Connecting Commodores with Careers

Oct. 22, 2008

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If you were like the majority of college students, you had very little idea about what you would be doing for a career until your senior year or even later. The decisions were hard, and the process was stressful.

As hard as the process is for regular students, it can be even harder for student-athletes, who already are balancing school work with practices, games and the hours spent traveling.

While it is easy to imagine what the time constraints would be like as a student-athlete, the only ones who really know are current and former student-athletes.

Former Vanderbilt women's basketball player Beth Ostendorf knows firsthand how difficult it can be for student-athletes to find time to focus on a career.

"As a student-athlete I did not have as much time to take advantage of the resources that the Career Services Center offers on campus," said Ostendorf, who now works in San Diego as the director of recruitment for Northwestern Mutual Financial Network. Therefore, I missed out on mock interviews, resume critiques, on-campus interviews, career fairs, etc. Vanderbilt gains a lot of national attention from potential employers due to the high rankings that Vanderbilt always receives, however as a student-athlete we weren't always able to take full advantage of all of the opportunities due to our schedules."

To help current student-athletes find their career path after college, Alison Bush, Vanderbilt's CHAMPS/Life Skills Coordinator, has turned to former student-athletes to create a career database called CHAMPS Career Connection or C3.

The database, which will be unveiled this fall, allows current student-athletes to view the contact and career information of former Vanderbilt student-athletes.

"We wanted to do more in the career development for our student-athletes with CHAMPS," Bush said. "This will be a great way for student-athletes to network with former student-athletes."

Having struggled to find a job right after college, Ostendorf wishes that a similar program was in place when she was in school.

"After graduation I wanted to move to San Diego, but I had a very difficult time getting my foot in the door with employment opportunities because I didn't know anyone in the area," Ostendorf said. "I would have loved to have had contact information for Vanderbilt student-athlete alumni in San Diego that were excited to help out."

Former Vanderbilt lacrosse player Meg Spies Freeman also believes the program is going to be a success.

"For many, this is an immediate connection into a company of interest," said Freeman, who now works at The Ensworth School in Nashville, where she is the assistant to the athletic director and the lacrosse coach. "Overall, this is an extremely smart endeavor and many will benefit from this service. I am pleased to offer a service to a university and an athletic program that provided so much for me."

One of the many things the program has working for it is the bond that is formed among student-athletes.

"Student-athletes are able to connect on a different level because we experienced a lot of the same challenges throughout college," Ostendorf added. "I would bend over backwards to help out any student-athlete because I had such a difficult time breaking into the job market right out of college.

"The project should help both the current and past student-athletes build a stronger network and stronger professional relationships."

The database was created by Bush, who sent a mailing to more than 2,000 former student-athletes. So far, the response rate has been more than 20 percent, despite many outdated addresses.

Through this process, Bush hopes that C3 will not only help student-athletes find careers, but also connect student-athletes from the past with Vanderbilt.

"After (student-athletes) graduate, we lose touch with so many of them, and this is a way to bring them back into the Vanderbilt family," Bush said.

In order for the project to be successful, Bush is hopeful that this year's senior class will use the database and will want to stay involved after they graduate.

"Hopefully, student-athletes will want to be involved when they leave, and in turn, will help other student-athletes when they graduate."

Even though the project is just taking flight, the response from former student-athletes has been very positive.

"I would have loved to have known someone that could at least get me contact information or put my resume in front of companies that I was targeting in my career search," Ostendorf said.

If you are a former Vanderbilt student-athlete and you would like to add your contact information to C3, you can do so by contacting Alison Bush at 615/343-5463 or



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