The spring 2022 semester brings some big changes to Trinity’s Career and Life Design Center, which is now open in the Cornelia Center (formerly known as Vernon Social). As it continues its mission to empower students and graduates to be active agents in designing their careers, the Career and Life Design Center (previously called the Center for Student Success and Career Development) is a new hub for student-centered activity on campus.

Vernon Social Cornelia Center
The Cornelia Center, formerly known as Vernon Social. File photo.

The Cornelia Center is named in honor of Cornelia Parsons Thornburgh ’80, who served for 17 years on the Trinity College Board of Trustees—including since 2014 as its first female board chair—until retiring from the board in 2021.

The renovated building still has a large stage with bleacher-style seating and also will feature a new welcome desk staffed by students and 15 new offices, one of which is occupied by Trinity’s Student Government Association (SGA). The versatile gathering space in front of the stage will serve primarily as the center’s Career Studio. In addition, an area behind the stage will be used as a high-tech hybrid space for meetings, workshops, and classes, where students and presenters can participate in person or remotely.

Career and Life Design Center
Assistant Director of Career and Life Design and Pre-Law Advisor Janeé Folston talks with Garrett Kirk ’24. Also pictured along with Folston and Kirk in the photo at the top of this page are Associate Director of Career and Life Design Peter Maribei and Hanifa Darwish ’22. Photos by Nick Caito.

Executive Director of Career and Life Design Joe Catrino said his team is excited to relocate from the Admissions building. Previously, the team often held events at Vernon Social, with the stage used for panel discussions with employers and alumni. The renovated building will continue to host these and other events. “We have not previously had our own space for events—and we host a lot of events,” Catrino said. “This new location gives us great opportunities for both virtual and in-person options.”

Catrino had numerous conversations with students in 2020 about how the space could best serve them. Input was sought from groups including the SGA and Multicultural Affairs Council (MAC), as well as through an online survey, to which nearly 250 students responded. “We really want to ensure students feel comfortable in the space to hold their own programming and to collaborate with us on our programs,” Catrino said.

Career and Life Design Center
International Student Advisor Katie Clair meets with Hanifa Darwish ’22.

Increased staffing at the Career and Life Design Center, including more career coaches who specialize in different industries, will help the center connect with more students. The Career and Life Design staff members with offices in the new space include International Student Advisor Katie Clair and Director of Retention Strategy and Transition Programs Roberta Rogers, who collaborates with key divisions to cultivate a data-informed retention ecosystem and supports students in navigating transitions. “Career and Life Design is one team working together to support the student journey, which we hope will bring more students into the space to engage with us,” Catrino said.

The Career and Life Design Center was renamed in spring 2021 to reflect the philosophy that there’s more to navigating a life-long career path than landing a first job out of college. “We’ve moved away from career advising and more toward career coaching. We want to advise students, but we want them to own this process and become informed decision-makers about their paths,” Catrino said. “We start with helping students getting to know themselves and their interests before making career decisions; then they can leverage their skills for internships and jobs. We want Trinity students to use their liberal arts education to adapt to and transform the future of work.”

Cornelia Center
A new space for meetings, workshops, and classes in the Cornelia Center.

Catrino teaches a first-year seminar called “Designing Your Future Work,” which introduces the concepts of life design and career design to students in their first days of college. “We’re trying to infuse more life design programming for students to give them a taste of this early in their time at Trinity, often in their first year. This helps us more easily connect and work with them in their sophomore, junior, and senior years,” Catrino said. “We of course still offer the traditional career services like interview preparation and help with salary negotiations and developing résumés and cover letters.”

In addition to facilitating internships, the center has a BIPOC student mentor program, an international student mentor program, and the “2022 Connect” program, which matches students with alumni mentors in their fields of interest. Those one-on-one connections can leave a big impact, Catrino said.

Career and Life Design Center
A hallway of new offices in the Cornelia Center.

A survey by the center found that 93.3% of Class of 2020 graduates reported that within six months of graduation they were employed, accepted to graduate school, participating in a service/volunteer program, or serving in the military. Learn more about their employment here.

To learn more about Trinity’s Career and Life Design Center, click here.