Through MacExplore, students, staff, and faculty traveled to Washington, DC, over spring break to meet with alumni working in nonprofit and advocacy organizations.

Each spring, when the crocus and daffodils pop up in Minnesota, our graduating seniors start to imagine their lives after Macalester. But the planning for what comes next is a process we begin in each student’s first year at Mac, and it involves deep exploration of questions about purpose and vocation.

The desire to make the world better is important. But students also need tools to pursue their interests effectively. Mac’s liberal arts curriculum positions our students well to consider a wide range of options after graduation, including jobs in the corporate, nonprofit, and public sectors; graduate school; and entrepreneurship. The evidence is clear: six months after graduation, 95 percent of Mac grads are employed or in graduate school.

Career exploration is woven into every student’s experience. For the Class of 2024, that looked a little different. Because of pandemic safety protocols, our graduating seniors missed some of the traditional early interactions we typically offer, such as in-person visits by Career Exploration staff to first-year courses, informational interviews with alumni, and Orientation tours with career resource guidance. These students had to catch up on career planning, with thoughtful and intentional support from staff and faculty to address their needs and help them acquire the preparation they missed.

Yet, even in the face of those challenges, we saw how the Class of 2024 sought out and made the most of opportunities to develop skills that will serve them for the rest of their lives: working together in teams, thinking critically, communicating effectively across differences, setting ideas in motion, and advocating for their values. They learned with and from classmates representing a wide range of backgrounds, perspectives, and lived experiences. And they broadened their horizons through career exploration opportunities—like the following examples, designed to prompt reflection about what happens after they leave Mac:

  • Our annual Mac2Med program, where students interested in health professions gather for roundtable discussions with alumni representing various healthcare specialties and paths.
  • An on-campus networking and job fair called Mac Launch. At this year’s event—reworked with a more casual, “come as you are” invitation for students—we saw more engagement, richer conversations, and lines at employer tables.
  • Monthly employment fairs arranged by theme and location—for example, STEM-focused employers met with students in the Olin-Rice Science Center, and employers in the arts gathered in a packed Janet Wallace Fine Arts Center.
  • Internships that capitalize on our Twin Cities location. Last year, our Macalester Summer Internship Grant program provided advising, group support, and funding for internships that otherwise would be unpaid, for thirty-eight students.
  • Scheduled and drop-in sessions—in Kagin Commons and the Olin-Rice Hub—with Career Exploration staff who bring expertise tailored to students’ academic focus.
  • Connections with alumni in specific fields. This year, student groups met with New York City alumni in finance and banking; Twin Cities alumni in urban planning and public health; and Washington, DC, alumni working in nonprofit and advocacy organizations.

We’re amplifying these kinds of opportunities through our Imagine, Macalester strategic plan: expanding Career Exploration touchpoints, ensuring access to high-impact practices (like internships, collaborative research, and study away), and evaluating our processes to make sure every student connects with a Career Exploration staff member before graduation. This fall, we’re launching a program to include faculty and staff in career conversations with students.

Finally, these efforts extend way beyond our campus community. Our alumni all over the world play a pivotal role in welcoming our graduates into the global Mac network and helping them find their next steps. They hire fellow alumni, engage on our MacConnect platform, host students for job shadowing, and facilitate connections in their own networks. Our alumni can seek out support and advice from Career Exploration staff long after graduation, and connect and reflect on their journeys together through Alumni Engagement programs like our Curveball series. That support applies to every career stage, and illustrates Mac community members’ deep care for one another.

As we imagine what Macalester’s next 150 years will hold, that’s exactly the spirit and connection we want to help drive for our newest alumni—and for all alumni. No one charts a path entirely on their own. Whenever you graduated, the Mac network is yours for the rest of your life.

Dr. Suzanne M. Rivera is president of Macalester College.

May 17 2024

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