When St. Thomas students return to campus this fall, they’ll notice the first floor of Murray-Herrick Campus Center looks quite different. But the change is more than cosmetic – it represents a new approach to helping students prepare for successful careers, and a more engaged role that alumni and corporate partners can play in that process.
Construction wrapped this week on the new home for St. Thomas’ newly formed Alumni, Career and Corporate Engagement (ACC) unit, which will align various groups with major stakes in seeing students succeed and helping the university achieve some of its strategic priorities. At most universities, career services is the function of one department (such as employer engagement, internship programs, etc.). Through ACC, however, St. Thomas blends input from multiple areas to ensure students get the right experience to enter the workforce of the future.
Additionally, ACC will play an important role in connecting current Tommies with alumni interested in mentoring and having career conversations with students. St. Thomas alumni looking to make their own career changes can also take advantage of unlimited advising services, which are typically offered for only a few years after graduation at most universities.
“ACC has the potential to be a model for other universities,” said Associate Vice President Karyn McCoy, who St. Thomas recently hired away from DePaul University to lead the new ACC unit. As ACC began moving into its new home this week, the Newsroom met with McCoy to learn about how ACC will uniquely operate, and what drew her to the opportunity.
Our St. Thomas 2025 strategic plan lists “Prepare Students for Work and Career” as a priority; How does ACC advance that concept?
We talk a lot about the ‘Tommie Network.’ But what exactly is the Tommie Network? It includes students, alumni, and industry partners – and means different things to different people. Sometimes it is reflected in a professional network. Other times it includes personal advisers and friends. In all cases, it reflects strong and trusted relationships that help advance and advocate for the success of St. Thomas and our students. The ACC brings together three key functions: alumni engagement, career development and corporate and employer partnerships that can help build community within the Tommie Network and advance the career readiness of our students. There are so many possibilities – think about corporate partners and how they want to find and keep talent. Think about the overlap of alumni engagement as mentors and employers. There is so much synergy between these areas, and it’s exciting to think about what we can do with bringing them together.
Alumni engagement and corporate partnerships have historically been separate – yet it seems like a no-brainer to combine these areas to support student career development and high-impact university initiatives.
Ultimately, it’s about how we best position our students to be successful in landing that first job so that it sets them up for a successful career. From a recruiting perspective, both alumni and corporations play a role in that. They have the projects, the jobs, the experience that students need to best position themselves and they have the knowledge about what’s happening in the marketplace.
These are ultimately the people who will hire our students to solve industry problems, and societal problems, so it makes sense to listen to their needs. They can help us think about questions like: ‘How are we bringing faculty, alumni and corporations together to look at how we address challenges in the workplace? How do we get that information flowing into the university to understand how St. Thomas students are performing versus other universities’ students? And what part of that is related to how we prepare them for their career search?’
This isn’t just about helping students – how does this also represent a partnership that can help faculty?
When you are looking at how career conversations are integrated across the student experience, they are usually relegated in most universities to a small office in a single building, relying on the students themselves to actually find it and walk in to get help. Universities have realized, partly because of pressure to show the value of their degrees, that career conversations are an integral part of the student experience. How do we support our faculty who want to have those conversations? How do we get them the information they need? ACC will rethink how to offer that support to our faculty.
What compelled you to leave your similar role at DePaul for St. Thomas?
This position brings so much of my experience together – it’s almost like it was written for me. Alumni relations, career center, working with employers, partnering with the corporate relations team … I think I’m just energized by thinking about the possibilities of things. I see a role like this as an opportunity to dream, an opportunity to really imagine what’s possible.
When thinking about my ‘superpower,’ it’s helping others imagine what’s possible. I love thinking about the possibilities. It’s about finding the vision and then creating the direction to help inspire people to get there.