Just a few years ago, Ketty Munyenyembe ’20 was well on her way to a career in international studies. But after transferring to Smith, she discovered a passion for scientific research. Now she’s heading to a Ph.D. program at Yale, where she’ll investigate the evolution of microbial pathogens—including COVID-19.
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Embracing Change: Students Participate in Designing Your Life
In an increasingly complex world with an increasingly uncertain future, students need all the tools their toolboxes can fit. A new program from the Lazarus Center for Career Development aims to help students create a veritable Swiss Army knife for developing their futures.
Designing Your Life—a workshop being offered several times this year, including over Interterm—is coordinated by Patricia Woods ’00, assistant director of the Lazarus Center, and Margaret Lamb, fellowships program adviser.
Over the course of two Friday afternoons in November, students used a design thinking process to help them develop a personal “what’s next?” by reframing their thinking about the future. Using ideas from Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, they practiced techniques ranging from active listening to creating a preliminary post-graduation plan.
One workshop session began with an icebreaker taken straight out of the theater improv handbook. Small groups of students were tasked with “radically collaborating,” using the technique of “yes, and…” Around the room, elaborate plans started to form around the theme “let’s throw a party.”
“Yes, and there will be dogs!”
“Yes, and there will be picnic baskets!”
The energy and creativity continued throughout the afternoon, bubbling up in an activity where students described multiple possible life plans based on their experience, interests and “life views.” One student pictured herself as an economics policy wonk in Washington, D.C. Five minutes later, she was equally excited about the possibility of using her skills in a newly envisioned setting of art museums.
The phrase “I want…” echoed throughout the room, as students were encouraged to leave the more limiting I have to’s, I’m supposed to’s and I should’s by the wayside.
Workshop leader Woods proudly surveyed the group’s progress.
“There are so many right options,” she said. “As a career adviser, it’s refreshing to be able to have activities that encourage a holistic view of life, versus plunking career in one bucket and life in another.”
Chambri Swartz ’19 was a repeat participant. For her, Designing Your Life “broke down barriers of self-doubt and gave me the necessary tools to make intuitive and informed choices that align with who I am now.”
Ada Comstock Scholar Laura Martin also took some powerful lessons from the workshop.
“It taught me how to build what I call my creative and collaborative thinking toolbox,” she said. “That empowers me to embrace change—whether it’s finding a career I love, a new direction I wish to take, or needing to redefine myself.”