Two posts ago, I promised to talk about schools that were doing a bang-up job of integrating services designed to help students move from the classroom to post-college life. I lied. I just had to interject a post about applying Early Decision first.
But now it’s time to get back to Classroom to Career.
Colleges are increasingly pressed to articulate their value proposition. Though that demand is anathema to many faculty and administrators alike, the ROI – the return on the investment – what you are going to get back from college after spending tens if not thousands of dollars – has become a daily topic of conversation both inside and outside of the academy.
This is changing the very definition of college. Those undergraduate years used to be seen as a warm and fuzzy place you went to incubate as a human. Once hatched, you entered the career laid out for you by your relatives and the social stratum to which you belonged. It is no longer that. Now, students go off to college with the urgent need to integrate their interests and passions with the exigencies of the world around them. They confront the question of their role on the local and global levels and need hard and soft skills to meet the demands of every workplace they enter. They do not enter one career and retire from that very same career several decades later in the same location. They enter one career and may shift six or seven or more times and work on multiple continents in a wide variety of industries.
The best way to ensure students move as seamlessly as possible from the classroom to their careers – to make the return on investment obvious and to articulate the value proposition – is to begin early, from the moment a first-year student sets foot on the campus. In full realization of this need, some colleges have already begun to integrate their academic advising programs with career education offerings. This is wise and necessary. Those who are doing it well can serve as models for those who need to meet this challenge internally and structurally.
Washington State University has already done so. They stated their goal is to offer “a holistic approach to academic advising and career success…. More than just a major, a degree at WSU is built with internships, service learning, undergraduate research, and more.” This is a good sign.
Integration is the name of the academic advising/career education game, for sure. My worry is that they say their services are for undeclared and undecided students. That means that declared majors are depending on their departments for integrated, holistic advising, which is not always realistic. Faculty are seriously inundated with myriad responsibilities, and most, understandably, do not have time to focus on career education strategies for undergraduates.
Keene State College has put the academic advisers and career advisers in the same place. This is also a great strategy. The more advisers have a chance to learn from one another, the greater benefit to students.
I love Lansing Community College’s tag line: “Your one-stop-shop for academic advising, career exploration and advising, and success coaching.” Bravo, Lansing. Well done. This is hard to do, but so worth it for the students.
Others include California State University, East Bay, Northwest College, Towson University, and Humboldt State University.
Another interesting approach is offering courses that help you integrate your academic and career choices. You’ll have to wait for the next post for that though.
With less than two weeks to go before the early decision deadline, high school seniors and their parents, guardians, and other caring folks in their midst can get frantic. The whole process seems so daunting.
Here is some unsolicited advice that I hope will help.
Anxiety about getting into the “right” college, especially in some circles, is off the charts.
Unfortunately, national anxiety about our college drop-out crisis is not high enough to generate widespread conversation about systemic solutions.
The national discussion about the student debt crisis is also not broad or deep enough, in spite of a number of organizations bravely taking it on.
Every college I know of is working hard to help students finance and complete their educations. Obviously, some can do more than others.
But all of them can re-think the advising and support structure to help students not only finish their degrees, but land satisfying, productive, and valuable jobs after graduating. The traditional college has separate and distinct offices that lead:
In order to move students from the classroom to a career in the best possible way, colleges must throw this model out and integrate these into one seamless enterprise. That is the only way colleges can ensure that the choices students make in college will serve them well in their future lives.
So, if you are a high school junior or senior, or the parent of one, ask your prospective colleges how they move students from the classroom to their careers. Find out how integrated their services are. At most schools, the answer is disappointing. My next post will focus on some schools that are doing it well.
Today in The Washington Post, Jeffrey Selingo, a superb expert on all things higher-education-related, published an article (“As college admissions season begins, important advice for high-school seniors”) with four pieces of advice to high school students preparing to apply to college. In brief, they are:
I agree with these four points to an extent, but I would add two pieces of advice before these four.
The real question is: How is it that some are so good!??
Faculty hold the only positions that I know of in the U.S. where the stated job qualifications don't match the job performance requirements. Faculty are appointed for their scholarship and, then, once in the job, there’s a bait and switch. Now, they are expected to write memos, teach undergraduates and graduate students, run strategic and academic planning committees and divisional meetings, master departmental and school budgets, use technology in pedagogically effective ways, and lead change in the fraught and complicated higher education landscape. But they have never had the opportunity to learn to do any of that. They have been encouraged to research, write, present, and publish. Not learn to teach, manage, and lead!
Faculty members are appointed because they have done great research and written in ways that are acceptable within their field. They have published some, can give an engaging “job talk” to their future departmental colleagues, and seem to be garnering the esteem of others in their field of inquiry. They are hired on the basis of their scholarship, their ability to think, write, test hypotheses, and advance the progress of human thought. Never in a hiring conversation with a faculty member will you hear “committee work” or “teaching” or “budget management” discussed. And if you tried, you would be scorned by your colleagues.
Yet, year after year, new faculty members join departments and are expected to do all of these things that weren’t part of the conversation during the hiring process. How the heck are they supposed to lead and manage people, committee, and budgets if they have had to focus all of the noble pursuit of advancing human erudition?
In the meantime, millions of high school students have decided to say YES to a particular college because of the strength of the academic departments. They have high hopes. And, of course, they are paying high fees. And yet no one who is going to teach those students has ever been given the chance to learn to teach. Of course, there are a couple of “born teachers,” but they are few and far between.
So, if you have a great teacher for your Economics, Spanish, Politics, Religion, Computer Science, or Geography class, count yourself lucky. That faculty member has taken it upon him- or herself to research pedagogy, to practice, and to become good at engaging students. It’s not a requirement of the job, and yet they have made the time to do it. Thank them. Let them know how much you appreciate them.
Oh, and by the way, good teaching is not going to help the tenure-track faculty member get tenure. The advice they receive time and time again is not to focus on teaching, but to get that next book or paper out. So, they are endeavoring to become a good teacher out of a sense of ethical responsibility. To you. The student.
When you really think about it, this is a ridiculous state of affairs. Isn't it time we address this systemically? Shouldn’t faculty be given the time and reasonable chance to learn to teach students, manage budgets and committees, and lead change in the higher education landscape? The future of higher education depends on it.
For many years, as a dean at three Ivy League colleges and now as an AVP at a university with an extraordinary mission, I have had a front row seat to the obstacles to success that college students and their parents confront every year. Even at so-called elite, highly selective colleges such as Princeton, Harvard, and Columbia, where I spent some of my career, students struggle on a daily basis to remain healthy, happy, grounded, and to stay in school. I am dedicated to helping them.