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Holmes-Leopold to serve as new director of the Career Center

On December 3, 2018, RJ Holmes-Leopold was announced as the new Director of the Carleton Career Center. Holmes-Leopold previously served as senior director of Alumni Engagement and Leadership Annual Giving at Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa. His predecessor at Carleton, Kim Betz ‘91, left the Carleton Career Center over the summer to serve as Director of Career Services at Princeton University.

Holmes-Leopold’s familiarity with Carleton stemmed from Cornell College’s affiliation with the Associated Colleges of the Midwest.
“Getting to know the students, faculty, staff, administrators and alumni in the recent past has me even more excited to contribute to the evolution of the Career Center. The Career Center has a wonderful foundation in place and our team is committed to the success of each and every student,” said Holmes-Leopold.

As a liberal arts college graduate, Holmes-Leopold strongly believes the liberal arts is the best preparation for lifelong success. His vision goes hand in hand with Carleton’s firm emphasis on a liberal arts curriculum that enriches learning and equips students with valuable life skills such as problem solving, critical thinking and flexibility. This was a key factor in his decision to accept the new position.

“My role is to connect Carls with a wide variety of career education opportunities that prepare them for a lifetime of success,” explained Holmes-Leopold.

He elaborated, “My main priorities are to prepare all Carls with the foundational professional skills they need to adapt to a rapidly changing world, deepen our partnerships across the campus to connect the liberal arts to career preparation, and to expand the range of opportunities we offer.”

During his time at Cornell College, Holmes-Leopold worked with key partners on a new strategic plan for increasing alumni engagement. He intends to bring this focus on alumni to his position at Carleton, with “alumni as a key priority for ensuring the continued evolution of the Career Center.” In other words, alumni connections enhance the college’s networking system that enable students to explore various career paths and make the most of their opportunities.

Regarding tips or advice for young adults deciding on their career path and life after Carleton, Holmes-Leopold highlighted an important distinction. “Instead of thinking about ‘What do you want to be?,’ consider instead ‘Who do you want to be?’ and ‘How do you want to spend your time,’” he suggested.

Since these questions require time to answer, Holmes-Leopold said, “One of the best investments students can make early in their time at the college is to meet with one of our team members so we can help them get started or support their purposeful movement in the ongoing process of career discernment.”

Looking back now, Holmes-Leopold would have advised his 20- or 21-year-old self to step back and enjoy the learning process. It is all right if you do not have a clear goal or agenda, he said.

In fact, according to Holmes-Leopold, “Ambiguity and cognitive dissonance are important parts of the process of figuring out who you are becoming personally and professionally throughout your life. Your liberal arts education has prepared you to tackle the challenges ahead in ways you don’t understand yet, but will when the time comes.”

Holmes-Leopold looks forward to seeing new faces on campus and working alongside other Career Center staff in continuing to develop and strengthen the Career Center.

The College is currently in the final stages of choosing a designer for a light fixture in the new science building set to open this fall. The light fixture will feature prominently in the building’s atrium.

So far this month, three candidates have visited Carleton to present their proposals—Alexander Tylevich, Danny Saathoff, and Wendy Evans Joseph. All Carleton students, faculty and staff were invited to attend the presentations and offer feedback. The process is orchestrated by a committee formed of Carleton employees, faculty and one student.

The Light Fixture Design Committee began meeting in Summer 2018 to define the process, create a request for proposals (RFP), identify potential candidates, and narrow down the candidate field, said Gretchen Hofmeister, Associate Dean of the College, Professor of Chemistry, and chair of the Light Fixture Design Committee.

The committee is composed largely of professors and employees of the sciences at Carleton.

“I think it’s appropriate for the scientists to be a majority on the committee since they’ll be living with the fixture every day,” said Steve Richardson, Director of the Arts at Carleton and a member of the Light Fixture Design Committee.

The committee also includes three faculty and employees affiliated with the arts at Carleton.

“Including arts faculty and art-related staff helps bring a broader vision into the conversation and brings some of our expertise in dealing with artists and reaching out into that community to bear,” said Richardson.

The committee reached out to a large number of designers and artists in the Twin Cities area with requests for proposals.
“We reached out to 30 contacts and asked them to forward the proposal to additional contacts who they thought would be interested. We were looking for people experienced with lighting design and whose aesthetic appealed to us, based on their websites,” said Hofmeister.

No students were considered as potential designers due to technical constraints inherent to the project. However, Celeste Gaughan ’20—a Studio Art/Biology double major—was placed on the committee.

“The project has stringent requirements that the light fixture must be UL-rated, deliver a specific level of lumens, be durable and last for over 40 years, weigh no more than 500 lbs, etc. We need people who are experienced with installations of this type to do this project,” said Hofmeister. “We do have a student representative on the Light Fixture Design Committee. The student was recommended by a member of the committee based on her background in both biology and studio art.”

Richardson is happy about the prospect of new public art at Carleton.

“Carleton does not have much of a tradition of public art—there’s the arch outside the Libe, the fountain in front of Boliou, and a few other pieces around campus. Deciding to do this is kind of a big deal. It’s important to go through a very thorough process and invite people with opinions to have the chance to speak,” said Richardson.

“It’s in a very prominent spot; I’m happy that the core committee on the building project decided to do something out of the ordinary there rather than just utilitarian lighting,” he continued. “The idea of the integrated science building is to bring departments and people together—this is a tangible representation of that idea.”

The final of the four designers, David Griggs, will give his presentation on Friday, January 25 in the Gould Library Athenaeum. In February, a recommendation will be made by Light Fixture Design Committee, according to Hofmeister.

“The Light Fixture Design Committee will recommend a designer based on their meetings and feedback from the community,” said Hofmeister. “The recommendation will go to the Core Committee, which will make the final decision regarding the lighting designer.”

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