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Career Center Names New Executive Director

By Roxana Hadadi

Gihan Fernando

Jeff Watts

When Gihan Fernando wanted to change his career, he knew exactly where to go for advice: back to his career office at Georgetown University, where he received his law degree.

“I wanted more meaningful work,” Fernando says of his decision many years ago to leave corporate law for higher education. “A formal process of career guidance helped me structure my thinking about what I wanted to do with my life and then helped me develop a strategy to get there.”

Part of that strategy was launching a campaign to speak with fellow graduates about other ways to use his law degree. Through networking, he was able to learn about a range of experiences and find out what might match his particular interests. Fernando wanted a position that allowed him to help students maximize their abilities and potential — a desire that led him to choose higher education.

Fernando joined the American University Career Center in August 2012 as its new executive director after two decades in career and student services at Cornell Law School, NYU School of Law, and Georgetown University Law Center. As executive director, Fernando will work to develop and implement the best services for students and alumni and lead the Career Center’s objectives both on and off campus.

Guided by his advising background, Fernando believes the Career Center’s primary goal is to provide students tools for success “in a very intentional, thoughtful way.” The Career Center, recently ranked 10th in the country by the Princeton Review, offers a wealth of services including group and individual advising, resume and cover letter preparation, interview training, and myriad opportunities to connect with prospective employers for internships and jobs. Fernando plans to continue to promote these and other services so that every student, no matter their background or discipline, is aware of the resources available to them. In doing so, he hopes to help students find pathways and overcome difficulties, an endeavor he finds deeply satisfying.

Fernando, who took an extended internship in Sri Lanka after receiving his BA in political economy from Johns Hopkins University, believes it is imperative for students to expand their horizons and take advantage of internships. Eighty-eight percent of AU graduates have held one or more internships during their time at the university and Fernando applauds this strong culture of experiential learning.

“There are so many benefits to interning. You get to apply what you are learning in class in the workplace and develop and enhance your substantive skills. Interning can help you develop mentors and contacts who can be helpful in your search for a full-time position. In addition, you learn some life skills: what it is like to wake up and go to work on time and have accountability on projects,” Fernando says.

Looking forward, Fernando acknowledges the challenges facing graduating students who are just beginning their careers. “But for the Career Center, that’s another chance to help AU students become the best they can be,” he says.

“I’m delighted that the employment rate [for AU graduates] continues to be strong, but we don’t want to take that for granted,” Fernando says. “We want to make sure our graduates are exceptionally well prepared to take advantage of the available opportunities.”