Boot Camp bonus

KU senior gains more than professional connections, skills at career event

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Always Jayhawks | Celka Straughn and Elspeth Healey
Celka Straughn and Elspeth Healey

Long before the start of her last semester at KU, Lenexa senior Jessica Blom had contemplated her future and how she could make herself more marketable to potential employers. When an email from the University Career Center landed in her inbox, advertising a three-week virtual Winter Boot Camp to help graduating students launch an effective job search, she immediately signed up.

“I had been looking for ways to strengthen my resume and learn how to get a job post-graduation,” she says. “I wanted to improve some of those skills.”

In addition to offering students job-hunting tips, networking advice and resources for building an impressive resume, the event featured opportunities to participate in more than 50 mock interviews with professionals in a variety of industries, thanks to a collaboration with the Alumni Association’s Jayhawk Career Network.

Always Jayhawks | Jessica Blom
Jessica Blom

Blom, c’21, who was majoring in history and international studies, expressed her interest in libraries and archives and was paired with Celka Straughn, deputy director for public practice, curatorial and research at the Spencer Museum of Art.

During their mock interview, Straughn learned more about Blom’s career goals and immediately thought of KU colleague Elspeth Healey, a special-collections librarian at the Kenneth Spencer Research Library. “A critical part of the learning experience is getting to know other people and learn from and with them,” says Straughn, who also serves as Andrew W. Mellon Director of Academic Programs at the art museum and works closely with KU faculty and staff. “Jessica seemed like someone who was eager to gain new experiences and opportunities and would make the most of them, so I wanted to connect her with Elspeth and expand those possibilities.”

Healey scheduled a virtual meeting with Blom over Zoom and discussed the senior’s interest in attending library school, sharing information about the costs of graduate studies, professional organizations and additional opportunities for growth and development. In a follow-up email to Blom, Healey encouraged her to apply for KU Libraries’ Rubinstein/Mason Award, which supports graduate study in librarianship.

Blom applied for the award during the spring semester and in June received notice from Kevin Smith, dean of libraries, that she was one of two students selected for the $1,000 scholarship. Healey was thrilled to learn that Blom took home the honor.

“I don’t know that students always realize how impressive they are,” she says. “It’s good for them to talk to someone who is in the career that they’re interested in and have that person recognize for them that they are doing some of the right things to be on that career path.”

For Blom, who this fall began her graduate studies in library and information science at Simmons University in Boston, the connections she made through Winter Boot Camp proved particularly helpful in more ways than one.

“It was really valuable for me to build both professional connections and professional skills that I’ll need in the field,” she says. “And it ended up being really awesome that I got a scholarship out of it, too.”

Photograph (top) by Steve Puppe

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