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Piper Center unveils networking, internship, career opportunities

While St. Olaf College students were spending their summers working at jobs or internships that many found through the Center for Experiential Learning CEL, the CEL itself was undergoing several major changes.

First of all, the center’s name has been changed to the Harry C. Piper Center for Vocation and Career, or simply the Piper Center. The center is named after Harry C. Piper, who served on the St. Olaf Board of Regents from 1986 to 1990. Piper’s son, Board of Regents Chair Addison “Tad” Piper, and his family donated $2,575,000 to name and endow the new career center. Matching funds from the college itself increased the Piper Center’s endowment to just over $5 million.

The college hired St. Olaf alumnus Branden Grimmett ’03 as the director of the Piper Center. Grimmett studied religion and music at St. Olaf before earning a master’s degree from Harvard Divinity School. He held similar positions at the career development centers of Harvard and Tufts before returning to the Hill to head the Piper Center.

“I’ve always wanted to come back,” Grimmett said. “Then I heard about this position through another alumnus – which is yet another good example of the value of the St. Olaf network. The more I learned about the Piper Center, the more I knew it was a great fit.”

Under Grimmett’s direction, the Piper Center has introduced several new initiatives. Students have already been receiving the new Piper Center Weekly emails, which contain all the necessary information about upcoming workshops, events, career fairs, employer recruiting sessions and application deadlines.

“We want to make sure that the communications resonate with all students, not just with seniors looking for a post-graduation career,” Grimmett said about the weekly emails.

The Piper Center is also introducing a new event called Ole Biz, which gives students the opportunity to see where St. Olaf graduates are working in business. The event is designed for students who are exploring their options in the corporate world and for students who hope to network with alumni. Over 100 alumni working in a variety of industries will attend the event.

Piper Center staff members are also at work expanding the Connections Program, which gives Oles the chance to travel to different cities in order to meet alumni, to attend networking events and to visit employers. In previous years, the program took students to Washington, D.C. over spring break. Now, however, the program also offers a trip to New York City during fall break and a trip to Houston during Interim break, along with the trip to D.C. Grimmett hopes to even further expand the program in the coming years.

Another important change within the Piper Center is that each staff member now specializes in certain career industries. Students who are interested in banking and finance, for example, can go online to the Ole Career Central website and schedule a coaching appointment with the Piper Center’s specialist in that field. Areas in which staff members specialize include health care, non-profit organizations, arts, education, journalism and media.

Of course, along with these new initiatives, the Piper Center will continue to provide the same services that the CEL once did, including help with resumés, finding internships, networking and job hunting.