Laura Berglund ’20

Students in the Harmon Room for Professor Kaston Tange's session

For English majors and minors and the larger humanities community, the first Thursday of each month is not an ordinary day. It involves colorful posters, free soup, and guidance from humanities professors and the Career Development Center (CDC) staff. If you have questions about post-Old Main life, First Thursdays, held in the Harmon Room on the first floor of the library from 4:45 to 6:15, are for you!

Elevator pitch graphicProfessor and Department Chair Andrea Kaston Tange led the first session of the year in October. She focused on the elevator pitch: a two minute blurb that gives potential employers or colleagues a sense of your interests, experiences, and strengths.

I caught up with Professor Kaston Tange afterward and we discussed her motivations for leading this session in particular. She acknowledged there are “a lot of cultural anxieties about the humanities,” including the fear that you cannot get a job with a humanities degree, but she disagrees with these perceptions. Professor Kaston Tange told me the goal of the series is to help students “explain why what they’re doing matters,” for example, by delivering a powerful elevator pitch, .

Professor Kaston Tange has experience running similar events at her previous institution, and she used these skills to host four small sessions on professional development in the spring of 2016. Her experiment was a success, and it marked the beginning of the First Thursdays we know today. Other English department faculty started participating and the series expanded to include the departments of History, Philosophy, Classical Mediterranean and Middle East, and Religious Studies.

In November, we heard from English Professors Amy Elkins and Matt Burgess and Professor Ernesto Capello from the History and Latin American Studies Departments. They shared their experiences with graduate school, focusing on the application process and reasons to consider applying in the first place.

Grad school application graphic

Like Professor Kaston Tange, Professor Elkins did not have access to resources like First Thursdays as an undergraduate and wants students at Macalester to have a more supportive experience. Part of Professor Elkins’ motivation for speaking about graduate school specifically is her commitment to demystifying professional development. She explained to me how students often have a negative understanding of the term, but “people from diverse and low income background know it’s an important tool.” Graduate studies are an opportunity to “specialize and sustain your own projects” to an extent that is not possible in an oftentimes broad liberal arts education, and it is not the “soul-sucking, difficult” experience many claim it to be.

Professor Brian Lush from the Department of the Classical Mediterranean and Middle East will finish the semester by leading a discussion on work and internship opportunities that can lead to meaningful careers. Please join us for his session tonight, December 6th, in the library’s Harmon Room from 4:45 to 6:15.

Whether you attend regularly, had no idea what First Thursdays are until now, or are somewhere in between, there are more events to come next semester. In February, Religious Studies Professor Susanna Drake will talk on the activity everyone loves to hate and fear: networking.