Whitman alumni offer career advice through "Real Talk" sessions

real talk
Students participate in a Real Talk session on Oct. 31 with Alasdair Stewart '94, city editor of The Walla Walla Union-Bulletin.

When it comes to choosing a major or exploring a career path, Whitman students have access to a broad range of resources. But nothing quite compares to the real thing: face-to-face conversations with working professionals. 

Whitman’s new “Real Talk” series provides just that: an opportunity for students to collect valuable information from alumni about various career tracks. The format for these sessions is relaxed and intimate, and every workshop includes small group discussion. Students are encouraged to ask any questions they might have about entering the professional world.  

“All of us Whitties have great aspirations for our futures, but for many of us it’s difficult to imagine what the steps are, exactly, to achieve our goals,” said Kayvon Behroozian ’14, who developed the series over the summer as an intern at Whitman’s Student Engagement Center.

“So connecting with alumni who have gone through the process to get into the fields and areas that we students are interested in is one of the best ways to fill in the blanks. The students attending the sessions are genuinely interested in being there, and the small size of the program allows for there to be an open and organic conversation between alumni and students.”

Started in September and extending through mid-November, the series features local alumni sharing their experiences in various professional fields – from health care to graphic design to wine sales. Class years represented range from 1978 to 2005.

“We’re delighted that we’ve been able to develop an informative, productive and low-stress program to bring students together with a group of alumni who have achieved success in a wide variety of businesses and organizations,” said Noah Leavitt, assistant dean for student engagement.

“Feedback from students who have attended one or more of the Real Talk sessions indicates that they are indeed getting their questions answered, and are also feeling more confident about how their liberal arts educations will give them an enormous range of options for future careers.”

Preston Frederickson ’02, an assistant city attorney for the City of Walla Walla, led a recent session covering careers in law and government. As a member of the Whitman Alumni Board, Frederickson has a vested interested in staying involved on campus, and has gone out of his way to provide students with the knowledge they need to achieve their goals.

“Whitman College will always be a cause worth supporting,” he said. “I love sharing my experiences with others and I love to hear others’ experiences.”

This kind of back and forth exchange is what defined Frederickson’s Real Talk workshop. It was a discussion with the students rather than a lecture. Whenever he caught himself in a monologue, Frederickson paused and asked each student individually if he or she had any questions, thoughts or concerns. The dialogue continued until all the students had left the room, one by one, with answers for their questions.
Frederickson said he hopes his session helps students make choices that they won’t regret in the future.

“I hoped to open students’ minds to the practical considerations of careers and long-term personal goals and aspirations, so that they can begin now to plan for one, five, 10, 20 years into the future and feel satisfied and happy with their decisions along the way.”

For more information about Real Talk sessions or to sign up, click here.

—Isaac Sappington ’16