Nationally recognized career expert to lead Vanderbilt student professional development center

Katharine S. Brooks

Katharine S. Brooks, a nationally recognized expert with more than 25 years of experience supporting the career needs of college students and alumni, has been named as the Evans Family Executive Director of Vanderbilt University’s Center for Student Professional Development, Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Susan R. Wente announced today. Brooks will join the university in mid-June.

“Kate’s experience, vision and commitment to excellence make her the ideal person to fully support our exceptional students and to prepare them to pursue careers and opportunities in today’s dynamic marketplace and, ultimately, to be global leaders,” Wente said. “She will hit the ground running leading the development of a strategic plan for the center that aligns with our academic mission and employs both innovative and proven methods for post-graduation advancement.”

Brooks’ position is newly endowed as a result of a $1.5 million gift from Bruce R. and Bridgitt Evans. Bruce R. Evans, a 1981 Vanderbilt School of Engineering alumnus, is a current member of the Vanderbilt Board of Trust and will become its chairman July 1, 2017. He serves as a managing director and the chairman of the board of Summit Partners, a growth equity, venture capital and credit investment firm.

“The Board of Trust is deeply interested in ensuring the university affords its students every possible opportunity to succeed on their chosen path, whether that takes the form of further study, service, joining the workforce or pursuit of an entrepreneurial endeavor,” Evans said. “Kate Brooks has proven her ability to provide leadership, support and guidance to Vanderbilt’s extraordinarily talented students and alumni as they seek to further their educations and pursue careers of all types globally. I’m delighted she is bringing her talents to Vanderbilt.”

“As a result of the Evans family’s support, we had an outstanding slate of candidates for this position, from which Kate emerged as the optimal choice,” Wente said. “We are deeply grateful to Bruce and Bridgitt Evans for their investment in this center, which further enriches the value of a Vanderbilt degree to our students and alumni.”

Brooks is the author of You Majored in What? Mapping Your Path from Chaos to Career (Plume/Penguin 2009; new edition pending for 2017). She comes to Vanderbilt from Wake Forest University, where she has served as executive director for the Office of Personal and Career Development since 2013. She previously served as director of career services at The University of Texas at Austin from 2003 to 2013 and at Dickinson College from 1986 to 2003.

Brooks will report directly to Vice Provost for Academic and Strategic Affairs John Geer, who led the national search for the position, which began in February.

“As we launch Immersion Vanderbilt and other key strategic initiatives, we will enrich the undergraduate experience to better prepare students for successful and exciting careers,” Geer said. “With Kate’s leadership, the center will play a central role in helping our students to develop creative immersive projects, secure exciting internships and, ultimately, identify the kinds of careers that ignite their passions.”

Brooks will partner closely with all deans and with students, faculty and staff across the university to shape the center’s services and also to evaluate its effectiveness. She will also collaborate with the Innovation Center to optimize employer access to Vanderbilt talent and to develop a network of startup companies for student internships and employment. In addition, Brooks will work closely with Development and Alumni Relations to expand employer outreach and partnerships with alumni, parents and corporate entities.

“Through its focus on immersion and interdisciplinary teaching and research, Vanderbilt is producing students who are uniquely qualified for leadership roles in every sector. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to build a professional development and career readiness resource that will fully support these remarkably talented students,” Brooks said. “I am also eager to extend our employer network to advance opportunities for Vanderbilt students and alumni. I am committed to serving the career needs of all students, and look forward to becoming part of the Vanderbilt community.”

Brooks created the “Career Coaching Intensive” training program for the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), regularly presents at career counseling conferences and frequently consults with university and college career centers. She served on the Educator’s Advisory Board for Walt Disney World’s College Recruiting Program and in 2013 received the Kauffman Award for contributions to NACE and the field of college recruiting and career services. Through her NACE Career Coaching Intensives and other consulting projects, she has trained thousands of career services professionals. She was named one of the “Ten Most Visionary Leaders in Career Services” in 2013 and 2014 by CSO Research.

Brooks writes the Career Transitions blog for Psychology Today and has written numerous articles for career services professionals and students focusing on the value of a liberal arts degree, positive psychology and appreciative inquiry. Her expertise in career issues has been recognized in publications including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, U.S. News & World Report, The Chicago Tribune, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Business Insider, Cosmopolitan, the Associated Press, CNN and Fortune.

Brooks earned her Ed.D. at West Virginia University in 1989 and her B.A. from Gettysburg College in 1976. She is a graduate of the Mercersburg Academy.

Brooks’ experience and vision impressed search committee member Vanessa Beasley. “We want to create new avenues for meaningful interactions between first-year students and the Center for Student Professional Development,” Beasley, dean of The Martha Rivers Ingram Commons, said. “Kate knows how to offer undergraduates a robust variety of opportunities for exploration and discernment, demonstrating that student development can and must be an ongoing process throughout the college experience. She also has a deep understanding that many of the same things that make a Vanderbilt undergraduate degree so distinctive, such as our emphasis on rigor, discovery, analysis, and communication, translate directly into skills employers highly value.”

The search committee comprised key faculty and staff from across the institution, including:

  • John Geer, vice provost for academic and strategic affairs, chair
  • Vanessa Beasley, dean of The Martha Rivers Ingram Commons
  • Christopher (Kitt) Carpenter, professor of economics
  • Douglas Christiansen, vice provost for university enrollment affairs, dean of admissions and financial aid
  • Candice Lee, senior associate athletic director
  • Lauren Obersteadt, executive director, Alumni and Student Engagement
  • Read McNamara, assistant dean, Corporate Partnerships, Owen Graduate School of Management
  • Daniel J. Morgan, associate dean, College of Arts and Science
  • Cynthia Paschal, associate dean, School of Engineering
  • Ursula (Monique) Robinson-Nichols, associate dean for students and equity, diversity inclusion, Peabody College of education and human development; and
  • Ruth Schemmer, assistant dean, the Graduate School.