With the Class of 2014 hurtling toward graduation and what is often referred to as “the real world,” President Mills is offering practical advice in the form of four 90-minute sessions on everything from communicating in the workplace and building professional networks, to personal finance and leases.
For a number of years now, my wife, Karen, has held an etiquette class for seniors to help prepare them for life beyond the dining halls at Moulton Union and Thorne Hall. At these events, Karen offers the students some advice on how to “work a room” and on how to navigate a cocktail party connected to a business event. Karen conspires with Bowdoin’s Dining Service to put together a rather complicated menu for a seated dinner in Moulton where she leads the students through all the rules, from properly seating guests at a table and passing the salt and pepper together, to what happens if the bread basket doesn’t have enough rolls for everyone at the table, and on and on. This event is oversubscribed every year and registration is filled almost instantly.
This year, we’re expanding the concept with a series of four talks led by me. It’s called “Get Ready for Life After Bowdoin: A Crash Course on Practical Skills.” The idea here is to talk with our seniors about the life they are about to enter and to give them some practical life lessons to help prepare them for the so-called “real world.” The first session, titled “Succeeding in Your First Job: Workplace Communication” is next Monday night. The subsequent talks will focus on topics like personal finance, how to invest your money, and the nuts and bolts of setting up your life in a new place, post Bowdoin.
At this moment, more than 100 seniors have signed up to attend one or more of the events, but I suspect we’ll have many walk-ins. Bowdoin is a pretty informal place.
I will be joined in the talks on investing and finance by folks from the Fullbridge organization that ran a program at Bowdoin last year and again just last month. For the final session, we are having a few alumni from Boston, New York, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco join us to talk about their experiences (my own personal experience of renting apartments in Boston is probably NOT the way our students entering the work force will start out!). Robin Transgrud (Bowdoin Class of 2006) assisted me in preparing these sessions while she was studying for the Massachusetts bar exam—she did a super job.
In my position, I give speeches and talks all the time, but frankly, the idea of 90 minutes in front of our fantastic students is a bit intimidating. But I suppose it’s good for a college president to be reminded of the rigors our faculty encounter every day in class. My goal is to set forth lessons from my own experience and from what I have learned over the years from friends, recent Bowdoin grads, and other young people (including my own sons) about the challenges and opportunities of launching from a place like Bowdoin.
Our students are very well prepared for what comes next after Bowdoin, and these talks are designed to be very practical about issues that often aren’t the subject of our academic majors or programs. As we all know, Bowdoin students are challenged in a very supportive and nurturing environment. When they leave Bowdoin, most will find themselves in similarly challenging environments that will certainly be less nurturing. My goal for these talks to is provide some introduction into these worlds and to help in the transition.
This is an experiment. We thought about streaming the sessions live, but since I can sometimes be rather direct, we decided that the experiment might not be ready for “prime time.” But we’ll record the talks and, depending on how well it all works out, we’ll consider making the event more broadly available. It is always good to try something new … I think.