Ernest Owens | OCR: On-Campus Revision

The Ernest Opinion | Quakers should be inspired to pursue their dreams, not money

· December 1, 2011, 11:59 pm   ·  Updated December 6, 2011, 1:20 am

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Ernest Owens
The Ernest Opinion

Another one bites the dust.

Last week, a close friend of mine who inspired me to pursue my dreams altered his own.

He is a senior in the College who had hopes of becoming a social activist working for non-profits that improve the lives of children in West Philadelphia. I remember him telling me that I could do whatever I aspired to do because this university had the vast resources to make anything I desire a reality.

That was six months ago. Now, instead of discussing effective ways of mentoring and serving the community, he talks of his new consulting job and how many potential figures he can make in the next five years. What went wrong?

The same question can be asked for many seniors this semester. On-Campus Recruiting has, in many ways, turned Penn’s very intellectual atmosphere into a pre-professional fiasco that diminishes the initial desire to attend this university in the first place.

I cannot be naive and ignore the attraction and convenience that OCR provides. Companies, such as Goldman Sachs and McKinsey & Company, actually come to campus every fall and spring, actively recruiting students for summer and full-time positions. The whole job-searching process is very easy because the companies are right there asking for your resume and sending you applications.

“Penn Career Services does a fantastic job of getting top employers to come recruit on campus,” said Mike, a Wharton senior who was recently hired as a full-time analyst for BlackRock, Inc. Mike, who wished to remain anonymous for employment reasons, landed the job through the OCR process and believes that, in comparison to students at other universities, Quakers have “a great wealth of opportunities to learn about and apply for many different types of jobs.”

However, the scope of these different types of jobs can be argued.

“Most of the jobs offered are either in financial services or consulting, so if you’re looking to really explore your options, OCR may not help you do that,” said Wharton senior Will Leung, who was recently hired to work full-time for a sales and trading division within Citi Global Markets. “For someone who doesn’t have a clear idea of what he or she wants to do,” he said, “the OCR process may direct him or her toward the standard banking or consulting career path.”

And that is where the contradiction arises. Penn, by its nature, is a multi-disciplinary institution that encourages students to explore various fields of study and employment. But the existence of OCR hinders such interaction; students are pulled in certain directions of employment that do not necessarily cater to their own interests but instead to those of the companies. For example, my friend with the consulting job is thinking of ways he can apply the skills he will learn there to his activist interests but is having a hard time reconciling the two.

At the end of the day, I am convinced that money and reputation are the primary reasons many students flock to OCR and put their dreams on hold. With piling college loans and uncertainty for the future, it is much simpler to take the easy way out by being employed in these high-status firms right after school.

Furthermore, societal expectations and the pressure of having established employment and immediate success right out of college have negative effects as well. Acting on these motives is essentially a cop-out and an undermining of the Penn experience in general. Yes, many who love careers in finance and consulting should live the OCR dream because it satisfies their interests. But students who may be thinking of becoming doctors, lawyers or archeologists should not run to OCR just to please their bank accounts and their parents.

Do what you love and truly become the change you wish to see. What makes this University great are the Quakers who act on their dreams and aspirations, not those who walk the road most traveled.

Ernest Owens, an Undergraduate Assembly representative, is a College sophomore from Chicago. His email address is owense@sas.upenn.edu. The Ernest Opinion appears every Friday.

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