Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
April 14, 2024

Future Fest takes a new approach to professional development

By PARKER HAN | October 3, 2022



The newly-opened Imagine Center is one piece of the new approach Hopkins is taking to professional development.

Students and alums engaged in a series of more than 30 recruitment and networking events from Sept. 12 to Oct. 1. This annual occasion, known as Future Fest, builds connections between Hopkins students and representatives across various industries and graduate schools. 

Future Fest is co-hosted by the University’s Life Design Lab, PHutures and the Professional Development and Career Office. 

In an interview with The News-Letter, Executive Director of the Life Design Lab Matthew Golden described the Life Design Lab’s vision for professional development at Hopkins. 

“The work of the Life Design Lab... is rooted in equity and prioritizes interactions that will lead to personal and professional growth,” he said. “Intentionally designing a life that is cohesive with your values, identities, interests and aspirations will lead to more fulfilling lived experiences than chasing a job title or an internship at a particular company.”

The shift in the University’s professional development philosophy has been physically manifested in the new Imagine Center for Integrative Learning and Life Design. The Imagine Center opened in mid-September and houses the University’s seven career and professional service departments. 

In an interview with The News-Letter, Vice Provost for Integrative Learning and Life Design Farouk Dey explained the Imagine Center’s philosophy.

“The Imagine Center never asks students what they want to do with their life,“ he said. “It wants students to discover what they are curious about.”

Junior Zandy Wong described her perspective on Future Fest’s new approach to career fairs in an email to The News-Letter.

“Future Fest is different from a normal career fair as it’s more of an exploration of making a life worth living,” she wrote. “It’s not all about getting a job. It’s about finding a place or role that fulfills a student’s internal mission.”

Future Fest featured career preparatory workshops oriented around students’ affinities and interests. The event also included a virtual career fair and graduate school events.

Golden noted that Future Fest’s key programming is a series of virtual and in-person storytelling events. These events encourage students to reflect on their unique stories and skill sets in order to translate them into meaningful life paths.

Senior Harley Tran participated in the virtual Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Collective student panel, where Hopkins alums share their stories of success in securing internships through the DEI Collective’s internship hiring initiatives. 

He reflected on his experience of participating in the panel in an email to The News-Letter.

“The DEI panel is an opportunity for me to reflect on my past experience with the program while filtering out the helpful details that benefit people who have similar backgrounds and goals as I did,” he wrote. “I felt connected and learned from the differences of [the panelists’] journies.”

Future Fest also included a “Story Slam” speaker event, where audience members heard from the stories shared by four current students. Each student narrated their own story of diversity and success at Hopkins. 

Wong, the founder of NextGen Accessibility, was one of the “Story Slam” speakers. Her organization focuses on improving digital access and literacy among disabled youth. She discussed the connection between storytelling and advocacy.

“Storytelling is a natural part of advocacy whether you’re working in the field like me or just trying to get what you need,“ she wrote. “I decided to share my story at Story Slam to highlight the power of ‘owning’ your experience and recognizing that your experience is valid.”

According to Wong, her background in public health research helped her pivot into disability advocacy. She hopes that her story would help students recognize the importance of adapting to different circumstances.

Senior Assistant Director for Student Disability Services Tessa Mckenzie explained that the companies at Future Fest are intentionally recruiting students with disabilities in an email to The News-Letter.

“Groups like NASA Goddard and Northrup Grumman nurture systems-advocacy by recognizing the benefits of our students’ full, authentic collaboration,“ she wrote. “These employers understand that staff with disabilities enhance workplace culture and contribute to more dynamic problem solving.” 

However, not all students were pleased with Future Fest’s career fair offerings. 

Senior Jerome Francis expressed his dissatisfaction with the lack of big-name employers on certain days of Future Fest’s career fairs in an interview with The News-Letter.

“All that really matters is that more employers show up,“ he said “I found it pretty disappointing that [Hopkins is] supposedly top 20 in CS, and Microsoft, Google and Amazon didn’t even show up.”

Freshman AJ Hernandez also noted that the virtual format of the fair made it difficult to connect and communicate with recruiters. 

Despite that, he highlighted that Future Fest was helpful for providing him with his first taste of the professional opportunities offered. 

“It helped me know what actually is in the area because before that I had no clue what options were here at all,“ he said. “It really helped me see what there is around here and what I can look into and what kinds of fields there are.”

Looking ahead to next year, Golden expects more programming components created using connections within the alumni community. He added that Future Fest will likely continue to be virtual for inclusivity and convenience.

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