September 19, 2010

The Corporation

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For the vast majority of undergraduates, last week’s so-called “General Interest” Career Fair was a useless spectacle. Despite its name, the fair was only helpful for students with very specific interests in either consulting or investment banking. With just a handful of exceptions, the booths in Barton Hall were occupied by Fortune 500 companies, large corporations, consulting firms and investment banks. While the the presence of these companies is understandable — large corporations with vast resources are the ones who can afford to send recruiters across the country — it is unfortunate that Career Services put on an event that allows students access to only a small segment of the professional world.Coincidentally, the fair occurred the same week that the Wall Street Journal released a top 25 list of colleges as ranked by recruiters. Surprisingly, Cornell came in 14th on the list that was otherwise comprised of large public universities such as Penn State and Arizona State. Cornell’s presence on this list is likely due to the popularity of pre-professional majors at the University — applied economics and management and hotel administration, to name of few. But the ranking also suggests that on-campus recruiting is a larger aspect of the job search here than it is at other Ivy League universities. Because of this reality it is even more important that on-campus recruiting on East Hill serves the interests of the University’s diverse student body. If on-campus recruiting is going to be a primary means through which seniors gain employment, it is necessary that students are presented with a variety of options that are outside of consulting and banking.If an open-minded student with no previous interest in consulting or banking were to walk into Barton Hall last week he would assume that these fields were the only two professional options he had. Thus, he would begin the unfortunate process of transitioning from a state of educational ambition to a state of professional conformity. The University ought to encourage its students to pursue their passions even after their time in Ithaca. If this unconditional pursuit of personal interests ends on the day we graduate, then Cornell University has not completed its mission.Cornell’s mantra “any person … any study” illustrates the University’s focus on cultivating an environment in which a diverse set of students with a diverse set of interests can explore their passions. More or less, we live up to that mantra — with AEM majors, fiber science and apparel design majors, architects and engineers simultaneously seeking mastery of their respective fields. It is therefore disappointing that the Career Fair presented students with such a limited, homogenized set of professional options. Going forward, Career Services should work to expand these options. Students who pursued their individual interests for four years should not be put in a situation where they feel pressure to abandon these interests to find employment. Additionally, students should more rigorously utilize the vast resources Career Services has to offer, and not sit idly by while they are shoehorned into a field in which they have no interest.