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Office of Career Services looks to grow under new leadership

It was during the job interview process, when Theresa Cruz Paul repeatedly heard about Western Carolina University’s emphasis on building and growing the Office of Career Services, and how it was a part of the university’s strategic plan, that she knew Cullowhee was the place for her to be.

In July, Cruz Paul became director of career services and with fall semester underway, she is now a part of that growth.

Theresa Cruz Paul

Theresa Cruz Paul

“The university seems to have taken interest in career services as far as building it into the plans and the community of the university,” Cruz Paul said. “It’s always an interesting move when you come into a position that’s growing like that. To be allowed to work on something that is college-wide, compared to something that is very individualized and specific, allows me to have access to work with all kinds of groups on campus. I enjoy that. I enjoy being part of the campus community.”

Working in career services is actually a path Cruz Paul stumbled upon. About 10 years ago, she was a temporary worker at William Patterson University in New Jersey, assigned to run the internship program. When a full-time position became available, she was offered the job with the stipulation that she get her master’s degree, which she did in professional counseling.

Cruz Paul said she gained a lot of experience serving on academic and student development committees. “I focused on some service learning, student internships, experiential learning, and ran career fairs. I got a very wide breadth of experience through that job,” she said.

Ready for a new challenge, Cruz Paul became associate director of academic internships at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan. She was involved in curriculum development, while also working with the registrar’s office registering students and in the career center. She found time to get a second master’s degree in higher and post-secondary administration from Teachers College at Columbia University.

Cruz Paul said she is excited about the growth opportunities at WCU. Some of the things she hopes to implement in the near future include rebranding the office to get the word out on what services are offered, using technology to update some of those services including virtual appointments that would allow for weekend and evening appointments, virtual workshops, and webinars. Part of the rebranding of the office includes changing the name to the Center for Career and Professional Development, a more encompassing title that supports the extended services Cruz Paul hopes to achieve. Another plan is to offer students ways to brand themselves through social media when job searching. Services are available to current undergraduate and graduate students, as well as WCU alumni.

Cruz Paul said she wants to expand how the office offers current services like resume writing, cover letters, mock interview sessions, job and internship searching, career counseling, vocational testing, and preparation for graduate school applications.

“Employee recruitment technology has changed and the services need to change, as well, to keep up with that,” Cruz Paul said. “I think the campus is ready. The faculty seems excited. The administration is supportive. And the staff seems like they’re willing to learn and to use the skills and knowledge they have in new ways, which is good. And I’m sure the students are ready.”

Having more employers on campus to network also is a goal, not just for career fairs, but for panel discussions, meet-and-greets with students, and visiting classrooms if a faculty member requests a guest speaker.

Since coming to WCU, Cruz Paul and her staff have developed a partnership with the hospitality and tourism program, creating a widget for the program’s website that rolls active jobs that are based on hospitality and tourism. Cruz Paul’s office is currently in discussions to partner with the Kimmel School.

“The goal is to incorporate career development into all aspects of the university,” Cruz Paul said. “If a student can do that over four years and have it incorporated, then by the time they’re a senior, they should be set.”

As a means of reaching out to freshmen, the staff held sessions for undeclared students at orientation. They also assisted with move-in day, which gave them an opportunity to discuss their services with freshmen. And they are in the process of expanding their social media usage to become more interactive with students “because that’s where they’re at,” Cruz Paul said.

“I think we should help students know what services are available to them as far as the career services center is concerned, and let them know that they should come by and say ‘hi’ their first year, as compared to their last year,” Cruz Paul said.

By Marlon W. Morgan

Categories | The Reporter


Photos | WCU News Services

Commencement 2017
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