Column | Jan. 5

Representing a full range of careers

By Azza Cohen and Kemy Lin

Even though we see the snow falling on the castle we call Princeton, we’re thinking about the summer. We are perusing TigerTracks and PICS (and Google) for internships and asking ourselves what we want to do over the vacation — a time for learning outside the school curricula, a time to experiment with prospective careers.

When we looked through the organizations registered for the 2014 Summer Internship Fair for “Visual Arts,” we found two marketing internships, but nothing that encompassed the broad range of visual arts such as photography or film production. When we looked for “Creative Writing,” we found none. When we searched  “Economics,” we counted 29. For those of us pursuing careers in the arts — where internships, experience and portfolio development are critical — this is more than disheartening.

Of course, one argument is that this is proportional — more students are studying economics than visual arts or creative writing. However, there are students interested in pursuing careers in the arts who concentrate outside the disciplines of architecture, art and archaeology, visual art, theater and creative writing.

Career Services has done a poor job of representing, let alone advertising, career paths in creative fields. Countless finance and consulting firms host recruiting events on campus, so these careers are visible to every Princeton student. Furthermore, these firms do a brilliant job of finding student talent and leaders on campus by sending out personalized emails, bringing alumni to campus to recruit and targeting student groups. Consequently, this has created a culture on campus in which many people see these careers as the only option and feel forced to reconsider their passions.

Stanley Katz, a professor in the Wilson School and the director of the Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies wrote in an email, “One of the pleasures of my 35 years at Princeton has been working with so many talented students interested in the arts and culture. Many of them are now pursuing professional careers in those fields, but it has not been easy for them (it never is!). Anything the University can do to help them jump-start their aspirations in arts careers would be a tremendous boon — and an encouragement to others with similar talents and interests to come to Princeton.”

The appointment of a new director, Pulin Sanghvi, represents a special opportunity for Career Services to reassess its strategies and recognize its shortcomings, particularly in its representation and promotion of careers in the arts. A step in the right direction has been Career Services’ support of the student-initiated Creative Careers Conference (full disclosure: we’re spearheading this), specifically helping put us in contact with various resources to plan such an event.

We are grateful for this support; however, we believe that Career Services could make a more visible effort for students like us. We have some ideas. First, Career Services could begin with bringing more creative professionals to campus to host recruiting events. It could more actively advertise internship opportunities in creative fields, and perhaps launch a “creative career fair” similar to the career fairs that exist for start-ups or science and technology.

It could build partnerships with creative agencies and sponsor trips to New York to meet with alumni pursuing the arts. As Kelvin Dinkins, Jr., a member of the Class of 2009 who is pursuing a career in theater management, recalled via email correspondence, “I also attended a meeting with undergrads at [Theatre] Intime last year who unanimously agreed that what they want … is more practical, professional experience and networking capabilities with fellow Princeton alumni working in careers similar to their own aspirations.”

Career Services could help cater to different professional needs of students pursuing creative arts, such as different resumes and support for self-branding. In a phone interview, Stephen Tepper, who earned his Ph.D. in sociology here as well as helping found the Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies reassured, “It feels risky and it feels scary, but [creative professionals] are happier. That’s the most important story to tell.”

Beyond the obvious fruits of encouraging careers in the arts, a concerted effort by Career Services would also help students committed to other careers get a chance to experiment with new interests. There is increased scientific evidence that an exposure to the creative arts increases productivity in other spheres of life. Princeton is not an arts school, nor do we wish it were. But please, Mr. Sanghvi and Career Services — show us that passion for the arts is not only a possibility, but a priority for Princeton students.

Azza Cohen is a sophomore from Highland Park, Ill. She can be reached at accohen@princeton.edu. Kemy Lin is an art and archaeology major  from Lake Oswego, Ore. She can be reached at kclin@princeton.edu. Cohen and Lin are both members of the student board of the Princeton Creative Careers Conference.

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