$5 Million Gift Reshapes Student Career Preparation
By Gillian Frew ’11
The newly established Serrurier Life After Whitman Endowment is transforming the way Whitman students prepare for callings and careers.
Whitman’s largest-ever incoming class has a step up in preparing for their futures, thanks in part to the Serrurier Life After Whitman Endowment. The $5 million gift from Nancy and Greg Serrurier, parents to Ben Serrurier ’11, not only helps fund internships for students for years to come, but also is a critical first step in establishing a new career coaching program aimed at encouraging students to explore their strengths and interests, develop their skills and chart a path toward making their career plans a reality.
“We owe it to students to help them understand the wide range of options that are available to them,” says Nancy, who is serving her 13th year on Whitman’s Board of Trustees, including three as chair. “It is an extraordinary privilege to have a Whitman education, and students deserve to have a better sense of what their Whitman experience can provide to them and to society. That’s the genesis of this project.”
Providing Tools for Success
Nancy’s own college experience as well as that of the couple’s son Ben provided further inspiration for investing in internships and career coaching. As a student at Brown University, Nancy interned with the Rhode Island Senate minority leader, an opportunity she says opened doors to her career in politics, education and philanthropy. Ben, a Whitman graduate, credits the college’s programs and positive culture for enabling him to achieve his long-time aspiration of a successful career in climate advocacy.
In 2017, Whitman’s Board of Trustees identified several key initiatives they believed the college needed to embrace to continue progressing as a leader in higher education. One was equipping students with the right tools to pursue fulfilling careers and productive lives of purpose.
“Greg and I are able to make this gift to support a top priority of the college and truly make lasting, meaningful change for the benefit of students,” Nancy says. “I really love Whitman, and I love all it can be. I want it to thrive going forward, and I hope this is one of many important pieces to that.”
As part of the new program, each member of the Class of 2025 received a call from a career coach over the summer, kicking off a dialogue that will last through all their years at Whitman. These professional career coaches are members of Whitman’s newly renamed Career and Community Engagement Center (formerly Student Engagement Center) and their goal is to get students thinking early about their life after Whitman. The endowment helps fund student internships as well as additional career development staff to ensure coaches have the time to build individual connections with all their students.
Nancy hopes the program will lead to strong bonds with career coaches that complement the support students already receive from professors, advisors and peers. Career coach Susan Prudente has seen this play out firsthand in virtual meetings with students over the summer, followed by in-person conversations on campus. “We’ve already had a jumpstart to a relationship, and I have earned the right to invite them into a robust and life-giving four years at Whitman,” Prudente says.
Kavita Getchell, a first-year from Bellevue, Washington, who is one of Prudente’s students, echoes this enthusiasm. “So far, the coaching program at Whitman has been exactly what I hoped for … another way that makes Whitman a personal experience,” she says. “I feel really lucky to have a career coach who I feel comfortable with because I know it will help me find my right path at Whitman and beyond.”
A Proactive Approach
In addition to the mentorship benefits, this one-on-one approach guides students toward an earlier understanding of the many resources and experiences available through coursework, internships, extracurricular activities and professional and civic engagement.
“Every student will be able to access this information, and not just at their will, but because we are sharing it with them very directly,” says Kim Rolfe, director for career development in the Career and Community Engagement Center.
President Kathleen Murray puts it this way: “Nancy and Greg’s gift goes a long way in helping our students make an intentional plan to apply an exceptional liberal arts education to a fulfilling career and life after graduation. On behalf of current and future generations of Whitties, I thank the Serruriers for this wonderful investment.”