Career Center director retires

Times have changed since Dee Thompson, director of the Career Center, returned to school in 1981 to earn a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in counseling at Portland State.

Times have changed since Dee Thompson, director of the Career Center, returned to school in 1981 to earn a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in counseling at Portland State. Thompson began working in the Career Center as a student and continued working there for 29 years, 10 years of which she spent as director. She will retire on March 19. 

“[Thompson’s] overseen the transition from a paper-based job application system to a state of the art internet jobs database,” said Mary Vance, Career Center counselor.

When Thompson began at the center, students had to physically come into the office to access job postings, and large binders were kept on file for students to research company information.

Thompson is glad that students have more opportunity to be active participants in the career development process with the advent of the Internet. The downside can be the large volume of available information that student have to wade through to determine what is useful to them.

“Using technology efficiently and effectively is important and talking with a [career] counselor is useful,” Thompson said.

She considers the Career Center work a team effort, and credits Louise A. Paradis, assistant director of the Career Center, as a major figure in designing the way the Web site looks today, Thompson said. 

According to Thompson, students’ résumés became more sophisticated after samples were posted on the Web site and students can search what can be done with their majors and even what kind of organizations hire in particular fields.

Thompson feels the process of choosing a career and finding a job can be quite daunting and thinks the Career Center staff does an exceptional job of demystifying the career choice and job search processes for PSU students.
During her time at PSU, Thompson has been creative in partnering with organizations like Idealist ( and in obtaining grants to increase services and resources for students during a time when the university was growing exponentially and funding was at a standstill or shrinking, Vance said.
“[Thompson] was the driving force behind pursuing and receiving the Miller grant that is funding our sustainability initiatives this year. She understands how to navigate the complex PSU bureaucracy to get what she needs for students,” Vance said.

The James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation grant allowed the Career Center to hire Vance to help develop a Web site for students looking for careers in sustainability, with resources that include interviews with people working in sustainability.

Several years ago, Thompson began working with Idealist, and the group now holds one of their 20 annual nonprofit career fairs at PSU in addition to activities that help students understand the kind of careers available in the nonprofit sector, she said.

“Dee is known all across campus for her service to students, generosity of spirit, graciousness and good humor. I have been honored to work with her as a colleague, mentor, supervisor and friend,” Paradis said.

If Thompson could change one thing about PSU, it would be to have more resources that better serve students, although she praises Student Affairs for doing a lot with very little funding, Thompson said.

Thompson will miss students and their amazing stories and considers it a privilege to be a career counselor and to work with the unique population of students at PSU and help them on their journey.

“The thing I’ll miss the most is my colleagues at the university,” Thompson said.

Terri Bennett, a recruiting coordinator who has worked with Thompson for over 20 years, said, “I have always appreciated Dee for the respect she gives the staff at the Career Center, and that respect is mutual by all of us. We will miss her terribly, but wish her a very happy retirement.”

Every spring, Thompson spends time relaxing at a spa that includes daily hikes in the southern Utah red rocks by Zion National Park. Her plans are to continue this after retirement, Thompson said.

 “I am going to take some time off to relax and see what my next adventure will be,” Thompson said.  

Vance said Thompson leaves a legacy of professionalism and service to her colleagues, the university community and countless PSU students.

“[I] can’t imagine anything better than counseling students about their career choice,” Thompson said.

To access job information, visit

To access sustainability career information,

Making the most of the Career Fair

“Resist the temptation to pick up literature and walk away,” Thompson said

According to Thompson, the most important thing a student needs to do at a career fair is to introduce themselves to representatives from different organizations and talk about their majors and interests.

Questions to ask
– What is your hiring process?
– What are some typical entry-level positions?
– Do you have internships available?
– What might a typical job title be for someone with my degree?

Consider coming back later if there is a long line of students waiting to speak with a representative.