Expanded Career Services Put Focus on Graduate Students

Jean Papalia, the new Director of Graduate Student Career Services, discusses new career resources for graduate students

Jean Papalia, the director of the Tufts Career Center for eighteen years, had been thinking about graduate student career support for a while before she proposed the new Director of Graduate Student Career Services position that she would ultimately take on. When the School of Arts and Sciences' strategic plan specifically identified the need for increased attention to professional and career development for graduate students, she saw an opportunity to make a difference.

Jean Papalia, Director of Graduate Career Services

“I knew I wanted to get involved with individual student advising and doing workshops with students. As the director for eighteen years my role was much more focused on the big administrative picture for the career center, so I was excited at the idea of working directly with students again,” Papalia says. “Over the last couple of years we’ve seen more graduate students seeking individual assistance and asking for specific programming. I think there’s been a shift in students’ priorities and we’re in a good position to address this increased interest and need.”

Background and Experience

Papalia received her master’s degree in higher education from the University of Vermont. “I’m actually still in that field, which is amazing,” Papalia says. Since then, she also received a post-graduate certificate in Leadership for Change from Boston College, and has worked at a variety of universities and colleges, from business schools to liberal arts colleges to the Ivy League. When she first started, though, she had no idea she would focus on career services. Her master’s program exposed her to the many fields within higher education, and she found that working in the career development field with students, alumni, and employers captured her interest almost immediately.

“I wanted to combine working with students with helping them make connections with potential employers,” she says. “I really loved the career center because you’re working with students and you’re bridging that gap between university and employment.”

Why Graduate Students are Unique

Graduate students come from a variety of backgrounds with a wide range of professional experience. But, Papalia points out that the career challenges graduate students face are often related to the fact that graduate education necessitates more in-depth, specific inquiry into their chosen field.

“A lot of students are very focused, and it’s expanding that focus that’s key. Some graduate programs train people very specifically in one particular area, but they have skills that can apply to many different career fields. Oftentimes, students don’t recognize their skills; they think they’re just good at research or being a student, and they overlook the different skills they developed through those activities. The challenge is helping them identify their skills and how they can transfer them to different careers.”

I wanted to have a niche where I could make a difference, and have a direct impact on students’ success. I think graduate career services is an area that can be expanded and I’m excited to be part of that.

Jean Papalia Director of Graduate Student Career Services

Career Coaching for Grad Students

“When I think back to my favorite jobs, I realize that they were positions where I was working one-on-one with alumni and graduate students.” Papalia continually returns to her excitement over working with students and returning to a more personal role within the Career Center.

“I’m excited to get to know students and what they’re looking for, and to help them figure out their game plan. We’ve already started to develop workshops, programs, and resources that help grad students. I’m looking forward to having individual meetings with them as well to help them get past any blocks or barriers they might be experiencing. I also want to get to know the academic departments and their needs, and who some of the more sought-after employers might be.”

New Programs to Look for

Already, Papalia has created several new workshops and resources for graduate students. Supporting an expansion of the “Preparing for a Career in Academia" conference that focuses on the online academic job search, promoting the “Teaching at Teaching Intensive Institutions” conference, and offering the new “Versatile PhD” resource to graduate students are just the start.

“In the past we’ve always served graduate students, and students can still see other advisors in the career center. But now I’ll be focusing on graduate student needs. I’ll be the point person on programs, advising graduate students, and discovering different resources that we can provide that we haven’t in the past."

Jean Papalia will be available for career consultations Mondays through Wednesdays, including some additional hours on Monday evenings to accommodate students’ busy schedules.

To schedule an appointment with Jean Papalia, call the Career Center at 671-627-3299, let them know that you are a graduate student, and ask to schedule an appointment.