SIPA community.”

Questions? Contact the Career Advancement Center at 212-854-4613.