OFFICE OF PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT WORKS
TO IMPROVE EDUCATION AT MANY LEVELS
As a graduate assistant in the Office of Professional Development (OPD), Jane Greiner receives valuable experience in the world of higher education. Greiner, one of seven graduate assistants working in the office, is involved in a variety of activities, from helping plan conferences to evaluating school systems. “It’s helped me clarify what higher education is,” she says. “Working here has helped me focus on where I would like to work.”
Exposing graduate students to the many sides of education is only one of OPD’s functions. The office also works on projects with school districts, educational organizations, and SU faculty. “One of our major goals is the improvement of education,” says the office’s director, Assistant Dean Scott Shablak. “Primarily we go about this through professional, organizational, and leadership development.”
By looking at education from different angles, OPD helps school systems, for example, benefit on many levels. “We like the communities we work with to see our office as the arm of Syracuse University out in the public sector,” says Sandy Trento, OPD associate director. OPD activities range from conducting research and publishing education literature to designing and producing statewide professional development programs.
One organization OPD works with is the Study Council at Syracuse University, which, as one of its main functions, brings school superintendents from across the state together in an effort to exchange ideas, promote learning, and improve education. “Superintendents from rural and urban areas meet and collaborate on ideas about how successful schools can be run in New York State,” Shablak says.
While OPD focuses a lot of energy on helping school districts, it also works closely with SU faculty. It draws from a talented pool of professors for assistance with projects, and helps faculty build research and development projects. As an example, Shablak points to three professors—one studying brain development in early childhood, one studying early literacy, and one studying early childhood development. Instead of writing three separate grant proposals, OPD helped combine their efforts to produce a comprehensive grant proposal about adults’ understanding of early literacy challenges.
Familiarity and experience with talented Syracuse faculty allow OPD to know which professors can assist in different areas. “We are a small office with large responsibilities,” Shablak says. “We need faculty, people in the field, and graduate students to succeed.”
Through OPD, graduate students can participate in faculty research projects, or benefit from working in the office. “It’s a great opportunity for students to be involved in research and development projects,” Shablak says. “These experiences will make them attractive to employers in higher education.”
Greiner agrees. “The working environment is outstanding,” she says. “Everyone in the office is dedicated, and has a different background. I started working here because I knew it was a dynamic office that would complement my academic work. It’s been a great learning experience.”
LISA DEL COLLE
CAREER OPPORTUNITIES CENTER GERS
STUDENTS IN A WORKING STATE OF MIND
There probably are few students in the L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS) who are not familiar with the name Karen Kenty. As director of the college’s Career Opportunities Center, Kenty has made e-mail her strongest ally in alerting students to job opportunities and career development services. In short, she keeps in touch. “Our listserv is a good way to get this information out,” Kenty says.
Established in 1998, the Career Opportunities Center has become a resource for job and career development information that the college’s departments receive. Kenty posts this information or directly contacts students with news on job openings, resume preparation, and other career services. She says the most important task is getting students in the center’s door, regardless of the method used.
While job skills and career planning are Kenty’s primary concerns, she also provides information on professional societies, scholarships, and academic awards. Student participation in the Division of International Programs Abroad and the college’s Cooperative Education Program is coordinated through the center as well. “Our main goal is disseminating information about all these opportunities,” Kenty says.
Kenty also encourages students to use the University’s Center for Career Services and attend career fairs each semester. She says today’s job market is especially good for engineers and computer scientists, but students still must assess their skills and weigh their options. “In most cases, our students have relevant work experience by the time they graduate,” Kenty says.
Most of this experience is gained through the Cooperative Education Program or summer internships. Kenty has noticed an increase in the number of students who want to work in their field before they graduate. “The job market is very good for our students,” she says. “But it is still very competitive. Anything students can do to get an edge is important.”
Jon Myers ’00, a frequent visitor to the center, encourages classmates to meet with Kenty. “It is my impression that the center is still under-used,” he says. “Many students go directly to the Center for Career Services when it comes time to find a job. Certainly, the best approach is to visit both places, as each provides unique opportunities and services.”
For Kenty, the Career Opportunities Center offers a chance to help students cross the bridge to their professional careers. “Sharing that process with them is great fun,” she says.
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