Public interest careers

On Wednesday, March 11, over one hundred students gathered in the Buntrock Ballrooms to hear from alumni in the Piper Center for Vocation and Career’s 3rd Annual Oles for Public Interest. Droves of students from all class years came for more than two hours to hear from a variety of Ole Alums who work in and around the public sector.

Oles for Public Interest is part of the “Ole Suite” program that the Piper Center offers to better connect students with alumni in their field of interest. Other programs include: Making it in the Arts, Ole Biz, Ole Med and Ole Law.

The purpose of the event was to connect students with alumni so students are able to make more informed vocational decisions and help them connect with alums who are in a similar field. “The purpose is to connect students to alumni and see the many ways they can do good after graduation”, said Janine Knutson, an Associate Director at the Piper Center and coordinates Oles for Public Interest.

The keynote speaker, Rachel Hatch ’03, is a research director at the Institute for the Future, based in Palo Alto, CA. Hatch serves a diverse range of major global corporations and nonprofits in planning their forecasts for the future. Her take home message? We are living in the future now. Uber, Airbnb, Kickstarter and Udemy are all prime examples of the rapidly developing sharing economy, which will grow to be an ever important role in the coming future, according to Hatch.

One of Hatch’s most compelling aspects of her story was how she started working in my current organization, “I was in my third year of seminary when the director of the Institute visited campus.” After that, her life changed drastically as she left seminary to go and work with the Institute for the Future in California.

After Hatch’s keynote, students attended two series of panel sessions, one on types of public sector careers, and another one of connections to global issues.

“Oles are very passionate people and have diverse interests”, Madison Goering ’15 said, when talking about the alumni panel on launching a career in nonprofits. The 45-minute panel allowed for Q&A between panelists and students on their career paths and the fields they work in. Goering explained, “It was nice to hear a variety of perspectives on how to balance all those passions you have in your vocation.”

The alumni panels included alumni working in range of careers, such as a program coordinator at College Possible, a nonprofit in Minneapolis, to the Director of Government Relations at Cargill. The panels included alumni deliberately from many different sectors that connect with public interest – including large private companies like Cargill.

After the series of panels, there was ample amount of time for students to network with alumni and talk more closely with the panelists about vocation. Quickly, students formed small groups or pairs with alumni, asking them about specific aspects of their careers, and how they got there.

The panel sessions and background of the alumni reflected a diversity of ways careers can help the world through poverty alleviation, healthcare, education, sustainability. According to Knutson, the most important part of the event is that “this gives students a chance to explore various career paths to help the world.”

Photo Courtesy of Will Lutterman