Center for Work and Life Introduces New “Toolbox”
Published: Wednesday, February 8, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, February 8, 2012 22:02
Recently distributed across campus, the pocket-sized, iPhone-like booklet, the Center for Work and Life's "iCanSmith" pocket guide covers topics ranging from how to talk to your professors to speaking up in class.
"These skills are really about learning self-advocacy, professionalism and how to make your way in the world at Smith and beyond," said Jessica Bacal, Director of the Center for Work and Life.
For nearly two years, the Center for Work and Life has aimed to foster life skills, from time management to interpersonal skills.
Through various workshops in its "Passport" series, the Center has also helped students think about success beyond Smith, information for which can also be found on its Web site, which contains various links explaining how to find work, get involved at Smith, and more. The iCanSmith pocket guide is the paper counterpart of the new toolbox located at the bottom of the sidebar on the Center of Work and Life's Web site.
The online toolbox includes added perspectives from professors and multimedia videos on different topics, and promises more hints and tips to come in future updates.
"These are important skills because this is a texting generation. People aren't in the habit of using professional protocol or sitting down face-to-face in a meeting anymore," Bacal said, explaining the choices for the topics. "Learning how to e-mail your professor will be useful when you search for jobs. If you can sit down and concisely explain an issue you're having, or questions or ideas, that's great practice for working with colleagues and it's good for initiating a professional relationship.
"We chose the topics based on what students asked. It can be uncomfortable for students to do these things for the first time, but helpful to receive direct instruction and to have the opportunity to practice – in the classroom, with teammates, and with student organizations."
Students' reactions to the pocket guide vary.
"I already knew about a lot of things that were inside of it," said Jessica Montecalvo '15. "But I think a lot of students don't know these things, such as not using ‘chat-speak' with professors. It's useful for students to know how to e-mail and talk to professors. When you need information, you need be able to ask it in the right way to get the right answer."
"The pocket guide was clear, concise and easy to understand and use. I liked how it was pocket-sized, too," said Abeer Khatana '15. Khatana said she found that pocket guide description of funding applications was especially useful.
Other students have used the new tools in a classroom setting.
"My professor brought the toolbox up on the projector in class as an introduction to participating in Spanish discussions and ran through a couple of the tips and tricks that are listed there," said Julia Jones '14. "The toolbox was a great way to get our class talking about what fears and challenges they have surrounding speaking out in class, as well as how best to navigate those challenges. I noticed a difference in my fellow students' willingness to speak up and I was really grateful for that."
But not all students shared this positive view.
"In this book, I felt like Smith doubted our abilities by covering many basic things that we should already know," said Natasha Tsay '15. "For example, even though we are the technology-savvy generation and informal language is popular, students know better than to use ‘texting language' with professors. We already know how to respect professors and speak to them formally. There are also some parts that are unclear, like what a ‘short e-mail' is. That depends on the course, and what you have to say."
The Center for Work and Life plans to issue a new "iCanSmith" every spring, with different topics.
"I'm really interested in hearing from students, particularly first and second-year students, about what they want to know about," said Bacal. "Some ideas we have for the future are resources about decision-making and how to talk to a dean."
The New York Times recently profiled the Center for Work and Life's workshop series as an example of how colleges are preparing students for "the world outside of the campus chrysalis." Students can register for these workshops at http://www.smith.edu/cwl/news_passport.php. The Center for Work and Life welcomes submissions to its online toolbox for "new ideas about how to support [students] in work and life." Students may visit the Center for Work and Life offices on the third floor of Clark Hall.