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Career Champions recognized for commitment to supporting student goals, aspirations

Feilim Mac Gabhann, Caroline Ouwerkerk, and Natalie Strobach honored by Homewood Career Center

Many Johns Hopkins students find their paths with the help of passionate faculty and staff from around the university. This month, the Homewood Career Center celebrated hundreds of faculty and staff who were nominated by current Homewood students as top supporters of their dreams, life planning, and careers. All awardees received thank you notes from students and small gifts for their dedication.

Three faculty and staff received the most nominations and were awarded Career Champion Awards, which include a gift card and official certificates.

The full list of all nominated champions who have made a difference in student's lives can be found on the Career Center website. The Career Champions for 2019 are:

Feilim Mac Gabhann

Image caption: Feilim Mac Gabhann

Feilim Mac Gabhann

Associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and the Institute for Computational Medicine

Students say Mac Gabhann is there for them, regardless of the path they're considering. "I had never given a single thought to doing a PhD, but after taking his class and joining his lab as an undergraduate, my idea of what scientific research is has drastically changed," said one student. "His steady mentorship and enthusiasm for science constantly inspire me and have made a tremendous difference in my career journey, from undergrad all the way till now, a few years into my PhD in his lab."

Other students said he supported them while they studied for the MCAT, even if it meant they had to take time away from doing research or completing their work for him.

Caroline Ouwerkerk

Assistant Director for Student Leadership and Development at the Center for Social Concern

Caroline Ouwerkerk

Image caption: Caroline Ouwerkerk

Ouwerkerk says talking with students about their post-JHU plans is one of her favorite parts of her work. She has been an assistant director at the Center for Social Concern for four years. She interacts with almost 3,000 students every year from her shared office on Charles Street, including 40 who attend CSC pre-orientation service programs, and via her advising of more than 50 student orgs. She says many JHU students are affected by the same "job shaming" that she saw when she was studying at University of Chicago. Students feel pressure to be "worthy of their education," which doesn't help them find a career that fits their passions.

"Passion is created, not found," Ouwerkerk says. "You don't need to know what you're looking for to find it. I really love helping students leverage their strengths, find meaning in their work, and connect their areas of interest and skills."

Students say Ouwerkerk challenges them and helps them re-examine their plans and values to find more creative paths in both academic and professional careers. "I always learn something new about myself and leave thinking about more than what I expected to," one student said.

Another student added: "Her personal mentorship and genuine care for her students and interns have led many of us to reconsider our career purposes and directions."

Natalie Strobach

Image caption: Natalie Strobach

Natalie Strobach

Director of undergraduate research and director of the Humanities Collaboratory at the Krieger School of the Arts and Sciences

"I couldn't think of anything more wonderful than working with such brilliant and driven students," says Strobach, who meets with 40 to 60 students a week to develop and push their research plans forward. She helps them to design their learning through research, develop grant applications, manage their research budgets, and learn other related skills. When she meets with students, she often asks where they see themselves in 10 years so she can help design their future.

Her guidance has made a difference in students' lives from their first year through their PhD programs. "Dr. Strobach has taken me under her wing and has provided continuous guidance over my junior year on graduate school applications … she has given me advice about what to look for in a graduate school program and has given me the boost of confidence I needed to be fearless as I prepare my application," one student said. "Dr. Strobach is an incredibly valuable person and mentor, and I feel beyond blessed to have crossed paths with her."