Smart Start


According to Janine Desgres, the best plan for any student just starting out in college is to get involved in at least one extra activity, and make the most of it.

Degres, the new assistant director of MCLA's Student Success and Engagement (CSSE) and the coordinator of Career Services, said, "The more a student does, the more they improve current skills and learn new ones."

Under the direction of Dr. Deborah Foss and along with Kate Heegan, Desgres oversees CSSE - a place for students to come for everything they need to ensure their success in school. She also coordinates and directs all aspects of career services and career development at the College.

Whether she's helping students to explore and secure internship and job opportunities, or working with them to determine if they're in the right major, Desgres and others at CSSE target students from orientation to beyond graduation.   

Her plan includes helping students be more intentional about how they plan their college career. This includes providing guidance on what they should be doing and when they should be doing it.

In addition to creating a four-year plan for each major, Desgres is fine-tuning a co-curricular four-year plan to include student development, clubs and organizations, high-impact activities and experiences, plus study abroad opportunities and internships.

"A liberal arts college already is giving them a well-rounded education, but by adding in these other, extra, high-impact experiences that really give them experience, you're just making them that much more marketable when they graduate," Desgres said.

"It's also about building skills," she continued. "Every single experience you take part in, you're gaining skills, you're building skills you already have and you're gaining new ones. Even doing the simplest extra thing might add a little piece that you didn't have before."

From an employer's perspective, student involvement is important, Desgres, explained, because of the skills various activities build. This includes soft skills - such as working as part of a team, dealing with other people who are different than you, speaking in public, leading and motivating others, and managing finances and/or other resources.

"I don't think the quantity of involvement matters as much as the quality. Ideally, a student joins one club or organization related to his or her major, but branching out to other interests is important, as well," she said.

Study abroad is another important educational avenue for students to explore because it provides an opportunity to learn about other cultures, something vitally important in this global economy, Desgres said.

"Students are also challenged by the new environment and must adapt accordingly - another skill valued by employers - the ability to adapt to the particular environment."

Serving an internship is a particularly important part of a college education, as even so-called "entry level" jobs require some experience.

What's more, "Some realize that's not what they want to do, after doing the internship, and that the environment wasn't for them. Others realize they absolutely love it and are so glad they're on that track and they want to keep going," Desgres said.

"It's gaining experience, but it's also using it as a way to explore. They learn about themselves. They learn about the world of work and see what's out there."