Launching careers: Berry Career Institute

Anthony Delgado ’18, a first-generation student, was struggling to find an internship for the summer after his junior year. “I found it very difficult as a student with little related prior work experience to land an internship or job, especially without connections,” Delgado says.

The Berry Career Institute warmly welcomes students at the center of the Thomas Commons.

He applied online for several positions but got no response.

Then he tried Cornell’s Berry Career Institute. “They helped me prepare for the career fair where ACT would attend,” he recalls. “I was interested in a position there because it would be related to my field in computer science. I ended up talking to the recruiter and applying, but did not hear back immediately. After returning to the Berry Career Institute, [Director] Jodi Schafer reached out to her contact at ACT. That turned out to be very helpful since I received an interview and subsequent offer not long after.”

Career development today
Career development at Cornell is so much more than writing resumes and conducting mock interviews, although those are still core offerings. Now known as the Berry Career Institute, the resource is evolving to become part of the academic experience as it starts merging what once was purely in the academics lane and what once was solely the territory of career services into a cohesive curricular experience.

All First-Year Seminars, for example, now include an introduction to career preparation through personality assessments, career exploration resources and strategies, and exposure to experiential learning options from career development staff.

Now in her third year directing the program, Jodi Schafer spent the first few years scaling and enhancing career programs, developing operational efficiencies, increasing employer partnerships, and generating awareness with students, faculty, and staff.

Read how four alumni assist the Berry Career Institute:

Dave Gatton ’75
Jennifer Quindry Shorr ’04
Andrea Herrera ’85
Ron Albers ’71

“Looking to the future, I envision even more collaboration with faculty as curricular changes are being made to integrate career preparation into coursework. This will be an important part of ensuring every student has exposure to career resources,” Schafer says. “We also will continue to make alumni and employer partners a priority. Strengthening these relationships will allow us to offer impactful and meaningful programing and a strong base of networking contacts for our students.”  

Since 2014 the Institute has been located in the heart of the Thomas Commons. Reallocation of resources permitted an increase in staff who coach students on all aspects of their career development and provide extensive programming.

Their goal is to ensure every student achieves a positive outcome.

According to early data—this is the Institute’s third year since its reorganization—the results are encouraging:

  • 96% of 2017 Cornell graduates seeking employment or entrance into graduate school successfully landed their first destinations within six months of graduation
  • 40% of all students participated in one-on-one career coaching sessions in 2017-18, a 15% increase from the previous year
  • Applications for funded internships increased by 36% in 2017-18
  • The Institute invested $148,000 in 71 internships in 2017-18; 25 were intensive Cornell Fellowships (placements as interns or research assistants worldwide)

Meet 5 students who used the Berry Career Institute in 5 different ways:

LaNice Baker ’19: Career exploration
Xikun Wang ’20: Job & internship preparation
Christy Ralston ’19: Internships, experiential learning, & research
Mara McLaughlin ’18: Leadership development
Anthony Delgado ’18: Job search 

The latest innovation is the alignment of staff to support career clusters.

Each career coach is assigned a career cluster—such as business and finance or government, law, and politics—and some also work with faculty who teach courses most closely related to their clusters to provide workshops and class presentations. Students making initial appointments at the Berry Career Institute indicate what their major is and what career they’re interested in and are assigned to the appropriate cluster coach. And for those who are unsure, coaches help them explore. Even the annual career expo is now organized by career clusters.

When students are exposed early and often to careers that exist in the market, they are better prepared to successfully obtain those careers, Schafer says.

“Using a career cluster model ensures students are shifting their thinking from a purely major-focused approach to one that is more aligned with the types of opportunities that are available in the market. This allows students to better prepare for life after Cornell by identifying skills gaps and taking the necessary steps to bridge those gaps by doing things like obtaining technology skills or participating in leadership roles on campus,” says Schafer. “It also gives them an early understanding of how the liberal arts translates to their career interests.”

Alumni interested in being a resource for students, providing an internship, or hosting a career tour at their company, may contact Jodi Schafer at

Alumni support student success
Alumni are a crucial resource for the Berry Career Institute, as internship providers, mentors, career tour hosts, and in hiring graduates (see related stories on four alumni).  

In addition, generous funding from alumni has made a direct impact on student career success.

While the Institute has funded Cornell Fellowships since that program’s inception in 2004, now it is able to fund other internships too. It offers up to $2,000 for an internship, in addition to Cornell Fellows funding of up to $3,400 for domestic and $4,100 for international fellowships. Many Cornell Fellowships are funded and named by individual donors.

Funding has provided increased staffing, allowing more one-on-one coaching and programming. Cornell’s LEADS (Leadership, Entrepreneurship, And Distinctive Service), a competitive, year-long program that helps students develop their leadership style, has deepened its offerings, now providing a workshop series on topics such as emotional intelligence, building a cohesive team, and managing up.

Original endowment funding of $5 million from Jim McWethy ’65 in honor of his grandfather, Lester Berry, has been joined by many other gifts that have allowed career development programming to blossom at Cornell. Among those gifts:

Success achieved
After participating in LEADS Ethan Berube ’19 ran for and was elected president of Student Senate. He’s a major proponent of the Berry Career Institute and its staff.

“They are business professionals, and they all bring a different professional experience to the table,” Berube says. “I go there every time I have a new experience to have my resume updated. In all the admission tours I give, I highlight that it’s significant for its breadth and ability to help you in any way.”

Delgado, the student who found an internship with ACT through the Berry Career Institute, returned to the Institute a year later, frustrated with his own attempts to find a job. This time the Berry Career Institute signed him up for a Career Tour to Des Moines, Iowa.

“This trip was insanely valuable. I got exposure to companies and industries I had never considered before and wouldn’t have thought needed software engineers,” he says. “I also got to experience a bit of what Des Moines is like, plus it was all free.”

He applied to two of the firms they visited and got offers from both. Delgado now works as an applications developer for Merchants Bonding in Des Moines.

“I owe a lot of my success to the Berry Career Institute,” he says. “They were instrumental in getting me where I needed to be and in front of the people I needed to meet.”



What’s the job outlook for college graduates over the next two to four years? Find out what Cornell College’s David Joyce Professor of Economics and Business Todd Knoop has to say.