When UC Santa Cruz convenes the Multicultural Career Conference on February 11, it will not only assist college students on the cusp of a major life transition, but will also commemorate a significant anniversary.
MCC, as it’s known on campus, is set to celebrate its 30th anniversary in early February, marking a long history of connecting students with UCSC alumni who know the challenges of making that daunting next step after graduation.
“This is really one of the most important things we do here at the career center,” said Barbara Silverthorne, director of the UC Santa Cruz Career Center. “Sometimes students lack the professional connections they need, and this is the epitome of what we do. We help them make those connections.”
For Silverthorne, the emphasis on multiculturalism is particularly important, as the opportunity for students of color, who may feel increased anxiety about navigating the workforce or graduate school, to interact with those who have already successfully done so is crucial.
“It’s a very unique connection between students of color and alumni of color,” Silverthorne said. “It allows the students to say to themselves ‘Somebody has gone before me and paved the path.’”
Nancy Kim, now the director of UCSC’s Asian American/Pacific Islander, recalls her experience as a UCSC student in the early 1990s.
“I really appreciated the opportunity to attend,” Kim said. “It was the first time I learned about the challenges of graduate school.”
Careers and beyond
The MCC goes beyond helping seniors looking to enter the workforce. It also caters to students thinking about pursuing a graduate degree, going to medical school, or taking the Law School Admission Test (LSAT).
“The alumni talk about what they’ve done after life at UCSC and includes some who’ve gone to grad school, some straight into their careers, and others talk about taking times to figure out themselves,” said Sheila Rodriguez, the assistant director of Career Development at the Career Center.
It’s not always about graduating seniors either, according to Silverthorne. Some underclassmen attend to learn about how to orient their education toward career or graduate school goals. Others are there to learn about internship opportunities.
“We try to touch people at all different points of their education, at all different levels,” Silverthorne said.
For some of the alumni who attend, they also use the conference as a headhunting opportunity, either looking for young people to help out with summer internships, and—in some cases—looking for college graduates to fill entry level positions in their various organizations.
“It’s a great networking opportunity for the alumni as well,” Silverthorne said. “Some of them went to the MCC and they are paying it forward, and others have been coming to the MCC for a long time and they enjoy connecting with students and find it rewarding.”
Inspired by alumni
This year’s keynote speaker is Jacob Martinez. A UC Santa Cruz alumnus, who is the founder and executive director of Digital Nest, a Watsonville based nonprofit that is focused on bridging the digital divide by both bringing innovative technology education platforms to students in Watsonville, while also encouraging young Latina women to pursue tech careers.
“He’s been involved in creating a pipeline between students of color in the Pajaro Valley and technology fields,” Silverthorne said.
As MCC looks back on its 30-year history, there have been a plethora of speakers from a diversity of fields including, medicine, law, technology, government and non-profit, among others.
Past speakers included Katrina Cervantez Alejo, a former mayor of Watsonville and only the second Latina to fulfill that role in the city’s history, and Kevin Filer, who was born and raised in Compton, and went on to become a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge.
“I think a lot of the students who attend the MCC are the first in their families to go to college,” Kim said. “It can be overwhelming for students who may not have the family and cultural capital to walk you through the steps.”
Kim is the daughter of immigrants. While her parents had college experience in their home country of Korea, she found the prospect of the rigors of graduate school in America daunting. MCC provided her with a clear picture of the challenges she would face in graduate school, she said, and it helped to soothe some of her anxiety.
These challenges can be particularly daunting for students of color with majors in the liberal arts—whether it’s philosophy, literature, history or the social sciences—where the path from education to career is not always as clear as say someone who pursues an accounting or business degree
“There are a lot of jobs that can come from any major,” Silverthorne said. “What a lot of our majors teach is critical thinking, written and oral communication skills and the ability to analyze data, whether its words or numbers.”
Those are all high on the list of what employers want, Silverthorne said, so students can rest assured they are equipped with the skills necessary to flourish in what has recently become an expanding workforce with a historically low unemployment rate.
But Kim said students need to use the MCC as an opportunity to focus on what they want out their careers and not just what their careers will want out of them.
“The MCC offers a space for students to incorporate what they feel about their cultural, ethnic and various intersecting identities and how to carry that to the next phase,” she said.
The 30th anniversary of the Multicultural Career Conference is slated of Saturday, February 11. It begins at 9:30 a.m. and runs until 4:30 p.m.
Following the speech, students will break out into workshop sessions according to various careers such as arts and media, health and science, education, business, government/nonprofit, law, and technology.
For more information visit http://careers.ucsc.edu/MCC/overview.html or contact Ben Wilson at (831) 459–5107 and firstname.lastname@example.org.