Continuing Stephens College’s commitment to hands-on experiential learning and career-enhancing academic experiences, students in the English and creative writing programs took to N.Y.C. to meet with publishers, agents and library professionals this spring. 

This was the second trip for the program. The trip is open to upperclass students who submit an application through the Center for Career and Professional Development (CCPD), said Meichele Foster, vice president of institutional advancement and initiatives, the office responsible for the CCPD. Students are selected based on their body of work and genuine interest in pursuing careers in publishing, archiving or a related industry. 

“We are so grateful for this experience, which was funded by an anonymous donor,” said Assistant Professor Kris Somerville, who served as chaperone and mentor for the trip. 

“It’s so essential to allow students to experience the range of opportunities available in the industry,” she said. “The students learn about networking and how to tap into their strengths to find their niche. What can be their point of entry into the career they want? How can they do things a little differently to get an edge? What about sales, marketing, social media? What about audiobooks? Talking with those who are immersed in the industry can lead to revelations on how you can make a rewarding career for yourself.” 

Creative writing major Mary Arnold ’19, who plans to graduate in December 2019, agreed.

“My favorite piece of advice came from Caitlin Garing, executive producer of audio books at HarperCollins,” she said. “She talked about how individuals interested in the publishing industry all have the same objective: to become an editor. However, she strongly encouraged entering into the publishing industry ‘sideways.’

Stephens students also met with Susan Gurman of the Gurman Agency LLC, a theatrical literary agency; Tom Goodman of Goodman Media International, Inc., a public relations firm; Ben George, senior editor at Little, Brown and Company; and Emily Wunderlich, an editor at Viking Penguin. The group also visited the New York Public Library, where they saw the Berg Collection of rare manuscripts with Mary Catherine Kinniburgh, a specialist of English and American literature; and toured the Morgan Library.

“We tailored the trip to the students’ career interests in this particular group,” Somerville said.

May graduate Ana Chan ’18 said the trip also taught students how to navigate a big city like N.Y.C.

“It demystifies the experience,” she said. “Students get a sense that they can do this … they can do anything. It’s magical to watch students, especially those who have not traveled much, to confront a big city and really take to it. We also met with alumnae who helped show students around the city, including Shelly Romero ’17 who participated in the first trip in 2016 and now works for Scholastic.”

Chan quickly leveraged what she learned into two job offers. She recently accepted a position at Simon & Schuster as an assistant in audiobook production. 

“I couldn’t be more excited for this new chapter,” she said.

Chan also credits the CCPD’s resume services and virtual interview rooms for aiding in her job search process.

“My biggest takeaway from this trip was confidence,” said creative writing major Victoria Patrick ’18, who plans to graduate this December. “I have been determined to become a librarian since I was 12 years old. I came back to Columbia with a renewed fervor for pursuing librarianship in all its forms. I can ruminate on the advice and experiences gained from the N.Y.C. trip; advice and experiences that will never leave me. I am so grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this trip.”


Pictured above (L-to-R): Stephens College Assistant Professor Kris Somerville, HarperCollins Executive Producer Caitlin Garing, Victoria Patrick ’18, Erika Westhoff ’18, Janet Reinschmidt ’18, Ana Chan ’18, Mary Arnold ’19.

Tags : Student Success, School of Creative & Performing Arts, English/Creative Writing

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