Campus visits now include choosing a career

New university program gets students on a career path before enrollment

career-students-universityThe University Of Evansville (UE) may hold a unique approach suited for the future of college enrollment: A career advantage program (CAP) that gets students started with career planning as early as the first time they visit the UE campus.

As a traditional university that holds four colleges—Schroeder School of business, College of Engineering and Computer Science, College of Education and health Sciences, and the William L. Ridgeway College of Art and Sciences—UE says it is able to provide students with the program through effective budgeting and a million dollar grant from the Lilly Endowment.

The Career Advantage Program was launched two years ago as part of a broader initiative to enhance the University’s Career Services Office offerings. “We weren’t satisfied with the traditional support; that wasn’t meeting the needs of the students as well as it might,” Tom Kazee, Ph.D, President of the University of Evansville said.

Because of evolving student needs (i.e. budget planning, understanding return-on-investment with tuition, and post-graduation career success) the university decided to try and get students to plan for their careers even before committing to UE—as prospective students. When students come to visit the UE campus, they have the opportunity to visit the campus’s Center for Career development, where they can build relationships with career professionals.

“The major change is we decided that students needed to be thinking about career development at a much earlier point than they traditionally do,” Kazee said. “Students usually make the first contact [with Career Services] their junior year, which is pretty late.”

He continued to explain that the changing job market was a major factor that prompted UE to sit down at the drawing board and redesign their career service offerings. With the American economy no longer as robust and healthy, the landscape has changed, bringing much more anxiety to students and parents. Kazee emphasized the idea of students wanting a return on investment on their education—that return being a good job.

“The whole conversation nationally has changed. More and more people think of education as a commodity. In the liberal arts environment, we think that education is designed to enable you to a desirable life…We want to educate more broadly,” he emphasized.

(Next page: How CAP works)

In order to properly analyze each student’s individual needs, the program offers a career and interest inventory assessment, followed by a one-on-one career advisor appointment. The meeting consists of reviewing assessment results to get appropriate guidance and access to what the University says are critical career resources.

Doing so, students—potential or current—and advisors will be able to develop an action plan for students to explore different career options within the University and take the first step in discovering their interests and abilities.

“The choice of a career is one that should be affecting choice of a major [and] curriculum, so our sense was that students needed to be having these conversations much earlier. […] The concept is end-to-end career support,” Kazee explained.

Campus-wise, these one-to-one career advisor meetings allow students to create a curriculum plan as well as seeing what courses might enrich a students’ transcript so that they could become stronger candidates for the workforce.

Most importantly, through getting exposed to their interests sooner rather than later, UE connects students with alumni in their desired industry.

Since the university is based on a liberal arts foundation, all students are required to take such courses regardless of their choices of majors. In doing so, the University says that it is better able to serve students changing interests.

“We realize that there is some evolution in thinking…[but] these conversations are essential…The whole purpose is to assist in [student] evolutions: It is not a fixed path; we know it is not a fixed path,” said Kazee.

And CAP seems to be working. According to the University, UE boasts a 94 percent secured job rate or graduate placement within six months, based on data from 2013 graduates [The University holds data from 97 percent of its graduates, in order to better cater to their student body].

Through the Lilly Endowment, UE was able to bring in a staff member this fall, whose purpose is to develop outside industry partnerships. UE also has been able to secure relationships with Evansville companies, which include Bowin Engineering and Old National Bank.

“[There’s] strong evidence that students are now being connected with industry companies in a very effective way,” Kazee said. According to the University, UE has a 100 percent graduation rate within the engineering program.

“I think that a college or university that is not aware of the importance of supporting students in the career exploration will quickly find themselves at a disadvantage,” he concluded. “At UE, we get it.”

Carly Morales in an editorial intern with eCampus News.

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