The ninth annual event presented insights from 85 career mentors, renowned life coach Rha Goddess ’89, and alums at global consulting firm Deloitte.
“You are here at a great institution to become a citizen of the world, and we need you to help it become the kind of world you want it to be.”
–Keynote speaker, Rha Goddess
Members of the class of ’25 got more than career insights—they got reassurance at Sophomore Career Connections (SCC) January 13 through 15. The weekend of industry-focused informational workshops and networking sessions was designed to help them take some of the worry out of preparing for life after Vassar. Nearly 200 sophomores and 85 mentors—Vassar alums with dozens of career paths—participated. The mentors outlined their own career paths in a series of informational sessions and engaged in formal and informal networking with the students throughout the weekend. The program, now in its ninth year, returned to campus after two years as a digital event due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Amina Rahimi ’25, a biochemistry major who recently emigrated from Afghanistan, said she had been consumed with worry over how she could afford to attend medical school. But after attending the informational session on careers in health and medicine, she said she was reassured by advice she had received from those on the panel. “One member of the panel was a doctor from a poor background, and he told me to stop worrying about money and concentrate on my classes, and things would work out,” she said.
Birch Herring-Jackson ’25, who attended the Business/Entrepreneurship info session, said his most important takeaway from the weekend was learning to embrace the uncertainty about where his career path would lead. Building meaningful relationships with Vassar alums, he surmised, would be “the best way to navigate those changes.”
Sophomore Career Connections was conceived and is funded by Carol Ostrow ’77, P’09,’15 and spouse Michael Graff P’09,’15. Graff, Managing Director at the investment firm Warburg Pincus, took part in the Financial Services info sessions.
Graff reflected on the growth of SCC since its first year in 2015. “Since we started this, nearly 2,000 students and 550 unique mentors have taken part,” he said. “This year, 11 of our mentors are alums who took part in Sophomore Career Connections themselves. It’s been truly gratifying to see how much all of the mentors genuinely enjoy coming back to campus and giving back to Vassar through this program.”
One of those SCC alums is Norah Pliss ’20, a client representative at Vanguard, a New Yorkbased investment firm. “Attending this event as a student really spurred me to ask a lot more questions about my career path,” she said.
For 38 of the students, the activities began with Future of Work Institute, a 12-hour workshop on January 12 and 13 hosted by Vassar alums Steve Hatfield ’88, Emily Omrod ’16, Mari Marcotte ’15, and Elias Contrubis ’20, who work for the global management consulting firm Deloitte. The students were led through exercises that helped them understand how the evolution of work will affect their own careers. The value of a liberal arts education was one of the major messages. Hatfield, Deloitte’s Global Leader for Future of Work, said employees will succeed only if they are armed with “important Vassar skills”—thinking and writing. It’s not the content of your classes but how you learn how to think and how to write.”
Another Vassar alum, Rha Goddess ’89, renowned soul coach and founder and CEO of Move the Crowd, kicked off SCC as keynote speaker by telling the students a vital key to success in life was to recognize and realize one’s own potential. Goddess asked her audience to ask themselves three questions: Who am I? What do I value? And can I really matter? “You have to ask yourself where joy and fulfilment lives for you,” Goddess said. “You are here at a great institution to become a citizen of the world, and we need you to help it become the kind of world you want it to be. Your talent is already there, and you are worthy. Bring love to your work. Your love is an extension of your work.”
As the event drew to a close, Stacy Bingham, Associate Dean of the College for Career Education, urged students to continue to use her office and the Vassar alum network as resources as they continue along their career paths. “The work of finding our calling, of figuring out who we are and who we are meant to be, is cyclical and lifelong,” Bingham said. “It’s messy and exhilarating … and I would argue that our lives are deeply more exciting, interesting, and fulfilling because of the twists and turns on the journey.”