By Zolzaya Erdenebileg
Scott Layson, the director of the Career Development Office (CDO), occupies a room deep in the underbelly of Gund Commons. The Gund basement has no windows, no natural light and no fresh breeze. Its only neighbors are a neglected study room with a candy dispenser and two spacious restrooms across the hall. For most students, this environment might seem depressing enough to keep them from the CDO.
Within the last year, however, the CDO has engineered a dramatic spike in traffic to its offices. In fact, student demand for appointments at the CDO has jumped so much that the Center hired a new assistant director, Karen Sheffield. There was one point during our peak period where we were all [setting up appointments] with students a month in on our calendars, Layson said.
The upturn is due in part to a newly implemented online scheduling system, on which 95 percent of appointments are now scheduled, according to Layson. The CDO created the system to help students studying abroad make appointments, but data shows that students on campus are the primary users. Prior to the chan ge, students could make appointments only during normal business hours by visiting or calling the office. Now, students can make appointments at any time and from any location.
Every time someone schedules an appointment with him, Layson receives a notification email. Its interesting how many of those are coming in at 11:30 p.m. [or] 12:00 a.m. Ive had some scheduled around 3:00 a.m., Layson said.
Allison Suflita, the associate director of the CDO, also said online scheduling has been useful. [It] allows students to schedule an appointment with us when they are thinking about it, and not giving them a chance to forget about making the appointment the next day, she said.
A continued push toward online functionality is part of Laysons overall plan for the CDO. He has a familiarity with the latest social-networking issues and is comfortable with new technology, which has been a great asset, Sheffield said.
Besides online scheduling and Skype sessions with overseas students, the CDO Facebook page has been active in posting internship and employment opportunities. Currently, the Facebook page has 300 likes and new opportunities go up weekly, sometimes even daily.
Layson also oversees updates to the Kenyon Career Network (KCN). The KCN now works not only for students, but also for alumni. Through the KCN, alumni can network with each other and with students and utilize services offered by the CDO. At least until Im thrown out, our office is going to serve alumni, Layson said. Recently, Layson helped an alumnus from 1997 transition from Tokyo, Japan to the U.S. The same alumnus later presented Layson with a student internship opportunity.
Support for alumni is one of the more profound changes Layson has implemented. After taking over as director, he changed the mission statement from what he described as a long paragraph full of fluffy bunnies to a succinct nine-word phrase. The new mission phrase, To facilitate the career success of students and alumni, explicitly offers the same services to alumni that were previously limited to students.
Greater alumni involvement has also played a significant role in the revival of the externship program. Layson has sought to make the extern process easier and more accessible for students. He and the CDO staff created an Express Yes List, a list of alumni who have already agreed to be extern sponsors. Students who approach hosts from the list stand a greater chance of receiving a positive response.
Moreover, the CDO staff also decreased the amount of steps necessary for an externship. Before the change, students had to attend three half-hour appointments. The combination of a decrease in prerequisites and the Express Yes List has resulted in 60 externships this year so far. Layson, however, said he would like to see that number climb to 100.
The CDO has also sponsored weekly drop-in hours held in the satellite room in the Olin Atrium. Whereas before two to three students would drop in, now about six to nine come in.
The rack in the CDO that holds career and educational brochures is usually replenished about once a semester, but the rack in the Olin Atrium is replenished every two weeks.
Before coming to Kenyon as director of the CDO, Layson worked in a number of positions, all revolving around career development, but differing in focus. In Washington state, he worked in the Work Force Development program. The effects of welfare reforms passed under the Clinton administration tainted government work for him, and he switched tracks to work in career services at Seattle University. There, he found his niche. A big reason why I liked it [there] was the direct interaction with students, Layson said.
A family move to Ohio prompted Layson to successfully apply for the Associate Director of the CDO at Kenyon in 2000, but he did not stay long. He left and briefly worked at the Co-op and Internship Program at The Ohio State University (OSU) before returning to government work as a part of Ohios Work Force Development team. While he described his work there as enjoyable, Layson found he missed the interaction with individuals. I got to a point where the work I was doing was completely distant from the people who were being served by it, he said.
The purely administrative aspect of the work and the allure of interaction with students compelled him to apply for the director position at Kenyon.
Layson humbly describes himself as a fairly boring person and the King of No to his two daughters. But he has become an essential part of the CDO.
Scott brings that best out in the students as well as in our staff. There have been lots of changes here in the CDO, and they are a direct result of having Scott as our leader, Sheffield said. Change can be difficult, but Scotts humorous, smooth style makes the whole team, students and staff, click.