Lori and her staff meeting with students
Lori meeting with students
Courtesy photos/Lori Dameron
We help fill a hole in career-related lifeskills that might not always be embedded in a student’s curriculum.”
— Lauren Rhodes, St. Martin Career Exploration Office career advisor

Launching Pad for Life

Targeted professional development for students leads to success

ake Gehrung ’20 first approached the College of Life Science and Agriculture’s St. Martin Career Exploration Office in fall 2019, looking to make a transition from an environmental research career path to a sustainability-related professional track. Little did he know that the center, particularly director Lori Dameron, would end up helping him land a job in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. Dameron had helped Gehrung refine his resume, attend networking events, make networking calls and more. It was the skills he learned from those interactions that made a difference.

“As a senior who graduated just as the coronavirus was really setting in, I had to scramble; I went from a fellowship to an unpaid internship, then a paid internship. Eventually I found a job through a UNH connection,” explains Gehrung, who is currently a high-performance building analyst, managing residential LEED projects for Resilient Buildings Group in Concord, New Hampshire.

St. Martin career advisor Melissa Capen says the pandemic has increased the need for job-preparedness. “The market has changed dramatically in terms of competitiveness and the opportunities that were eliminated, especially for any student in a pre-professional track — everything from clinicals to job-shadow experiences were affected,” she says. “Students want to be more strategic and want to be better candidates for work coming out of UNH.”

Established in 2015 with a gift from long-time student mentor and UNH Foundation Board member Christine Carberry ’82, the St. Martin office is UNH’s first endowed college-based career center, named after Carberry’s parents to honor their support of her education and career in the biosciences. Carberry’s gift to create the center came just as the university was rethinking career development resources to deliver targeted career advising to ensure student and post-graduate success, and to create a pipeline between UNH and industries in need of highly skilled staff.

St. Martin Career Office is under the umbrella of a campus-wide Career and Professional Success office, with the model of having industry-specific career advisors embedded in each college, and targeted one-on-one advising that begins early in a student’s UNH career. With a staff of three (Dameron, Capen, and full-time advisor Lauren Rhodes) the model is working: each year, a first-destination survey sent to the most recent graduates shows steadily increasing success rates. In COLSA alone, May 2020’s results were a 97% either employed or pursuing an advanced degree their first year out of college.

“Look at where we are right now, as we start to come out of a pandemic: so many students have missed the normal progression of career planning,” says COLSA Dean Anthony S. Davis. “The benefit of the St. Martin office for students is that we have people who have the connections and expertise to get students the right experiences in order to help them succeed. The St. Martin staff are the people who students can go to explore options, who are not their parents, or their friends, or their academic advisor. This is a professional team of great career resources. It’s a support network to overcome those obstacles, to put everybody on a pathway to success.”

The benefit of the St. Martin office for students is that we have people who have the connections and expertise to get students the right experiences in order to help them succeed.”
— Anthony S. Davis, COLSA Dean
There’s benefit to industry as well, notes Davis, as businesses look to rehire, recruit and retain employees. “In many ways, our industry partners are rapidly trying to get a highly developed workforce, and they know we produce graduates who can do the job. [The St. Martin office] creates a two-way street scenario, where industry knows we’re a partner of choice for hiring.”

Gehrung says UNH students are lucky to have access to such a tailored resource. “I know a lot of students [at other schools] who got really great grades and assumed that’s all they needed to land a good job, and they are finding they were wrong,” he says. “They didn’t get to capitalize on the networking and career exploration opportunities that were available at UNH.”

Carberry’s support, which funds Capen’s part-time position, also supports COLSA’s SOAR Fund, which provides students with stipends for internship-related expenses, as well as funding for transportation to interviews and career events.

The goal, says Dameron, is to prepare the next generation of leaders in these industries.

“Life sciences and related industries are changing faster than the speed of sound; we need more scientists and others who solve the big problems we’re all facing,” she says. “It’s exciting for us and very important to be able to work with students, because these are the people who are going to be on the frontlines solving these challenges.”

— Michelle Morrissey ’97, Kristin Waterfield Duisberg