In DLCL 102: “10 Jobs in 10 Weeks,” students explore career paths by interacting with Stanford alumni from a range of industries. The one-unit spring course is taught by Assistant Dean of Career Education and Associate Director of Career Communities John O’Neill and Associate Dean and Director of Career Catalysts Danielle Wood.
The class, developed by O’Neill and Wood in partnership with the School for Humanities and Sciences, aims to provide students with the opportunity to explore careers in an experiential way within the classroom.
O’Neill and Wood both have experience exposing undergraduates to the corporate world through Stanford’s Bridging Education, Ambition and Meaningful Work (BEAM) program. During visits sponsored by BEAM, which often occur during winter and spring break, students are familiarized with corporate work environments. They also speak with Stanford alumni employed at the companies they visit.
“Some of the feedback we got from students is that it would be really wonderful if [the company-visit experience] could somehow be brought to campus,” Wood said. “We brainstormed ideas of how we could make that happen, and we came up with the idea of creating a class.”
According to the instructors, a central goal of the course is to reverse the common misconception that students’ majors limit their career options.
A typical class begins with an instructor-led career education group activity, which encourages students to explore ideas related to career development. O’Neill said that these activities are intended to help show students that there are skills applicable to the world of work in whichever major they chose to pursue.
The remainder of the class is led by Stanford alumni, who typically present in pairs about varying career options. The alumni featured for each iteration of the course is determined partially by student input.
NBC Universal’s Tiffany Hawthorne ’06 and Jessica Murphy ’10 and Blumhouse Television Vice President Chris Dickie ’07 have led classes this quarter. Though these guests currently work in the entertainment industry, the majors they pursued at Stanford ranged from drama to human biology.
Wood explained that featuring a balance of different roles within each industry and ensuring that there is diversity in the selected speakers are additional important factors they considered.
“Our goal is to present alumni who are from a really wide variety of non-technical majors who are doing things in industries that range from high tech, to publishing, to finance, despite the fact that their degrees don’t align with what students sometimes expect they would need to do in order to get a job in those fields,” Wood said.
The alumni typically begin by sharing a description of a typical workday in their industry before presenting students with an overview of the industry itself. Students then get the chance to ask the alumni questions about their work and background as well as their unique Stanford experiences. Next, the class participates in an experiential learning activity led by the alumni designed to mirror operations in the industry.
Past activities include making students act as venture capitalists being presented with startup ideas, having the class navigate the process of marketing a new book and recently, having the class simulate the workings of the entertainment industry.
For anthropology major Roxanne Dobson ’19, the class provides opportunities to explore fields which are not directly related to her major as well as exposure to fields that she would not have considered otherwise.
“I like that fact that we get to do activities that are typical of what you would do if you actually worked in that industry,” Dobson said.
The instructors particularly appreciate the extensive efforts that the alumni participants put into planning the class activities and the creative ways in which they engage students.
“Stanford alumni are incredibly generous and engaged and want to help,” O’Neill said. “Numerous times they say, ‘I wish this class existed when I was here at Stanford,’ and so to us that means that it is not only meaningful for our students, but it’s meaningful for the alumni too.”
To cement the content and ideas explored in each class, students write short reflections about what they learned and the ways in which the presentation may or may not have changed their perception of the particular industry explored.
“In the reflections, we’ve heard a lot of ‘Aha!’ moments which has been really meaningful for us to see,” O’Neill said. “The feedback we get from students is great because our goal is to help students explore many different fields of work, even ones that they might not have entertained before or thought they would like.”
Contact Ruth-Ann Armstrong at ruthanna ‘at’ stanford.edu.