Whether you’re a recent college grad, a seasoned nonprofit professional, or an aspiring sector-switcher, attending the right graduate program can advance your career. For many prospective grad students, the Idealist Grad School Fairs are the perfect opportunity to take that first step and explore all of your options.
We had an opportunity to speak with Dhara Puvar about how attending the 2018 Idealist Grad School Fair in Chicago helped to shape her career path.
Name: Dhara Puvar (she/her)
Idealist Grad School Fair Attended: Chicago, 2018
Undergraduate Degree: Bachelor of Science in Psychology, Loyola University Chicago
Graduate Degree: Master of Industrial and Labor Relations, Cornell University, class of 2021
Dream Job: Not sure yet—the possibilities are endless!
What was your motivation for attending graduate school, and what were you looking for in a graduate program?
I've always been interested in people and problem solving, which led me to Loyola University's psychology program. I knew that graduate school was on the horizon, but my original aspiration—clinical psychology—didn't feel like the right fit.
My interest in global issues and organizational effectiveness led me to an internship in Human Resources (HR) at the United Nations. After spending time working in HR, I quickly realized that my passion for people and problem solving was most exciting to me when applied to making the workplace more effective and equitable. I knew that a graduate degree would allow me to expand my knowledge in these areas, while providing me with the credentials and networks I would need to propel my career forward.
I was looking for a program where I could specialize in HR while strengthening my business acumen, and that also had the flexibility to take courses across disciplines. I was also looking for a school with a tight-knit community and the opportunity to build meaningful relationships with faculty and staff.
What was the search like for you, and how did the Idealist Grad School Fair help?
I began my search online reviewing lists of HR-focused graduate programs, but the lists never seemed exhaustive and my interests in labor and international studies caused me to expand my search.
Then I saw an ad for an Idealist Grad School Fair in Chicago. It was the perfect opportunity to see what else was out there. That week I met dozens of representatives who I spoke to about my interests and their programs.
Just as I was about to leave, I spotted a table for Cornell University near the exit. I met Darrie, the Master of Industrial and Labor Relations (MILR) Program's Recruiting and Outreach Coordinator, and we instantly hit it off. She asked me about what I wanted out of graduate school as well as my background and academic interests, and was sure that the MILR program would be a great fit for me. Over the next few weeks I researched the program and reached out to alumni. Because the MILR program is not a traditional HR degree, I would not have found it on a typical web search. I'm so grateful that the Idealist Grad School Fair connected me with Cornell.
What has your graduate experience been like?
My experience in the MILR program has been phenomenal—it is truly the best place to study the world of work. The program's interdisciplinary nature has allowed me to take courses from across the university, both to fulfill my degree requirements and also explore my interests.
Moreover, the network at the ILR School is so strong. Our cohort is the tight-knit, supportive community I was looking for, and the faculty and staff are so hands-on in helping students achieve our personal and professional goals. From the wide array of organizations that come to campus seeking MILR graduates to join their organizations, to the alumni in leadership roles that return to Cornell to pass on their knowledge and experiences, the caliber of the program speaks for itself.
Through our on-campus recruiting program I was able to land an incredible internship this summer and am gearing up to start on my post-graduation career path. From leading a student organization and working as a teaching assistant to traveling for case competitions and conducting research, I've been able to experience so much in my short time here. I consider myself very fortunate, and I can't imagine being anywhere else!
What advice would you give to people considering graduate school?
Take time to really understand yourself and what your personal goals are before choosing a graduate program. Engage in some self reflection, talk to students and faculty at the programs you are considering, and think about how the degree will help you meet your career goals.
Grad school is a huge commitment, but you will be set up for success if you are truly passionate about what you plan to study and are confident that the program you choose is the right fit for you.
And I would definitely recommend attending an Idealist Grad School Fair; you can only learn so much about a program from its website. Meeting representatives from the school, making connections, and seeing the wide range of possibilities will only benefit you in your search. If you keep an open mind, you might just stumble upon the perfect place to begin your graduate school journey.
Interested in learning more about what graduate school can do for you? The Idealist Grad School Fairs are free and open to all students who are interested in a social-impact career. Learn more about Idealist Grad School Fairs taking place this fall and start planning your future today.
Angel uses his skills as a storyteller to support and inspire job seekers and aspiring social-impact professionals.