New class offers advice

The answer to rising seniors’ questions of what to do with their lives may only be six units away. The senior capstone seminar, 99-530 Preparing for the Future: What Happens Next, will debut next fall. The class will be the Fifth-Year Scholar project of Mary Grace DeForest, an operations research and statistics major.

While a number of colleges at Carnegie Mellon have their own senior seminars, DeForest’s class will include students from all seven. Her class will provide a comprehensive view of life after college, not only with specific career situations but also with individual definitions of success, professionalism outside of the workplace, and other issues brought upon by life beyond college.

The course will not only prepare students for life after graduation, however.

Through discussions and reflection activities, students will be able to use their analysis of their past experiences to help them in their future endeavors.

Amanda Sturges, a junior social and decision sciences and business administration double major, sees much to learn from her college experiencies.

“People change so much when they go off to college,” Sturges said. “And I think looking back at it shows a lot about what you can accomplish.”

DeForest hopes to challenge students to think about their pasts and futures through both small and large group discussions. The small groups will include students from all seven colleges and will be facilitated by professors in the School of Computer Science, the Mellon College of Science, and the Tepper School of Business, as well as a Tepper graduate student.

DeForest hopes for students to fully understand what it means to be an alum, define one’s own personal success, and build upon college experiences and career goals to create the life they hope to live.

The core readings of the class will include Your Road Map for Success: You Can Get There from Here and Making Their Own Way: Narratives for Transforming Higher Education to Promote Self-Development, as well as a number of ethical case studies dealing with issues such as whistle blowing, honesty, and confidentiality.

The students will be educated by a series of faculty and alumni speakers and journal entries reflecting on personal success.

Danielle Gerlach, a senior chemistry major, recognized the need to prepare students for what lies beyond the Commencement ceremony.

“College is its own bubble and life after college is different,” Gerlach said. “So anything you can do to prepare is good.”

Sturges is already thinking about life after graduation.

“It’s a really big step to enter the world out there and there is no harm in thinking about it early,” she said.

The class will culminate with a viewing of Randy Pausch’s last lecture and presentations to the small groups on their plans of action, a series of steps formulated to create the ideal life for oneself that supplements the career or graduate school life.

The seminar will be a twice-weekly mini course offered Tuesday and Thursday nights from 6:30 to 7:20 p.m.

It will take place in the first half of the fall 2008 semester to seniors and in the second half of the spring 2009 semester to juniors on a pass/fail basis.

While a number of spots in the fall 2008 will be reserved for students in the Tepper School of Business and recommended students from advisors in all 36 undergraduate departments, the course will still be open for registration.