Campus News

Faculty partnerships critical to Career Design Center

Arlene Kaukus, Brian Hamluk, David Gray and Barbara Ricotta tapping a chocolate "smash cake" with tiny hammers.

Instead of cutting a ribbon at the recent open house for the Career Design Center, attendees (from left) Arlene Kaukus, director of the center; Brian Hamluk, vice president for student life; David Gray, interim director of undergraduate studies in the Department of Philosophy; and Barbara Ricotta, dean of students, use small mallets to break into a cake. Inside were items representing careers. Photos: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki


Published April 13, 2022

Arlene Kaukus.
“A career office can oftentimes be relegated to the ‘resume place.’ The enhancements we have created through learning installations, pop-ups and collaborating with faculty are intended to offer more opportunities for UB students to engage actively in career and life design. ”
Arlene Kaukus, director
Career Design Center

When David Gray designed his capstone philosophy class for graduating seniors, he remembered his luncheon at the recently renamed and redefined Career Design Center.

“I went to see what they were up to over there,” Gray remembers. “Doing that, I was like, ‘Oh wow. OK. This is cool.”

Impressed, Gray added several professional development tasks to the course. His students had to dress in “semi-professional attire,” go to the “PoppinPod” to practice their interview skills at the center, take a photo at the selfie station and make that their profile photo in UB Learns.

“I figured that was a very simple way for the students to know where to find the Career Design Center in the mazes of Capen Hall,” says Gray, interim director of undergraduate studies in the Department of Philosophy.

“After that, I kept sending them back every week or so to do more and more involved tasks. Just before spring break, for instance, I had the students get their resumes and online profiles reviewed by a Career Design Consultant. After break, they’ll start working on cover letters and practicing for interviews.”

Student kudos follow soon enough. For now, it’s best to hear how the new name — from Career Services to Career Design Center — does a deep dive into something strictly expressed as a UB priority: preparing students for life after college.

Clearly, this is not your older sibling’s career services center.

“We believe in the importance of ‘designing your life and career’ through exploration, trying things and embracing change throughout one’s life and career,” says Arlene Kaukus, director of and key architect of the new Career Design Center.

“A career office can oftentimes be relegated to the ‘resume place.’ The enhancements we have created through learning installations, pop-ups and collaborating with faculty are intended to offer more opportunities for UB students to engage actively in career and life design.”

Engaged faculty required

Kaukus knows her priorities. Increased faculty engagement became a key focus for the Career Design Center. Research shows that faculty are key resources for students when it comes to making career decisions. So the new center launched an “intentional” strategy to deepen partnerships with faculty, staff, alumni and employers in “recognition of the power of an ecosystem of helpers,” as Kaukus says.

This year, the Career Design Center launched a Champion Network “where we intentionally partner with faculty and staff to bring career and life design exploration and resources to students,” Kaukus says, “creating an ecosystem where we all contribute to career education.”

The Career Design Center has hosted two small-group faculty “listening sessions” posing the question: “In what ways might the Career Design Center collaborate with faculty on coaching and mentoring students on their career pathways?”

“The response has been terrific.” says Kaukus. “We have two UB faculty currently completing a Fellowship in Career Development through the SUNY online Professional Development program.  Feedback from our initial fellows will provide direction and insight going forward.”

Additional listening sessions will be scheduled. Interested faculty or others wishing to explore a partnership with the Career Design Center are encouraged to reach out to Kaukus or book a tour of the new center.

So far, student response has been positive, Gray says. When completing a task for PHI 485, students have included short email feedback Gray believes reflects the prevailing opinion.

“I must say that I’m pretty impressed with the Career Design Center and also a bit annoyed that I didn’t know about it sooner!” wrote Noah Lemoine, a biomedical sciences major.

“I honestly wouldn’t have utilized the center if not for this class,” wrote business administration major Evan Kuo. “Thank you for the opportunity!”

“Overall, definitely a resource I wish I would have known about sooner,” according to Gary Loope, an economics and law major who is graduating this year. “But will still look to put to at least some use in the next few months.”

Among other Career Design Center innovations are learning installations. These installations are active-learning experiences, much like interactive art installations, that draw students into activities that get them started in thinking about their career and life design. Right now the center, located in 259 Capen Hall, features five installations in the recently opened Studio 259:

  • Professional Selfie Station.
  • Poppin Pod.
  • Major doesn’t equal career.
  • Community.
  • Fail-forward.

“By engaging with the installation,” Kaukus says, “the student is able to reflect on key learning outcomes and insights framed with design thinking as a foundation to ‘gain a recognition that major does not equal career’ and that ‘careers are squiggly.’”