Jeffries Adds Philosophy to Career Services
by Tim Tan '14, The Bachelor
August 26, 2011
James Jeffries doesn’t just want you to find a job. The College’s new Assistant Director of Career Services wants instead to get more Wallies to think long and hard about sustaining their passions beyond their college experience and to be able to parlay that into a rewarding career.
“What I’m really interested in is how people find fulfillment, and natural work is one important and vital aspect of that,” Jeffries said.
Jeffries just finished a doctoral program in philosophy and ethics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. And he’s already asking the philosophical question.
“How do we facilitate being a gentleman? I’d like Career Services to help answer that question in all senses. From my work as a doctoral student and instructor, I find people have not put a lot of thought into what satisfies them in various spheres of their lives,” Jeffries said. “I want to help Wabash men to lead lives with more confidence and intelligence.”
But what does philosophy have to do with career advising?
“In a derivative sense it relates to my academic interests,” Jeffries said. “What I value in philosophy is thinking about tough conceptual problems and actually implementing that in real life. I believe Career Services has to appreciate the liberal arts’ specific approach to career finding. I am particularly interested in religion and philosophy majors and drifting students and helping them to calibrate their intents.”
Jeffries wants to help students capitalize on their strengths as liberal arts majors. Having done research in the epistemology of creativity, he is well-positioned to transform raw ore into gold.
“Conceptual, broad patterns is what students from a college like this are good at,” Jeffries said. “I want to bridge their unique abilities to the communities in which they live and facilitate that exchange. I intend to prompt students to reflect on what they value about what they learn.”
“Having grown up in the area and coming out of South Mont., I’ve always had an awareness of Wabash College,” Jeffries said. “After graduating from the University of Chicago, I worked in financial services for a while. But I really wanted to go back to higher education, and this position allowed me to stay close to family and retain my interest in the area of liberal arts.”
One of Jeffries’s first projects is to overhaul the externships program.
“They’ve really only been in kernel form so far,” he said. “Job shadowing a business owner, even for as brief as a day, really helps students to develop transactional skills.”
As for working with the alumni base, Jeffries intends to provide students with more than a handshake.
“Building relationships consists of more than just taking down names, exchanging business cards, and so on. Alumni anywhere want to recognize the integrity of their experience reflected in each new generation. That is certainly intensified here at Wabash,” Jeffries said.
In his spare time, Jeffries busies himself with brewing, writing, and music. But this father of two can most often be found working on his fixer-upper southwest of Crawfordsville.
“Philosophy continues to be an interest. As I matriculate out into the community, I’m finding many similar minds. I’m talking to faculty, and I’m learning about their research, their engagement with students, and why that is so valued here. The staff have been terrific too, and uniformly helpful.”
The committed vegetarian looks forward to everything from sharing his passion for environmental concerns to chatting with students about Dostoyevsky. “Vox clamantis in deserto—a voice crying out in the wilderness—that’s what I plan to be in my time here.”