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Vassar Parents Help Students with Career Readiness

John McIlwain P'18, one of more than 65 volunteer mentors, talks with a student during a Sophomore Career Connections program event held in January.

When a Vassar student is interested in a career in finance, Marilyn Tressel P’16 might be the one to give them an internship. Future scientists might work with Dr. Masao Kaneki P’17, P’18, while those interested in marketing might talk to Kary McIlwain P’18.

Tressel, Kaneki, and McIlwain are just a few of the many Vassar parents who volunteer their time to provide internships and mentor students, helping them navigate the road to a rewarding career.

Tressel, senior vice president at Boston Private Bank & Trust Co., first contacted the college two years ago because her bank offered two-year rotational training programs for recent graduates looking to go into the finance industry. She thought graduating seniors might be ideal for the program.

“Initially, we did a résumé collection (providing résumés of likely candidates) for her. She was terrific. She went through and gave me feedback on every student,” says Susan Smith, associate director of employer relations in Vassar’s Career Development Office, who noted that Tressel went the extra step and provided expertise on each candidate’s résumé.

Since then, Tressel has expanded her volunteer efforts. Vassar students have participated in paid 10-week summer internships at the bank’s Boston and Los Angeles offices and Tressel has mentored students interested in the field.

The internships give students experience in public speaking, developing contacts, and working as a team, Tressel says, noting that they also get exposed to various types of jobs at commercial banks.

Marilyn Tressel P'16

“More and more kids are going to college and people are coming out of it with a lot of skill sets, but if you don’t have experience, it’s very hard to get a foot in the door. Internships are a way to do that,” she says.

Alumnae/i have long been a valuable resource for students when it comes to mentorships, networking, internships, and other career-building assistance, Smith says. Having parents also join in the effort is a boon to everyone involved—students get the professional development they need and volunteers get intelligent young adults working at their businesses, she says.

Kaneki, a researcher at Harvard Medical School, has had Vassar students intern at his laboratory for the past two years. In addition to exposing students to the biomedical research done at the laboratory, the internship also teaches the value of a strong work ethic, teamwork, and responsible conduct while providing invaluable hands-on experience, Kaneki says.

Most recently, nearly 65 parents and alumnae/i participated in Sophomore Career Connections, a three-day event through which students learned about careers in 16 fields, networked, and gained valuable insight into professional development. Kary McIlwain P'18, vice president of marketing at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, and husband John McIlwain, vice president for advancement at Aspire, were among several parents who volunteered their time.

“I’m excited to be able to have a part in my son’s academic life without feeling as if it’s an intrusion,” says John, who noted that he enjoyed giving back to Vassar and meeting students who he otherwise would not have met.

“To have someone with whom you can make mistakes and ask questions of, knowing that they are not being judged for these questions or mistakes, is huge,” he says. “I loved interacting with the students and hope that those interested in a career track wherein my experience can be helpful take advantage of my offer to help.”

—Debbie Swartz

-Photo of John McIlwain P’18 ©Vassar College; photo of Marilyn Tressel P’16 courtesy of the subject.

Posted by Office of Communications Monday, February 8, 2016