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Career Services on a Different Continent

EACE contribution by Kate Juhl, Program Director at the University of Maryland-College Park

In January 2015, I took the business trip of a lifetime. Thanks to a grant from the Office of International Affairs at the University of Maryland, I hopped a plane for a short, 21 hour flight to Singapore where I spent a few days visiting colleagues at the National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University. From there, I flew to Hong Kong, where I spent about a week meeting with faculty and staff at the University of Hong Kong. Though my grant proposal focused on the role of liberal arts career development in Asia, my observations also touched more broadly on the role of career development and internships on the other side of the world. Here are a few key take-a-ways from my journey:

Hong Kong

Hong Kong

The liberal arts are flourishing in Asia. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not all about STEM. At the universities I visited, liberal arts majors were some of the fastest growing departments. Instead of worrying about declining student enrollment, these departments were concerned with finding enough seats in their classes. I was given a variety of possible explanations for this phenomenon:

  • Some faculty/staff suggested the pendulum had finally swung back to the liberal arts after years of intense focus on STEM fields.
  • Employers noted they needed new hires who could write well, communicate and analyze information.
  • The robust job market certainly helps matters as well. In Hong Kong, for example, recent graduates in the Faculty of Arts had a 0.3% unemployment rate.

Career Centers in Asia are innovative. We aren’t the only ones playing around with new staffing models. The schools I visited were piloting industry-centered models or experimenting with career staff embedded in the colleges they serve. Some of the schools were also using cutting-edge technology to make their services more accessible to today’s college students. Nanyang was focused on designing a mobile-friendly website, while the University of Hong Kong’s Academic Advising Office was piloting a virtual advisor named “Annie,” using artificial intelligence.

Think you have strong career fair attendance? Think again! Prior to my trip, I felt pretty good about our student attendance numbers for UMD’s 3-day large career fair each semester. Then I talked with the staff at Nanyang Technological University and learned they see 9,000 students per DAY at the fair.

Asia is a hub of economic growth and opportunity. Though I had read articles and books about economic growth in this part of the world, it didn’t really hit home until I was walking streets with opulent shopping malls on every corner and watching non-stop construction of new skyscrapers dot the skyline. Our students would do well to learn more about this part of the world. I even grabbed dinner with an alumna of UMD who moved to Hong Kong after graduation instead of New York City because she thought the city offered more opportunity for a recent college graduate.

I feel incredibly fortunate I was able to take this trip. All professionals should get the chance to learn from colleagues on the other side of the world. If you’d like to read more about my trip, please check out katejuhl.tumblr.com.

Kate Juhl

Kate Juhl

Kate Juhl is a Program Director at the University of Maryland-College Park, where she works with students in the College of Arts & Humanities. Prior to coming to UMD in 2011, she worked for 5 years in the Career Services Center at Virginia Wesleyan College. Kate studied history and Spanish at Carleton College before earning a master’s degree from the University of Virginia and an Ed.S. in higher education from Old Dominion University.  Kate currently serves on the EACE Board as the Director of Finance.

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