Northwestern has always taken great pride in the percentage of students who have found a job or made it into grad school six months after graduating, which currently sits at an impressive 99.5%. These numbers don’t come easily. They are the result of the hard work of the employees in the Compass Center for Career and Calling, notably Dr. Elizabeth Pitts.
Pitts has been the director of the center for a little over a year, but her experience in Christian higher education stretches back much further. Her first job out of college was working in a career development office at a small Christian college in South Carolina.
Though she has not always worked as a career mentor, a few things haven’t changed since her own college days.
“There were two things I knew leaving college, that I wanted to work with college students the rest of my life, and I wanted to work in a college campus setting,” Pitts said.
On an average day, Pitts responds to meeting requests submitted by students through Handshake and connects those students with an available faculty member or Franken Fellow Tutor. She and the other employees help draft cover letters and resumes and connect students with internships and other opportunities. They host mock interviews and assist undecided students in finding an academic path.
The Franken Fellow program is something that Pitts pioneered, and she is proud of the impact they have had on over 100 students they have assisted. She also takes pride in how the Franken Fellows have developed in their own career journeys, as many of the candidates have used their experience in the CCCC to land impressive internships.
Northwestern recently began a new “Adulting 101” series. Each installment in this informational series is the work of a Franken Fellow. Each one chose a topic, then worked with Pitts to find speakers, organize the content and publicize the event series.
Since last summer, Pitts has been the driving force behind a full remodel of the center’s website. By this summer, she aims to have completed the redesign. The new site will include an easy access “toolkit,” 12 career guides, written by Pitts herself. The guides will cover a variety of important pieces of career development, like how to write a standout resume or cover letter.
Directing the CCCC also comes with challenges. Many students in last year’s graduating class were forced to cut study abroad experiences short, had job offers rescinded or internship opportunities cancelled as a result of COVID-19. This did not stop Pitts and her team. They quickly worked to set students up with alternate opportunities and ended up maintaining their stellar post-graduate placement rates.
Pitts is an advocate for starting your post-graduation preparation early. The professional world is full of opportunities, but according to Pitts, many great companies are now looking for candidates who have already completed an internship experience. Pitts, along with the rest of the CCCC, welcome any student to stop by and get their professional portfolio started, which includes a resume, cover letter, reference sheet, and Handshake and LinkedIn accounts.
As a sophomore, Micah Van Kalsbeek started her preparation for post-graduation early, hoping to have the right resources to land an internship.
“I’m basically a grown-up now,” Van Kalsbeek said after receiving her padfolio.
Pitts finds joy and motivation in the success stories of NW students.
Pitts said, “When students send you that email and tell you ‘I just got the internship!’ or ‘I just got an offer!’ that’s why we do what we do.”