In January 2020, Southwestern’s award-winning Center for Career & Professional Development (CCPD) will debut its annual professional-development summit, SOAR. This immersive two-day event will introduce SU sophomores to lifelong career-management skills, such as effective self-marketing in resumes and interviews. The conference-style summit will also assist students in expanding their professional networks by connecting them with nationally renowned industry experts as well as Southwestern alumni mentors.

Alexandra Anderson, associate director of the CCPD, is excited about the new event. “We have a lot of neat keynote speakers coming whom we haven’t had the opportunity to host before,” she says. Those distinguished guests will include Chad Littlefield, TEDx speaker and cofounder of We and Me, Inc., which promotes teambuilding within organizations; Diane Gottsman, a nationally recognized etiquette expert and the founder of the Protocol School of Texas; John Grimshaw, a digital marketing expert and a founder of the coaching and consulting service Digital Strategy Boot Camps; and Daron K. Roberts, a Harvard Law School graduate turned National Football League coach who is the founding director of the Center for Sports Leadership & Innovation at the University of Texas at Austin. Their talks will focus on topics ranging from building a professional network and exercising proper dining etiquette to marketing yourself successfully and achieving your career dreams.

SOAR will provide Southwestern students the opportunity to engage in professional development in a fun and interactive group setting. “I like that there will be energy with a group of students participating in these things together,” Anderson comments. “A lot of the work we do with students is personalized, which is great because we get to target and tailor it to each individual. And we will be providing some of that very personalized service in one of the SOAR sessions, with only one to two students working with each of our ‘deputy’ career advisors—people from our office but also alumni and other professionals who have expertise in helping people with career-development tasks, like resumes and job-searching. But I think it will be interesting to see how that cohort experience develops. …I hope that it creates a sense of excitement and confidence so that students feel prepared.”

That dynamic will only be enhanced by the participation of SU alumni. “We always have extremely generous alumni who come out of the goodness of their hearts to help students throughout the year, and we’ll get to continue working with them during this summit as well,” Anderson explains. “The connection between the students and alumni is one of the things I value about my job here.” In her day-to-day work at the CCPD, she appreciates helping students and seeing their postgraduate successes, but she also loves seeing those alumni return to campus to help current students. “It’s very personally rewarding to see the tangible outcome of our efforts, and I think the summit will be another place where we’ll get to experience that.”

One key focus of SOAR will be helping sophomores search for and secure internships while they are still undergraduates. To help them find and successfully earn those experiences, the summit’s participants will walk away from the event with a polished and targeted resume, an internship search plan, an elevator pitch, and networking connections.

SOAR organizers are promoting internships because research surveying college students across the nation (e.g., from the National Association of Colleges and Employers) as well as at Southwestern specifically has shown that completing an internship—and especially multiple internships—is the most important factor affecting students’ ability to find employment after graduation. A few years ago, for example, a CCPD student team member used statistical-analysis software and recent postgraduate survey data to examine whether certain student activities or characteristics such as GPA and major correlated with finding a full-time job within a year of graduation. “The internship was the only thing that showed significant correlation,” Anderson says. The results confirmed the importance of the CCPD’s efforts in helping Southwestern students develop their marketable skills, land internships, and be successful in them.

Students participating in SOAR will be empowered to seek internships starting as early as the spring and summer immediately following the summit. They also benefit from being automatically qualified to apply for internship funding.

Southwestern’s CCPD already provides resources and individual consulting on topics such as writing an effective LinkedIn profile, applying for jobs and graduate school, and choosing professional attire for interviews and networking events. “But what makes this event unique is that it’s intensive,” says Anderson. “And that’s a benefit because our students are really busy. This summit will give them the time to really focus only on career development for two full days, outside the academic year, without taking away from any of the other experiences they’re having in their classes, in sports and arts, and in jobs they might have. In fact, it will build on those experiences.”

SOAR 2020

January 10–11, 2020

For more information, contact the CCPD team at or 512.863.1346.

SOAR is free and open to all sophomores, but spaces are limited. The application opens in August.

Participating sophomores return to campus from holiday break and move into the residence halls beginning at noon, Thursday, January 9, 2020.