Career treks with partner universities bring together students and employers

UChicago’s Office of Career Advancement, in a first-time partnership with Wake Forest and Stanford universities, is sending students over winter break to the San Francisco Bay Area, Washington, D.C. and Chicago to meet prospective employers and make vital career connections. 

Student treks to prospective employers are unique to the University of Chicago, and allow students to visit companies that are hungry for new talent but are not always able to recruit on campus.

Meredith Daw, assistant vice president and director of the Office of Career Advancement, was one of the early champions of inviting other schools—with connections to new and different companies—to join UChicago students on these treks.

“This is a great way to give students access to important networks and career opportunities on both coasts, as well as here in Chicago,” Daw said. The idea for the joint trek came when Daw was working with the vice president for personal and career development at Wake Forest. Inviting Stanford was the natural next step.

Stanford, with its deep connections to Silicon Valley, will lead students who are interested in careers in entrepreneurship and technology to eight employers in the Bay Area. Wake Forest will lead students on a trek to visit political and consulting firms, while UChicago will lead a visit of Chicago employers in consumer packaged goods and in the arts.

“Organizations in San Francisco and Washington are already excited to meet our students,” Daw said. “Working with Stanford and Wake Forest is a revolutionary opportunity for all of us to introduce our students to companies that aren’t among our traditional recruiters and give students a much wider range of possibilities for finding the best fit in their careers.”

The combined trek to San Francisco and Silicon Valley came at the perfect time for John Faughnan. “I want to work near home when I graduate,” said the third-year economics student, originally from Oakland, Calif., “but it’s hard to divine what’s actually available on the business side of these start-ups from job postings.”

Over the course of the two-day trek, Faughnan will visit online giants Google and Facebook, as well as younger companies like, Sugar Inc., and RocketSpace. He hopes to build networks within the companies that he visits, as well as with his peers from Stanford and Wake Forest.

“It will be great to meet these students and to make these connections,” Faughnan said.

Faughnan applied for this trek through Career Advancement, as did all the students who are fanning out across the country this winter break to visit prospective employers.

“With the large variety and number of companies involved in these combined treks, every student should get a sense of the options for finding the most satisfying internship or employment,” said Sara Bosworth, assistant director of experiential education in Career Advancement at UChicago. She has overseen the details of the collaboration with Stanford and Wake Forest, and has been overwhelmed by the response from students at all three schools. More than 100 students will travel on these career treks.

“We have a wait list for every trek,” said Lori Sykes, the employer outreach manager at Wake Forest. “Partnering with another university is giving students outside the finance and marketing majors a chance to explore their options all over the country,” she said.

Stanford, too, has found that demand outpaced the number of spaces available on each trek. “The vast majority of companies that come to our campus to recruit are here for the engineering students,” said Erin Grant, program coordinator for Career Development at Stanford. “This program has been a great resource for our humanities and sciences students,” she said. 

Career Advancement’s pre-professional treks have become increasingly popular among UChicago students who use their breaks from classes to think about life after graduation. Ashley Edwards, a fourth-year economics major, trekked to New York City with Career Advancement during winter break last year, and said she got invaluable information on the multiple banks and firms that she visited.

“I didn’t have to claw my way to talk to people at all levels in the companies—I was able to get all my questions answered and to get a feel for each of the different work environments,” she said. Edwards has accepted an offer to work at J.P. Morgan as soon as she graduates next spring.

UChicago students will also go on a business and banking trek to New York City this winter break. Before the academic year ends, 16 separate groups of students will have gone on career treks to Minneapolis, Cairo, Los Angeles, Santiago, Chile, among others.

Sykes said her students at Wake Forest are already asking her to plan another trek: “The question I get most often now is: ‘Can we do this again next year?’”