|Pictured in center,
Vicky Zwelling, associate director of the Career Resource Center, talks with
CRC peer career advisors Anthony Christiano ’10 and Chenelle Tanglao ’08
in the CRC library in Butterfield Unit A.
Career Counselor Helps Upcoming Graduates Seek Employment
|Q: Vicky, what
brought you to Wesleyan?
A: I have spent nearly my whole adult life working at Wesleyan to which I’m
clearly devoted. I came to the area in 1967 with my first husband who was
offered a position on the faculty at Wesleyan. However, I did not start
working at Wesleyan until I was hired as a part-time librarian for the
Career Resource Center in 1984.
Q: Who hired you and what has kept you at the CRC?
A: Barbara-Jan Wilson, now the vice president for University Relations,
hired me. From the beginning, under Barbara-Jan’s leadership, the CRC has
practiced “total quality management” before the term was invented. Through
many changes and careful hiring, the CRC has continued to function as a
harmonious team, highly accessible to students, alumni and parent
volunteers. As our director, Michael Sciola, said while we were training our
Peer Career Advisors, the CRC is a “cool place to work.”
Q: How has the CRC library evolved?
A: Prior to 1984, the CRC library had never been open to students nor did it
have any of the usual library systems in place. I spent most of my time
during my first few years organizing and building up the collection, and
finally getting it on line so that it is now accessible from anywhere on
campus. Early on, however, I chose to spend most of my time as a counselor
and assistant director. In 1996, I became one of two associate directors.
Q: In the CRC, what is your main goal when working with students?
A: I counsel primarily juniors, seniors, and young alumni interested in
education. However, I also work with first and second year health
professions students. So while my immediate goals might differ depending on
which population I’m working with, the one goal I have in common for all
students is helping them find their next best learning environment. That
process consists of helping students translate their Wesleyan experience
into marketable skills and to be able to speak articulately about these
skills in both interviewing and networking settings. My ultimate goal is to
help students find work that will enable them to live out the poet Rumi’s
words, “Let the beauty we love be what we do.”
Q: At what year of their education do students start seeking career
A: Our motto to all students is to “come early and come often!” While we had
seen 86 percent of the senior class by April of last year, we had also seen
57 percent of the junior class, 54 percent of the sophomore class, and 50
percent of first-years. This large number of first year students represents
a substantial change from past years.
Q: What is your secret to good career counseling?
A: I always use humor in my counseling. Students are often anxious when they
come to the CRC and laughing helps to restore perspective.
Q: What resources are available in the CRC for students?
A: We have a very robust Web site and a splendid new online database that
reflects the internship/job/graduate school process followed by Wesleyan
students. The process begins with self-assessment, exploration based on that
self-assessment, development of a tool kit -- resumes, cover letters,
interviewing and networking expertise -- and then putting all these skills
to work in a job or internship search. One of our most important resources
is an incredible network of alumni and parent volunteers available to share
their knowledge and perspective. We also have an extensive print library.
Q: How often do you meet with students?
A: I meet with students on a daily basis and during my two weekly drop-in
periods. When students get attached to me and can’t get an appointment with
me for several weeks, I always tell them to relax and just sign up with
another counselor. I add that it’s fine to see another counselor because
they are all terrific as I hired them all, as part of the CRC team, of
Q: Can you give a few examples of where you helped students find employment
A: A sampling of places students went to last year includes Teach for
America, the NYC Teaching Fellows program, the Boston Teacher Residency
program, and a variety of independent and public schools. I help students
find employment by teaching them to become expert job seekers by using all
the resources at hand, especially building relationships with alumni and
parent volunteers. As Michael Sciola always says, “Luck happens (i.e.
students land great jobs) when opportunity meets preparation.”
Q: What goes on during a typical day for you?
A: A typical day for me consists of three, one hour-long appointments,
meeting with students on drop ins, researching information and alumni
contacts, and planning networking programs involving alumni and parents
volunteers, programs such as our upcoming Career Conference, a day-long
event featuring a series of workshops and panels of alumni and special
guests working in a variety of fields.
Q: What is the Urban Education Semester?
A: The Urban Education Semester (UES) is a Wesleyan-accredited,
interdisciplinary immersion program that introduces students from all
academic backgrounds to the complexity of issues facing urban public
education. Students undertake supervised teaching in the NYC public schools
and at night take graduate coursework at the Bank Street College of
Education. My role is to publicize the program and to chair the Wesleyan
selection committee. Wesleyan has an extraordinary rate of success getting
students into this program. Many UES alumni report that UES was the most
meaningful part of their entire academic experience.
Q: What is your educational background?
A: After graduating from Wellesley College, I got a Masters of Arts in
Teaching at Harvard University, and I taught English in Newton, Mass.
Subsequently, I worked at the New Haven community action agency, which
founded Head Start. In 1987 I completed my Masters in Library Science. I am
originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, but have lived in New England since
attending college at Wellesley.
Q: Tell me about your family, and what was the highlight of your
A: I have a husband of 41 years, two grown, married children, and a 2
year-old granddaughter. I spend as much time hanging out with this gang as
possible. This past summer, my husband and I did exactly what we have done
since the summer of 1989. We traveled to the Loire Valley where we
vacationed for several weeks in a charming limestone cottage in the
beautiful countryside outside of Pontlevoy, a small French village. Our
primary activity in the Loire Valley is biking which in the Loire Valley is
like biking through an Impressionist painting. And then we spend a week in
Paris which Henry James so aptly described “as the greatest temple ever
built to material joys and the lust of the eyes.”
Q: What are your hobbies?
A: I prefer to call them my other passions. I have been a professional
potter since joining Wesleyan Potters in 1976. And though I hate to use the
language of therapy, I have an addiction to fine fiction, I’m a plantaholic
gardener, and I knit as a Zen practice.
Olivia Bartlett, The Wesleyan Connection