ECON undergraduates can now become even more career-ready thanks to generous support from department alumni
Helping students in the Department of Economics become career-ready was a founding principle of the Economics Leadership Council (ELC), the department’s primary alumni service organization that launched in late 2018.
“I’m thrilled to give back and delighted that the ELC has been able to help seed impactful, student-focused initiatives,” said Tom Teles, ECON '92, an ELC member and retired partner of Goldman Sachs Asset Management.
Thanks to the generous support of the ELC’s members, the ELC recently funded two new positions and established the department’s first mentoring program, despite the challenges posed by COVID-19.
“We feel it's essential to provide our students with the best career opportunities. That is what an excellent university does, and that is what we intend to do,” said Neil Moskowitz, ECON ’80, an ELC member and recipient of the BSOS Distinguished Alumnus award in 2001.
The ELC created a Career Outreach Strategist position in late 2019, and a Graduate Assistant position soon after. Ronda Ansted, a seasoned career consultant who also runs her own business, Be the Change Career Consulting, was selected for the former. Since her hire, she has added multiple “Career and Internship Resources” sections to the department website for students, alumni and potential employers; organized a mix of in-person and virtual “Economics Employers Pop-Up Shops”; and managed the “Econ Does What” newsletter, which shares information on how alumni have gone on to use the lessons they learned at UMD in their everyday career.
Ansted has also played a big role in the ELC’s latest endeavor, a program through which alumni “ELC Affiliates” are assigned one, two, or even three economics undergraduates to mentor for one academic year. When 64 students expressed interest in the mentoring program—more than double the number of students the 13 inaugural mentors could support—Ansted’s team made a point to make sure all students still had a plethora of career support services.
“It’s always nice to give out scholarships and help one person at a time, but it is also important to try to reach out to as many people as you can,” said Distinguished University Professor Maureen Cropper, the ELC Faculty Liaison and former department chair. “It is important to try and help people more broadly, and certainly the career website, the pop-up events, and the mentorship program itself have really done that.”
Risha Baxi, a junior economics and government and politics double major who is mentored by Ellen McGeoch, ECON ’10, is especially grateful for being one of the 27 students selected to participate in the new mentoring program.
"I wanted to be a mentee because especially through COVID, it's been extremely difficult to explore the different career paths I can take as an ECON major,” Baxi said. “Working with Ellen has been rewarding because she's talked to me a lot about her experiences entering the workforce as an ECON major during a recession, and taught me about many different areas she pursued post-undergrad, which has helped me narrow down a few fields I want to work in.”
Though this first class of mentors and mentees have had the flexibility to establish how frequently they’d like to connect with one another via Zoom, most check in at least once per month and often go over topics that include resume building, interview prep and other potentially helpful life experiences.
“Previously, I served as a mentor for hackathons at MIT, Stanford and OHSU and thoroughly enjoyed those experiences, however I would meet with a variety of teams over a brief period of time in a very rushed environment,” said McGeoch, director of contracting for NeuroFlow, a healthcare technology company enabling behavioral health access and engagement across the continuum of care. “I was interested in joining a program where I could work with the same students over time and help them on their journey to employment, while also having the opportunity to work with leadership to create and build a scalable model for the program.”
Scaling up the mentoring program is a long-term goal of the department that the ELC intends to support. After learning what worked well for these first-year mentors and mentees, next steps are to put a bit more structure in place, create a certificate of program completion, find additional mentors, and encourage more students, especially first-generation college students, to participate.
“I vividly remember how confusing and intimidating it can be to matriculate into the workforce after college and wanted to help students who might feel like I did at their age,” said Jillian McGrath, ECON ’18, an ELC Affiliate and economic policy advisor for the think tank Third Way. “Economics can be a really open-ended discipline with tons of options post-grad, which is a blessing and a curse for students who aren't quite sure where they want to go.”
Applications for the 2022-2023 mentoring program will open in late summer, with the next mentoring class set to start in September.
For more information about the ELC and the ELC Affiliates’ mentoring program, visit go.umd.edu/EconomicsLeadershipCouncil.
This article by Rachael Grahame originally appeared on the BSOS Homepage.