CEO’s Jan Term class guides students’ quest for competitive edge

Jed Barnes ’11 speaking to class.
January 14, 2014

The Center for Experience and Opportunity’s (CEO) director Julia Jasken knows that there’s nothing accidental about winning a Rhodes, Fulbright or other prestigious scholarship.

So she designed a course that would give students a better chance by helping them to identify relevant opportunities and then plan their academic and co-curricular experiences to help make them more competitive.

“The truth is that students need strong mentorship if they are going to be considered competitive for these awards,” says Jasken of students who succeed in landing top scholarships, internships and professional opportunities. The new CEO Jan Term course, “Apply Yourself! The Future You,” leads students on a journey of self-discovery meshed with an exploration of available opportunities – all with the goal of showing students what they need to do to give themselves better odds for success.

Jasken is team teaching with Amanda Blankenship and Sara French, also on staff at the CEO as associate directors of career development and community service respectively. The 23 students in the class identify their strengths and target the opportunities they are interested in, including scholarships, fellowships, graduate school and professional experiences in the U.S. and abroad.

“They identify different aspects of their personalities they can use to sell who they are to the different decision-making bodies – and they are learning how to craft compelling stories that will help them be successful,” says Jasken. “We are helping them think more deeply about their unique combination of strengths, personality and experiences – and then helping them weave those experiences into a compelling narrative.”

Just a week into the course, and Roger Isom has learned more about himself.

“I’m learning how to apply what I learned about myself for scholarships and graduate school,” says the sophomore from Annapolis, Md., who is majoring in Exercise Science and Physical Education and Spanish. “We’re coming into what I call scholarship season, when I concentrate on searching for scholarships. Now I feel like I am learning how to better sell myself.”

Craig Corlis is a junior transfer student from Madeira Beach, Fla., who is focusing his search on opportunities, particularly for study abroad, in the next two years. A Computer Science major in the Honors program, Corlis has his eye on the University of Glasgow Honors Program in Scotland for starters.

“I’m a big proponent of getting everything out of everything you do and already this class has given me a lot of information in just the first week,” says Corlis, who transferred to McDaniel last semester, leaving a job that began as an internship managing the websites of six radio stations for Cox Media Group in Tampa. “Opportunities like these are stepping stones to a career.”

Representatives of careers, graduate and professional schools and scholarships/fellowships, many of them McDaniel alumni, are invited into the class to share their perspectives and advice.

“If you are going to go to graduate school and work at the same time, you have to be motivated and dedicated,” says recent speaker Jed Barnes ’11, a History major with a minor in Business Administration, who is pursuing an M.B.A. through a joint program of University of Baltimore and Towson University while working as a financial consultant with S C & H Group. “Balancing school and work demands that commitment.”

The course reflects the essence of the CEO’s mission and is basically how the CEO staff works with individual students throughout the year. At the end of the three-week Jan Term, students will have become familiar with the CEO’s newly published 80-page Guide to Scholarships and Fellowships, which allows them to identify opportunities that match their interests and qualifications. They will also have developed a plan for their professional and academic growth and will have developed their own personal statements as part of a broader package of applications materials.

“We want them to leave this class with an understanding of the experiences that are going to move them forward and the tools that are available to them,” Jasken says. “We want them to have had the opportunity to think deeply about themselves, and then to use that knowledge to propel themselves into the next phase of their professional lives.

“If we can move them forward on that path, we’ve done our jobs right.”