Arts students get help charting their course
by Leslie Vryenhoek
The participants in the ArtsWorks program talk with students. (Photo by Leslie Vryenhoek)
This summer, eight arts students piloted a new program designed to help them chart a course from classroom to successful career.
ArtsWorks focuses on helping students discover how the skills and knowledge they’re gathering while in pursuit of a bachelor of arts can be turned into tangible future employment or further study. According to Denise Hooper, senior career development co-ordinator, the program gives students a variety of job search skills such as resumé writing and explaining how their education and experience make them a valuable employee.
At their final session, students in the program were treated to some insight from successful arts graduates.
Tracy Chapman, who graduated from Memorial in 1989, is now a senior policy analyst at Transport Canada. She detailed her career path in the federal government, which began with a job at Canada Customs and Revenue in St. John’s.
“A BA is beneficial because it teaches you how to think and when you’re an analyst, that’s what you need to do,” she explained.
Darryl Hooper, a criminal investigator for Canada Border Services, studied French and English at Memorial. After his 1991 graduation, he quickly parlayed his summer jobs into a career with Canada Customs.
“Your job,” he told the students, “is to try to get all the way in the door, and then close the door behind you.”
He explained the direct link between the “who, what, where, when and why focus” of an arts education and the work he does now. “As an investigator, it’s all about the who, what, where, when, why. I have to be able to listen and understand what people are saying, and then put it all together.”
Russell Wangersky, who holds a BA honours from Acadia University, recalled: “When I told my parents I was going into arts, they were horrified. When I told them I was majoring in philosophy, they were terrified.”
That choice, however, led to a successful media career in television and print. Now the editor of the Telegram in St. John’s, he said that despite his parents’ fears, he has been steadily employed since graduation; Mr. Hooper and Ms. Chapman echoed that.
“Don’t let anybody tell you that a BA won’t take you anywhere. I’ve spoken in the United Nations, and I’ve sat at OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) meetings,” Ms. Chapman told the students. “It’s up to you to be able to tell them and show them what you can do.”
ArtsWorks participants learn to use academic and student services on campus to their advantage, and gain hands-on experience through a 10-hour placement in a community organization.
For David Taban, a sociology major, that included a chance to work directly with children. “I did not know how that would be, but I was able to adapt as my understanding began to change.”
For Danai Kusikwenyu, a third-year English student, the greatest value was in finding a focus through self-assessment exercises.
“You discover things about yourself that you didn’t realize.” In her case, she learned that her strengths in communication and writing pointed at just what she hopes to do. “The self assessment not only tells you what kinds of things you are more inclined to like to do, but also what jobs out there would complement these things.”
English major Sarah McHugh, on the other hand, already knew she wanted to pursue a law degree when she completes her undergraduate studies, which include a minor in law and society.
“I knew what I wanted to do but I didn’t know how to get there, who I needed to get in cahoots with,” she said. “I made so many connections, and now I have a much clearer plan.”
ArtsWorks will be offered through the Faculty of Arts and the Career Development Centre in each semester. Interested students who have completed at least one year of study can contact Denise Hooper at 737-7074 to register.