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Students perceive inequality in career fair

“It's a delicate line between being helpful for certain people and making other people feel like they won't be where they want to be after graduation.”


Students packed into Tudor Fieldhouse to speak to over a hundred employers on Tuesday as part of the Fall Career & Internship Expo. Almost 50 percent of the 149 companies selected the computer, information technology, and math cluster. Photo by Rishu Harpavat

By Emily Abdow     9/20/17 1:49pm

The Fall Career & Internship Expo filled Tudor Fieldhouse with rows of possible employers on Tuesday, but some students and alumni said the annual expo offered them few career opportunities.

English major Kelsie Utz, who attended the career fair, said she wants to work in publishing or for a literary magazine.

“None of [the options] are anything remotely close to what I want to go on to do with the rest of my life and my Rice degree,” Utz, a McMurtry College junior, said.

The Center for Career Development invited over 20,000 companies across the country to attend the expo according to Jessica Campbell, associate director of employer relations for the CCD.

“What I worry about is students tuning out companies or opportunities without really taking the time to explore it,” Campbell said. “Hardly any opportunity is going to check every single box that you’re looking for, but if it’s just checking a couple of boxes of interest, then I think you should explore it.”

The CCD developed six six career clusters to encourage students to think outside their major, Campbell said. Each of the 149 companies self-selected one or more clusters.

“We’re always trying to educate and encourage employers to think broadly about major, especially at Rice,” Campbell said. “But just like we are encouraging employers to do that, we’re also wanting students to think broadly about the kinds of opportunities they’re looking for.”

In the arts, communication and entertainment cluster there are 18 companies including the Drug Enforcement Administration and Walmart. Both organizations were listed under all six career clusters.

AlEn USA, a household cleaning and laundry care product company, was the only company in the arts, communication and entertainment cluster not cross-listed with any other career cluster.

“It’s kind of ironic that [the CCD] would ask students to think more broadly if they’re not going to attempt to broaden their own horizons with the people they’re asking to come to the expo,” Utz said. 



The largest career cluster is computer, information technology, and math with 72 companies followed by 71 companies in the engineering and architecture cluster.

Computer science major Spencer Chang said that despite large amount of companies recruiting computer science students, there are also opportunities for social science or humanities majors, though some are less advertised.

“Every company has a business side or a client based side so it seems like there is a discrepancy but I don’t think the gap is as big as it’s perceived,” Chang, a Jones College junior, said.

On Monday, Interim Dean of Humanities Lora Wildenthal sent an email to humanities majors and those in the humanities division, encouraging them to attend the career fair.

“Go and learn,” Wildenthal wrote. “Confront your own ideas about your post-graduation life. Let’s show those skeptics of the value of a humanities degree how wrong they are, and more importantly let’s launch you into the best fit possible after graduation.”

Utz said she felt the email implied humanities majors aren’t taking advantage of resources instead of understanding why students feel underserved.

“I think it’s absurd to ask students who are pursuing a passion to change their outlook on life and settle for an opportunity that’s not exactly what they want when that’s not something other majors are asked to do,” Utz said. “I don’t like it at all.”

It is often only larger companies with the resources to travel who attend the expo and recruit many students, Campbell said. In addition, many industries including government and communications hire in the spring.

Michael Robinson (McMurtry ’17), who majored in anthropology and visual and dramatic arts and is now working at the Society for the Performing Arts, said students with similar interests should skip the career fair and go straight to the CCD. To find a job, he said he met with the CCD the summer after graduating.

“The people who work there can help you worlds more than wandering around a room with 100 different companies and being confused with what’s going on,” Robinson said. “It’s takes a little more personal attention than going to something for an hour, passing out five different resumes and leaving.”

The CCD seeks student feedback through an expo exit survey and a survey by Universum, Campbell said. Most companies pay $500 to attend the expo, but the CCD offers to subsidize or waive fees for companies students voice an interest in connecting with.

Rice Biomedical Engineering Society webmaster and historian Andy Zhang said the BMES board compiled a list of bioengineering recruiters and provided it to the CCD. Zhang said the CCD then offered to invite the recruiters to the expo and offer them subsidized fees.

“There are so many oil and gas and consulting companies when you look on the list,” Zhang, a Jones College senior, said. “I doubt those people even talk to all of those companies, while I go there to talk to one or two companies and then leave. I would like more chances to get a job.”

Zhang said he was not aware of the Universum survey. He said the CCD should also ask each department for a list of companies their students would like to network with.

Regardless of major, attending the expo is a valuable experience, Chang said.

“Even if you don’t think you’ll get anything out of it, you still get stuff out of it that’s intangible,” Chang said. “You get the experience talking to recruiters. And every year you get to restock your water bottles, it’s great.”

For Robinson, the benefit of the expo depends on the individual.

“It’s a delicate line between helping certain people and making others feel like they won’t be where they want to be after graduation,” Robinson said. 

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