Effective July 1, the Office of Career Counseling (OCC) will integrate its staff and resources with Alumni Relations, relocating from Weston Hall to Mears House.
OCC Director John Noble first proposed joining forces with Alumni Relations in 2007. The prospect was not fully explored until President Adam Falk’s administration announced John Malcolm as the new vice president for Alumni Relations and Development.
After the integration is completed, the OCC will directly report to Malcolm, whereas the OCC currently works under Dean of the College Sarah Bolton. However, Noble hopes to keep the student experience at the forefront of the OCC’s operation. “I’ll still be meeting with [Dean] Sarah Bolton on a regular basis to keep the student perspective well in hand,” he said.
“I think this is a really positive move,” Bolton said. “The synergy between the two offices will be incredibly useful for current students.”
The combination of the OCC and Alumni Relations in Mears House will induce collaboration between two critical College departments. Integration “is somewhat of a trend in higher education. Williams is not the first to do it, but we are ahead of the curve on joining forces,” Director of Alumni Relations Brooks Foehl said.
Budgets for both offices are expected to remain the same, despite the integration. “Achieving costs savings was not a driver for the integration,” according to Malcolm. However, the integration will encourage both offices to fully utilize their resources.
“It extends the reach of our staff. We only have five counselors on staff to help 2000 students, and that ratio is a little daunting when you think about it,” Noble said. “It’s not just reunions and the annual fund – career counseling and career services are now going to be part of that menu of things [Alumni Relations] is constantly working on.”
Foehl agreed, noting that his office will also be able to benefit from increased cooperation with the OCC. The integration is “an incredible opportunity to be more systematic about facilitating connections between both students and alumni and also alumni and alumni,” he said. Foehl hopes the OCC will publicize the resources provided by Alumni Relations, such as the online career directory that is available to all students.
“It’s a great two-way street” developing between the OCC and Alumni Relations, Foehl said. “We want to help [students] connect with Williams alumni on a lot of fronts, but we also want to educate [students] on life after Williams and what it means to become a part of the alumni community, with career networking being a very important part of that.”
“Our alumni are doing tremendously exciting things and are the best resource for current students to network,” Bolton said. “Now every time alumni come to the College, students will be involved.”
The collaboration is intended to serve alumni and undergraduates alike. Noble intends for alumni to also have increased access to career services as well.
Previously, coordination between Alumni Relations and the OCC was limited. “We don’t necessarily know when alumni are coming in for a career-based panel,” Foehl said. “We need to make note of that point of engagement. Now all of us can be on the same page and present a unified front to undergraduates and alumni.”
Plans on the physical adjustments required for the College to accommodate the OCC in Mears House are yet to be finalized.
“There will be a lot of musical chairs going on,” Noble said.
Weston Hall, which is not currently handicap-accessible or air-conditioned, may need a number of renovations before housing a new occupant.
“Right now, our approach to Weston is that it’s a building that needs significant upgrading in relation to its mechanical and electrical systems as well as related interior renovation work,” Vice President of Operations Steve Klass said. “While we’re thinking about those renovations, we’ll be pulling together a small committee of students, faculty and staff to discuss possible programmatic uses of the building.”
Klass added, “It’s a large, central space and we’ll want to think about the services and programs that might benefit from moving to that location.”
“Weston is a big, beautiful building with a long and complicated history,” Bolton said. “It needs a lot of renovation. Of course, as we’re making plans to revive the building, we’ll be thinking about what it will best be used for in the future.”