What do you want to be when you grow up? Thanks to the "Adventures in Professional Pathways" Winter Term class, 13 third-form students are closer to having an idea.
"It opened my mind to different career paths," said Melanie Kaplan '23, who has planned "for years" to get a masters degree in biomedical engineering and then go to medical school. "I thought I knew what I wanted to be, however, this Winter Term has really opened my eyes to what I could be, and how different passions can be combined into one career. . . . I still think I might pursue [going to medical school], but now I am more open to other careers . . . I never realized how many I could choose from!"
Learn more about Brooks School's Winter Term and see the course catalog, plus photos from all the classes.
Each day during the three-week intensive class, which wrapped up on Friday, students took a hard look at their interests and the wide range of ways to make a livelihood. Sessions with a life coach helped them identify their strengths and values, and later, visiting with professionals in a variety of fields let the group consider different paths to study post-high school in the humanities, sciences, public service/safety and business. Students also participated in a group talk each day and kept journals. ("Our everyday discussions and journal reflections were the highlight of the class for me," said Katie Dong '23. "We could hear different opinions and get ideas from each other.").
See an album of photos from the "Adventures in Professional Pathways" 2020 Winter Term class.
Executive and leadership coach Donna Milofsky, PCC, CPCC came to campus and worked with students to start off the course. "What we asked them to do is get really clear on what they know right now, as a snapshot," she said. "What are my values now? What is my personality like? What motivated abilities do I already have?"
Unlike adults who have 'built up armor,' as Milofsky calls it, the teens were "willing to really acknowledge their uniqueness," she said. "They're not all trying to fit into the same puzzle."
Tvisha Devireddy '23 particularly enjoyed this process of sorting out values regarding a career. "It opened my eyes to the sacrifices that I might make for my future, and prompted me to explore my identity and priorities," she said.
Winter Term co-teacher Kate McCampbell was impressed with the way students absorbed the idea of recognizing the "big picture" when it comes to crafting a career pathway. She recalled that after they took a personality test and talked with Milofsky about vocations, some didn't see the wisdom in the profession matches they received.
"They were shocked but then Donna would say, 'OK, so you don't think you're going to be a chef, but what does a chef have to do to be a chef? They create,'" said McCampbell. "Students could then pare back the title and get to the skill set and realize, 'Oh, so I don't have to be a chef, but I'm a creator and I can make something out of nothing.' So that was really cool!"
Getting students to break down their assumptions was important to the process, Milofsky explained. "I told them, you may already have an image about what a lawyer is, but I want you to start noticing when you visit offices what these professionals do and how is that like or unlike [the skills and interests you have]."
Visits to workplaces helped these abstract concepts become concrete. The class took a trip to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston on January 9 to enjoy a tour about how an exhibit is put together and learn about jobs you can do in a museum. Four days later, the group considered legal careers at Choate, Hall & Stewart LLP in Boston. A panel of lawyers who work in healthcare, intellectual property, litigation and mergers and acquisition transactions, organized by partner Julia Hesse P'16, P'20, discussed with students the wide scope of jobs that lawyers can do. "They each had a specialty and spoke about their personal journey to reach where they are today," said McCampbell.
Next up were trips to Cambridge, Mass., at Biogen's Community Lab and technology company Akamai, where four employees, including Greg Burns P'23 and Tim Goodman P'17, P'18, P'23, talked about their career paths and offered advice. In addition to the valuable insights, Charles Smith '23 appreciated seeing Akamai's office space. "The building was so cool," he said.
Professionals came to campus, too. Alex McCampbell, Ph.D. talked to students about a career in science and drug discovery, and Jeff Minor, M.D. talked to students about becoming a medical doctor, on January 18. Two days later, FBI Unit Chief for Counterterrorism Alan McHugh spoke to the class — and interrogated a student!
"The exposure to different careers has been so valuable," said Devireddy. "Every time we went on a field trip I learned about jobs I never knew existed." Law has piqued her interest, but she added, "I also think that I might do something related to advertising/sales/marketing. Both of these careers are popular for my personality type, so having actual experience might help me choose between the two or possibly combine them." After all, her career path, as she's recently learned, is wide open!
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