Student Professional Development Center staff embraces changes

As Career Services changes name and function, old practices are refined and new opportunities explored.


A blending of the old and the new might be the best way to describe the recently restructured Career Services office at Elon.

On Jan. 12, the employees of the Student Professional Development Center officially moved into their brand new 5,000-square foot facility in Moseley Center, in the space once occupied by Elon’s bookstore. Under the leadership of Tom Brinkley, who arrived in December as the executive director of corporate and employer relations, the office not only has a new home – it also has a fresh attitude.

“The inwardly facing career services function has done a good job and will continue and even be better,” Brinkley says. “What they haven’t been able to do, and which is more important in today’s economy, is to go out and be aggressive recruiting companies to come on our campus or look at students for employments, internships or graduate school.”

The Office of Corporate and Employer Relations now joins the existing Office of Career Services under the umbrella of the new center. Brinkley, charged with building new business contacts and strengthening those already in place, said he views his position as the perfect fit.

After working in the Career Services office at Wake Forest University, followed by the last 14 years at a search firm in Charlotte, the North Carolina native said he has known of Elon most of his life and was looking to return to a job in higher education.

“This position combines the opportunity to go back into the education world and work with students, while also having one foot in the corporate world and still have a chance to do what I love to do,” he says.

For Arli Eicher, who arrived at Elon last semester, her position is also similar to previous work she did as a senior research analyst for a labor union. The new recruiting and event coordinator will be responsible for assisting employers in setting up on-campus interviews, information sessions, career fairs and other career-related events.

“What provided the bridge from my research work to coming here is that I was involved in employer relations,” Eicher says. “I was working directly with employers and management in contract negotiations or looking at strategic research plans and identifying companies they wanted to target or research further. A large component of this position is being able to recruit employers and being familiar with that structure.”

That includes familiarizing herself with details such as their finances and balance sheets.

“That’s so you really know the ins and outs because we really want top-notch employers here,” she says. “We want to make sure we’re meeting the needs and interests of all of the schools and offering more options and advice for students in terms of matching their background and interests with those employers.”

With a new facility and a handful of new staff members, and more planned for currently vacant positions, Brinkley says the center was deliberately planned to be more usable and accessible to students, which has not always been the case.

Rene Jackson, who recently transitioned to the role of career adviser for graduate school programs, arrived as a career counselor in 2007. At that time, Career Services had what she referred to as a “skeleton staff” – three full-time employees manned the entire office and Jackson was asked to work temporarily doing the simpler tasks, such as reviewing resumes.

“I never once entertained the thought that I would work here,” says Jackson, who previously worked in the library at Williams High School in Burlington. “It was always where Smith, my husband, worked and this was his turf. Now, that’s no longer the case.”

Jackson said the level of professionalism has escalated as the old and new staffs form one new, larger team.

“The core group who has been here longer has a lot of history in what they do and through that has come a lot of contacts and very important connections,” she says. “The new staff bring in outside perspectives and new ideas. The energy level has changed quite a bit,” something that will help the center as it takes on new challenges.

By Caitlin O’Donnell ’13