By Shandi Stevenson | contributor
“The Space” at Wofford, launched in February 2013, is a radically redesigned version of what was once the Career Services program. Director Jennifer Dillinger says the program seeks to replace traditional career services with something “innovative, outward-facing, and fun.”
The Space gives Wofford students the chance to combine their liberal arts education with hands-on preparation for the business world.
Scott Cochran, dean of The Space, says he drew on his 20 years’ business experience to ensure The Space emphasizes the skills and values employers across a wide range of fields are looking for, including problem solving, public speaking, writing, creative thinking, professionalism and a strong work ethic.
The Space offers a scholarship to 20 students a year who commit to full participation in the program, including arriving on campus early each fall for intensive training and attending weekly meetings. But director Courtney Shelton says any student can walk into The Space and find something to meet his or her needs. The Space offers a summer Institute, special speakers and events, contests at which students present business plans to a panel of judges, mentoring, internships with local companies, and training in budgeting, creating a business plan, analyzing a project, doing a presentation, making a pitch and other skills.
The Space is divided into The Space to Launch, which helps student entrepreneurs develop their own businesses; The Space to Impact, which emphasizes community outreach; The Space to Prepare, which provides more traditional career services; and other programs.
The Space encourages students not to wait for graduation before pursuing their goals. Freshman Mitchell Saum was 17 when he started his own company making bamboo sunglasses. Saum hopes that by working with mentors at The Space he can put his business on a solid foundation by the time he graduates. Joseph McMillan, a Wofford graduate who started Junk Matter Recycling in his sophomore year, says the skills he gained through the program prepared him to “really hit the ground running” as a business owner. Networking in the Wofford community has helped his business grow quickly, he said.
The Space “really gave us a launching pad,” agreed Grace Wallace, who started her stationery company at the start of her senior year. As a graduate, Wallace says she knows she can still call on her connections at The Space for advice and networking. “It’s so reassuring to have that kind of support.”
The Space also supports students in community outreach projects.
“I can’t imagine my time at Wofford without The Space,” says Anna Grace Hall, who started Let’s Read, an afterschool literacy and ESL program, through The Space. Hall says the program taught her how to plan and implement her project, and has “been with us every step of the way.”
Martha Albergotti, director of franchising at PureBarre, says The Space is a valuable resource for area employers as well as students. PureBarre recently hired the Wofford graduate who interned with them during her time at The Space. Space students are “prepared to quickly learn and adapt” in a variety of workplace environments, she said.
Katie Wilson, program manager for client education and development at Milliken, worked with five Space interns on a project this past summer. She gives the program “18 thumbs up,” and hopes to work with Space students on future projects.
“We were just very impressed,” says Wilson. “It was a great experience.”
Scott Clark, chief operating officer of Michelin North America, agrees the program’s internships are “truly a win-win” for companies and students, because interns can “throw a lot of time and energy at a problem” in a short amount of time.
“I really like what they’re doing,” he said. The Space is “doing a great job of preparing their kids for the future.”