Laura Hartpence: Colgate’s Resident Wayfinder

Laura Hartpence believes that a good resumé is nothing if not a well-told story. If this is true, then Hartpence’s six years with Career Services may be her magnum opus. In a position that can be perceived as relentlessly practical, Hartpence manages to put a smiling, human face to the looming fear that generally goes hand-in-hand with resumé-writing and career-building.

As a first-generation college graduate, Colgate’s Associate Director of Operations is uniquely sensitive to students’ potential, and empathetic to the difficulty they may have in asking for help. 

“My identity as a first-generation student was a very present part of my collegiate experience,” she said. “I didn’t necessarily know that I could ask for help or that people did take advantage … it’s important to me that everyone feels that they belong and deserve to access these resources.”

At its heart, career service is a creative line of work — Hartpence especially focuses on students’ identifiers and lives outside of the classroom, and looks to highlight them, not reduce them. Shaping a narrative is an integral part of writing a resumé and of figuring out a path for one’s future. The fact is, it’s very difficult to find a career if you haven’t found yourself.

This is where Career Services comes in: advisors act almost as self-help gurus, helping students use their past to shape their future. Hartpence personally considers herself to be a guide or an educator — not a rigid outside force looking to stifle individuality.

“It’s really helpful to have people who can act as way-finders and help you figure out what it is that may not be innate knowledge,” she said. “We’re helping you connect all the great knowledge you’re building in your academic experiences with the things you’re learning about yourself through your living and co-curricular experiences, with things that you may have brought with you, like personal identity or past life experiences, and helping students shape that into a vision of what they want.”

Hartpence’s gift for teaching and listening is something that she has been in touch with since she first entered the workforce, as a track and field coach at Slippery Rock University. Until she was a senior in college, when a track and field coach pointed out her talent, fostering her unique gift for education had not really occurred to her.

Hartpence readily admits that her journey to Career Services has been a convoluted one, but one she would not change for the world. She might, however, have had an easier time if she had somebody like herself to point the way.

“I love the path that I’m on,” she said sheepishly. “But if i were giving advice to my 18 or 20 year-old self, I would say, ‘Hey, go check out Career Services and take advantage of the wisdom that’s over there.’”