Putting Penn Graduates to Work

April 2, 2019

by Karen Brooks

Seven years into her work as a college career counselor, Barbara Hewitt, GRD ’02, sought to deepen her knowl­edge of higher education institutions and the ever-evolving trends that affect them. She applied to Penn GSE’s Doctor of Education in Higher Education Admin­istration program to achieve just that.

Barbara Hewitt, GRD’02

“Universities are very complex and diverse places, and there were a lot of things I wanted to learn about accessibility, costs, tuition rates, and technology’s role in education,” recalls Hewitt, who had been working in career services at her undergraduate alma mater, Dickinson College. Serendipitously, a position that involved working with undergradu­ates in the College of Arts and Sciences opened in Penn Career Services just as Hewitt was accepted to GSE. She got the job, becoming a Penn student and employee at the same time.

Twenty years later, Hewitt is executive director of career services at Penn, a role to which she was promoted in August. Although she started her Penn career working with liberal arts students, she has spent the majority of her tenure as senior associate director of career services for the Wharton School, advising undergraduates throughout their job searches and managing a recruiting program that has included four hundred employers and thirteen thousand interviews per year. In her new role, she oversees career services operations for all Penn undergraduates and nine graduate schools. “I love having one foot in academia but also being involved in what’s happening with the larger economy,” she says. “We have to keep up with national trends in employment, and when a recession hits or a new work-related technology comes up, we keep students informed and prepared. It’s a great mix of education and what’s happening in the wider world.”

"It was nice to pursue my doctorate while working in this field as an employee."

Hewitt’s dissertation focused on how academic achievement, extracurricular activities, and work experience influenced new graduates’ success in obtaining job interviews and offers. “It was nice to pursue my doctorate while working in this field as an employee; the things you learn are not so theoretical when you are coming to work every day and seeing the challenges institutions are facing,” she says. “I applied what I was learning in my degree program to my job all the time.”

Her new position requires her to shape career services programs institution-wide so they best meet the needs of all Penn students and graduates—an opportunity she finds particularly appealing. “At the end of the day, all of us at Penn want our students and alumni to achieve fulfilling careers. It’s nice to be a part of that process,” she says.

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2018 issue of The Penn GSE Magazine.