Overheard

G. Gabrielle Starr on finding the right educational opportunity and career pathway

Innovators share ideas with WorkingNation Overheard at the Milken Institute Global Conference 2021
By Laura Aka
October 18, 2021

“Career pathways will ultimately change. We’ve just seen in the past 20 months that—from the perspective of workers—career pathways are changing perhaps faster than they are for employers,” says G. Gabrielle Starr, president of Pomona College in Claremont, California. “That puts it squarely in your lap to think about what path is going to suit you.”

WorkingNation sat down with Starr at the Milken Institute Global Conference 2021 in Beverly Hills as part of our #WorkingNationOverheard interview series. With Charting a New Course as the guiding theme, thought leaders and innovators shared ideas about the changing economy, worker development, education, tech, philanthropy, and more.

Starr says you don’t have to figure out that pathway on your own. She says higher education has a responsibility to help learners find the right institution—one that matches their career goals. “If you ask [the institutions] what employers are asking of their students and the institutions, that can help you understand exactly where you should be going,” notes Starr.

“A liberal arts education like we provide at Pomona College really begins to engage you at the very beginning on a variety of paths. So, if you haven’t already chosen exactly where you want to go, a liberal arts education can be right,” says Starr. She adds, “When you’re looking at short-term training, then you’re going to think more pointedly about where you want to be and the skills that you need to get there.”

Starr says even with shorter-term degrees or credentials, cost should be considered. “The total cost should not just count the amount of money that you spend to obtain the degree, but what you’re going to forego while you attain it—whether it’s work or it’s other kinds of opportunities.” Also, think about the additional costs you might incur, such as childcare or elder care. Starr says it is important to look at “whether or not you need to borrow in order to meet the cost of attendance and the other kinds of supports that are going to get you to where you want to go.”

When choosing the right education or training, Starr says you need to understand what is happening outside the classroom. “What kind of support for study skills are there? What kind of supports for career advice? What kind of mentorship are you going to get? Who is going to write you a letter of recommendation and is it going to be personalized to you and to your achievements?”

“All of those things go together when you’re thinking about what the most value is for you and how long it’s appropriate for you to spend pursuing your dream.”

Click here to learn more about Pomona College.

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