The Paths of Kemper Scholars Program Alumni

We often receive correspondence from Kemper Scholars Program alumni who have been graduated a few years. They write to update us on what has been happening with their lives and, often, what next steps they are taking. Reading and thinking about these correspondences has been quite rewarding. I think these communications feel rewarding because we all like to know that our efforts for and investments in people have had a positive return. The Kemper Foundation has over 60 years of investing in the professional and personal development of college students. Further, these are young men and women whom the Foundation staff have grown to care about, and we feel good that they are doing well. The first thing I notice is the reflectiveness they have continued to develop, a skill we emphasize in the Kemper Scholars Program. They show a clear sense of who they have become as persons and of what they need to be fulfilled and to make the kind of contribution they hope to make. Their choices for the future are not about what the next logical step in life is, but what the next meaningful step is. Second, they are thoughtful and strategic planners. Their communications uniformly say something like “I have decided I want to do X, so the next step is Y and that is what I am preparing to do.” It is good to see that they have taken the skills they developed in strategic planning for organizations and have applied them to strategically planning their own futures. Third, the correspondence all showed young men and women who are taking a broad...

“Plays Well with Others”: Working as part of a Team

Each week my Chicago church sends out an e-newsletter with reflections on spiritual matters and information about upcoming events. This week’s reflection by my pastor, Craig Mueller, contained some ideas I thought relevant to college students preparing to go into the professional world. The following three paragraphs contain his thoughts. “Earlier this week I heard a story on NPR on maps. Simon Garfield, a map expert noted that it’s easier these days to use GPS on a smart phone than it is to look at an actual map. “Garfield regretted that one of the losses is that we lose the beauty and romance of maps. But his concluding comments had a spiritual ring to me: ‘The other thing we lose, is a sense of how big the world is. Because now we look at our map, there’s a real sense of, ‘Get me to where I want to go.’ Now you get the feeling, actually, ‘It’s all about me’ … It’s a terribly egocentric way of looking at the world. So I think the view of where we are in the world, in the history of the world, is changing. And I think in a way it’s one of the biggest, if not the biggest impacts of the digital and technological revolution – is how we see ourselves in the world.’ “As 2013 begins, it is good to reflect on the way we see ourselves in the world. Most of the time we are apt to reflect on our own financial situation, health, emotional landscape, and to-do list. Everything depends on how we are doing as an individual. It is a...

A Few Ideas about How to do your Job

There is a lot of advice out there about how to do your job well as you begin your professional career. I would like to add a couple pieces of advice we have learned from the experiences of Kemper Scholars. Never ask to leave early because your work for the day is complete. The work day is the work day: it is the time you are being paid for. If you have finished your list of tasks, ask your boss or a colleague if they have work you could do to help them out. The positive reputation you get will be worth much more than the extra hour of free time. Return missed phone calls and answer emails the same day. In your social life you may be used to texting rather than emailing. In the workplace email and telephoning remain the communication methods of choice in most places, especially when people need something quick. Make it a practice to respond to every one you receive each day before you leave the office. If you cannot respond with the information or do the task the person asked for, just tell them when you will get back to them. An immediate response will create a positive image of your responsiveness, organizational skills, and competence. And it is likely to get you a timely response when you need it. Listen to the entire voice mail message and read the entire email message carefully. Nothing is more frustrating than sending an email with a request for three things and getting a response to only one of them. Take the time to note...

Choosing Majors and Minors

Each year I get the opportunity to interview between forty and fifty Kemper Scholars Program finalists on campuses around the country as part of the process of selecting the twenty students who will comprise the next class of Kemper Scholars. Speaking for about an hour with this diverse group of high achieving young leaders, all of them near the end of their first year, gives me insights into what the current generation of college students is thinking. This year when I asked the finalists what they hoped to study in college, nearly half of them listed not only two majors but two or three minors. Knowing I would not see many of these young people again, I took the opportunity to try to talk them out of this approach to their college career. Given this sample, I feel sure there are other students out there with the same kind of plan. So I want to use this platform to try to talk you out of it also. First, no one (except perhaps the faculty in that department) really cares what, if anything, you have an academic minor in. Graduate schools look at your major, but many students go on to graduate work in fields they did not major in during their undergraduate careers. Potential employers probably will look at your major; but they do not care whether you have a minor and certainly not whether you have two or three. In trying to convince potential employers that they should hire you, your task is to show in your resume and especially your cover letter that you have the academic...

College Education as the Cornerstone of Future Learning

In the early 19th Century, Yale College was part of a national debate about college curricula, especially whether it made sense to continue to require students to study Latin and Greek. The faculty responded with a carefully argued position, which is referred to as the Yale Report of 1828. Their report continues to be instructive as evidenced by the excerpt below. (Because Yale did not become co-ed until 1969, the report’s language assumes only male students.) “As our course of instruction is not intended to complete an education in theological, medical, or legal science; neither does it include all the minute details of mercantile, mechanical, or agricultural concerns. These can never be effectually learned except in the very circumstances in which they are to be practiced. The young merchant must be trained in the counting room, the mechanic, in the workshop, the farmer, in the field. But we have, on our premises, no experimental farm or retail shop; no cotton or iron manufactory; no hatter’s, or silversmith’s, or coach-maker’s establishment. For what purpose, then, it will be asked, are young men who are destined to these occupations, ever sent to a college? They should not be sent, as we think, with an expectation of finishing their education at the college; but with a view of laying a thorough foundation in the principles of science, preparatory to the study of the practical arts. As everything cannot be learned in four years, either theory or practice must be, in a measure at least, postponed to a future opportunity. But if the scientific theory of the arts is ever to be acquired,...