Students Venture Off the Green to Explore Career Choices

3/17/2015
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Ask anyone with a hot script or a big idea how to get a meeting with an LA studio executive or an A-list talent agent and the response is likely to be, “good luck.”

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“Lego Movie” directors and co-writers Phil Lord ’97, left, and Chris Miller ’97 will speak at the “Careers in Film and Entertainment” event in Los Angeles on March 19. (Photo by Eli Burakian ’00)

But it was more than luck that opened the door for 20 students to meet with the likes of animation studio founder Chris Meledandri ’81, talent agency partner Donald “Doc” O’Connor ’80, and Lego Movie directors and co-writers Chris Miller ’97 and Phil Lord ’97—it was Dartmouth’s Center for Professional Development (CPD) and the Office of Alumni Relations’ Dartmouth for Life program, in partnership with Jeffrey James, director of the Hopkins Center for the Arts.

Dartmouth for Life and the CPD are sponsoring two “Off the Green” industry tours during spring break, the March 19 “Careers in Film and Entertainment” trip to Los Angeles, and a March 18 “Careers for the Common Good” trip to Boston.

The two spring break trips were built on the College’s wide web of resources linking on-campus programs and the huge network of successful alumni in many fields, says Roger Woolsey, director and senior assistant dean for the CPD.

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Take a look at photos from the March 19 “Off the Green: Careers in Entertainment” event in Los Angeles.

Daniel Parish ’89, director of Dartmouth for Life, partners with the CPD to reach out to the Dartmouth alumni network for many initiatives, including the Off the Green program. Parish and James helped connect the CPD to the Dartmouth Alumni in Entertainment and Media, while James dedicated a generous gift from an alumnus to cover the cost of travel to California for 10 eligible students. Theresa Ellis ’97, interim dean of the Tucker Foundation and founder of Common Impact, a consulting firm to help businesses develop positive social strategies, helped organize the “Careers for the Common Good” trip to Boston.

“As we’ve involved Dartmouth arts alumni in helping us think about the future of the Hopkins Center, it has been gratifying to hear their enthusiasm at giving back to today’s students. This latest Off the Green program offered a great opportunity for alumni to dive into that kind of involvement,” says James.

The Off the Green program uses those connections to set up industry-themed trips to expose students to careers in fields they might not otherwise learn about, Woolsey says.

“It opens possibilities and for students who want to explore a variety of career options,” he says. “There is already a strong network for finance and consulting. We are building networks to give students options for exploring other career avenues—public relations, education, entertainment, law, the nonprofit sector.”

Leslie Kingsley, assistant director for experiential learning and advising at the CPD, worked with Parish to pilot the first Off the Green trip in December 2013 with a law-focused visit to Boston. She will lead about a dozen students on the one-day introduction to nonprofits. The Boston trip will featuring site visits with alumni who are either leaders in the field or just starting out in the business. The day will end with a reception attended by some 45 alumni and Dartmouth parents who work in the nonprofit sector.

“It gives them a wonderful perspective on what working in the nonprofit field is all about,” Kingsley says. “Students often have questions ranging from what kind of salary is typical to specifics about the kind of skills and jobs that are valued in the field.”

Matt Kuchar, assistant director of the CPD, will accompany the students on the LA trip. Parish and James will also join the West Coast edition of Off the Green.

“It is a remarkable opportunity to get off site and meet professionals where they are,” Kuchar says. “And it is consistent with Dartmouth’s focus on experiential learning—taking the classroom to the field.”

And the chance to take a meeting with some of the biggest names in entertainment was an easy sell for the alumni office. More than 100 Dartmouth alumni and parents from the media and entertainment industries—writers, producers, actors, editors, and consultants—have already said they’ll attend the evening reception, which will begin with remarks by Lord and Miller.

“Off the Green offers a great opportunity to explore a career field and practice networking,” says Kingsley.

This story was edited on March 30, 2015.