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.
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.