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Her Chosen Field

UMD Career and Internship Services Director Julie Westlund
May 13, 2019

While appreciative of receiving the President's Award, Julie Westlund says it's not her greatest career accomplishment. 

It was her first week on the job at UMD. The Vice Chancellor for Student Life asked Julie Westlund about her career goals, “And I said, ‘I want to be director of this office.’ He burst out laughing.”

Fast forward four decades and Julie is retiring as just that. As the director of Career and Internship Services, she’s received accolades for her system-wide work– launching the job search tool GoldPASS and the University of Minnesota Job and Internship Fair, and was named a recipient of the University of Minnesota President’s Award for Outstanding Service last month.

But Julie says her greatest accomplishment is making a difference in the lives of students.

It Started with an Internship

Julie interned in Augsburg College’s career planning department and was hooked. It was 1974 and the field of career development was just emerging. A practicum at UMD during graduate school led to a job in what was then UMD’s Counseling, Career Development, and Placement office.

After eight years, she was appointed interim director and then, in 1988, director.

“What I’ve loved about this job is I’ve been allowed to be creative and innovative,” says Julie.

Julie was quick to use technology to amplify their services. When she first started, her office gathered job openings by hand, printed copies, and mailed them to students every Friday. Now internships and jobs are posted in an online service called GoldPASS, which Julie was instrumental in creating.

A tick mark on yellow legal pads was how Julie used to calculate job placement. She decided there must be an easier way, and hired computer science students who developed an online system.

“Technology has really helped facilitate getting students connected with employers, but the work is really with students and preparing them to search for jobs. That has gotten more sophisticated,” she explains. Adding there’s more art in the science of writing a resume than there was before.

Meaningful Work

A few weeks ago, the Career and Internship Services office was backed up, so Julie carved an hour out of her schedule to counsel a student. After their meeting, Julie burst out of her office and exclaimed, “Yes! That’s why I’m here!”

This purpose keeps Julie striving. Says Janet Pribyl, associate director and Julie’s friend and colleague for thirty years, “Julie is truly an amazing person. She constantly asks, ‘How can we do it better? How can we reach more students? How can we be more effective? How can we involve others?’ After all this time, she continues to inspire professionals and students with her creativity and energy.”

Julie says she got into this field because she loves counseling. She loves the measurable movement she sees when working with students, “There’s nothing more exciting to me than students who come in and are like, ‘Julie! I figured out my major!’ And I was there as they were figuring out these steps.”

President’s Award for Outstanding Service

Julie’s being honored for receiving the President’s Award for Outstanding Service on Monday, June 17, 2019. She believes her system-wide work is a significant reason she’s a recipient of this prestigious award. She had an idea to plan a system-wide job fair because, “Together we’re so much better.” Now, in its sixteenth year, the job fair draws thousands of students and 300 employers.

Of the award, Julie says, “It’s very important to me. It’s very significant. But it’s not what brings me joy. What brings me joy is the students.”

When she leaves the office for the last time this July, Julie, for the first time, doesn’t have any future goals. Instead she’s savoring a job well done. “I feel so lucky I’ve been able to work here for 40 years. To do meaningful work with people that I love– what more could you ask for?”

Career and Internship Services