Ticket to Ride

Gift helps needy students leap career hurdles

By Randall S. Barton | September 1, 2016

A financial aid student is taking a full load of courses and working part time at a couple of jobs. She wants to go to law school after graduating from Reed, but her plans hit a snag when she discovers it will cost $170 to take the Law School Admission Test, and another $30 for every school she sends it to. How will she come up with the cash?

Thanks to a generous gift from Michael Jacobs ’04, vice president at Goldman Sachs, that student can now tap into the Reed Career Advancement Fund. The fund helps needy students offset the cost of travel, registration, and various expenses for career-related tests, conferences, internships, and externships. It will even pay for a new shirt or a decent pair of shoes for that all-important first interview.

“Nobody should have financial difficulty to advance their careers,” says Alice Harra, associate dean of students and director of the Center for Life Beyond Reed (CLBR), which administers the fund. “This fund helps level the field, with funding that is open and accessible to all. It’s not putting out candy just for a few.”

A biology and studio art major received funding to take a summer course in conservation science at Pacific Biodiversity Institute. Another student had landed a paid internship with the Clinton Foundation in New York City, but couldn’t afford the airfare to get there. A graduating senior was provided with a plane ticket to get to a job interview in Washington, D.C. and got the job. A sophomore was able to attend an astrophysics lab in Lyon, France, and another student went to a green chemistry conference.

“Reedies have always had an amazing ability to go and find the fabulous,” says Brooke Hunter, assistant director for strategic partnerships at CLBR. “There’s a synergy between Reed and the world, and Reedies have always found those little amazing things that are happening. Now we’re more able to build the bridges to help them get there.”

The Career Advancement Fund provides up to $500 for approved expenses of students with a demonstrated financial need who effectively establish the connection with their professional goals. It cannot be used to subsidize unpaid internships, but is available for standardized test registration or prep fees for the GRE, LSAT, or MCAT. Other categories of expense are considered on a case-by-case basis. Currently enrolled Reed students and graduating seniors are eligible to apply.

In the past students were forced to navigate a variety of resources to explore getting such needs met. They might, for instance, buttonhole President John Kroger and petition him for funds. But this was not systemically viable, transparent, or competitive. With the establishment of the Career Advancement Fund, the CLBR reached out to students, asking, “Do you have a financial need in order to get someplace you really want to go in your next step in life? Come and talk to us.”

The committee considering applicants meets weekly, and applications are reviewed and accepted on a rolling basis while funds last. Students write two short essays describing their financial need and how funding will help achieve future goals. They include a résumé and an itemized budget detailing how the money will be spent. In the first two weeks of the fund’s existence, no fewer than 11 students applied.

“When I think about giving,” Michael Jacobs says, “there are a lot of organizations that have lots of money sloshing around. An incremental few thousand dollars wouldn’t make a difference. But Reed is an institution where you can make a huge difference by giving what would be considered a notionally small amount and really change people’s experiences. To provide access to interviews and internship opportunities just felt like a no-brainer.”

Michael himself received a lot of support from Reed during his time as a student, and considers his gift an opportunity to pay it forward. It has also given him a chance to mentor students and help them understand how their Reed education could prepare them for life.

“After Reed, I took a break, went my own way, and did a lot of different things,” he explains. “I came to realize that a lot of my best friends, and the things that I really value in my life, things I spend my time on, developed when I was at Reed.”

Michael majored in philosophy at Reed and wrote his thesis about nonbeing in Plato’s dialogue Sophist—an experience that prepared him well for a financial career. 

“In the thesis project, you look at stacks and stacks of books that people have already written on the topic, particularly if you’re talking about ancient philosophy,” he says. “You learn to synthesize tons of information into something that is your own. Reed helped me develop that voice and feel confident that I had something to say.”

The ability to generate ideas and offer interesting and differentiated points of view on markets is valued on Wall Street. Michael found his experience at Reed transformational and is pleased to participate in transforming the lives of other Reedies.

“I’m seeing with my own eyes the transformational work Alice has done since she hit the ground,” Michael says. “What she’s doing is incredible and she is someone that every student there should be getting to know.”

Find out more about how you can help students launch their careers by joining the Reed Career Network or by giving to the Annual Fund

Tags: Campus Life, Giving Back to Reed, Life Beyond Reed