Hiatt Career Center to work with student groups, other departments to serve career needs of students of color

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October 23, 2020

Brandeis University’s Hiatt Career Center, in response to the Black Action Plan—a collection of concerns from students of color seeking changes to campus departments—plans to meet with student groups to discuss the career needs of students of color, what resources exist and what is lacking, Interim Director of the Hiatt Career Center Jon Schlesinger wrote to The Brandeis Hoot in an email. Schlesinger told The Hoot that he was unable to provide specifics on whom the department was meeting with and the nature of their meetings.

“I am excited and hopeful to see what comes next from the students that put the plan together and to work with other campus partners on areas of improvement,” wrote Schlesinger. “One of the many reasons I’m excited to be part of the Brandeis community is our strong commitment to social justice, not just in words but in actions.” 

The Hiatt Career Center needs a larger number of professional opportunities for students of color, according to the Black Action Plan. The plan states that Hiatt currently lacks professional development workshops, networking opportunities and a strong alumni network specifically for students of color. 

“Hiatt is committed to building a space for students, alumni, employers, colleagues, parents and families that is welcoming, and free from bias and discrimination,” Schlesinger explained in an email to The Hoot. “Hiatt’s vision is that all Brandeisians know who they are, what they want, and how to get there; to accomplish that vision, we help connect students with resources, provide educational opportunities, and exposure to professional networks.”

32 percent of undergraduates at Brandeis are students of color, according to the Hiatt website and 32 percent of users of Hiatt are students of color, according to their Commitment to Diversity page. Hiatt has been focused on and tracking engagement across “elements of diversity where possible to look for areas of improvement,” according to the website.

The page also provides a breakdown of the percentage of students of different racial demographics that engaged with Hiatt during fall 2019, using ethnicity data collected by the registrar. Of total undergraduate students enrolled during fall 2019, 49 percent engaged with Hiatt, according to the chart. Nonresident aliens (referring to international students) and American Indian or Alaskan Native-identifying students engaged with Hiatt the most, with 55 percent and 67 percent of the population of undergraduate students, respectively. Around 50 percent of students in other racial demographics engaged with Hiatt. 

The first demand addressed providing more networking opportunities through mentorships, internships and professional development opportunities. This opportunity would be helpful for first-generation college students, students who come from low-income backgrounds and students who come from marginalized backgrounds specifically because they commonly have weaker networks, according to the plan. These opportunities would be equally distributed among students of color in all majors. 

Schlesinger explained in his email that the Hiatt Career Center launched an Identity at Work page in 2017, which is intended to support “students and alumni of different affiliations, backgrounds, identities and preferences” as they navigate professional development, according to the page. Hiatt is committed to helping students and alumni who identify with different communities and/or groups with their transition post-graduation. 

The office is also committed to increasing the number of professional development opportunities for diverse communities, according to Hiatt’s diversity webpage. These opportunities include targeted educational programs, evaluation of service usage equity and career counseling satisfaction, targeted outreach and community, employer partnerships in organizations committed to employees of color and collaboration with and support of the Alumni of Color Network.

The plan also called for the hiring of more Black career advisors and advisors of color who are more able to understand the challenges faced by students of color. The hope from the plan is that by hiring career counselors who culturally represent marginalized groups, they will then understand specific biases against these groups and be better able to support them. 

Students have the opportunity to interact with career counselors as well as trained undergraduate Hiatt Advisors “representing diverse and intersecting identities,” according to Hiatt’s diversity webpage. Of the fall 2020 staff members, 27 percent of the staff identify as people of color and 18 percent identify as first-generation college students.  

Another demand made sought the partnership with local organizations to provide an increased amount of hands-on learning opportunities for members of color of the community, according to the plan. These relations could be with local hospitals, law firms and government organizations, as listed in the plan. “At Hiatt we are constantly speaking with students and gathering data to improve resources and create new programs,” wrote Schlesinger. 

Increasing alumni relationship opportunities is another aim of the Black Action Plan, according to the plan. By creating an alumni network base for alumni of color, the plan reads, current students of color could connect and then be advised by such figures leading to internships and career opportunities. 

Hiatt is working on a new platform to connect Brandeis Alumni to current students, Schlesinger wrote to The Hoot, which is expected to be released in the spring of 2021. This program will allow students to better network and connect with alumni.

This is the fourth part in a series explaining the Black Action Plan and its implications on campus. 

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