Much of what we do at the University of Kentucky provides students with high quality experiences – both curricular and co-curricular activities. However, are we sure that our students recognize and can articulate efficiently and coherently the professional value of those activities? Part of our job is to make sure that students can describe a “market value” of their UK experience, thus integrating both academic and career development strategies.
Many in higher education fear that along with greater responsibility for students’ post-graduation outcomes, they are being expected to offer programs that provide training for immediate workforce demands. This is not our best step forward. Instead, academic and student life leaders might want to consider strategies that are proactive and integrated to assure student reflection and presentational skills for describing the full value of their undergraduate degrees. The Education Advisory Board (EAB) offers a list of 10 ways (download the infographic here) by which department and program leaders can assure student learning outcomes that are recognizable and valued in a job search by their graduates.
- Syllabus Competency Matching
- First-Year Field Exposure
- Early Career-Major Alignment Assessment
- Three-Course Professional Track
- Vocational Alignment Capstone
- Experiential Learning Prep Course
- Professional Development for On-Campus Jobs
- Cocurricular Transcript
- Consulting for Community Partners
- On-Campus Internship
In addition to the above ten suggestions for academic affairs and student life leaders to consider, EAB offers to UK employees a white paper that describes 34 promising practices for scaling up – across the curriculum – many kinds of experiential learning and its requisite standards for student reflection. Led by Colin Koproske, a group of consultants gathered together a wealth of tools to support strategies that can involve the whole university with cross functional teams to support a holistic approach to student success. The white paper includes as a model for others to pursue the University of Kentucky’s Guidance for Faculty Requiring Study Abroad Journals (Integrating Academic and Career Development, pp. 130-132).
By reaching across traditional student affairs and academic affairs silos, the University can help students make more informed choices early in their academic careers. While it is easy to find first-year salaries in Kentucky’s big data repositories (see the Kentucky Center for Education and Workforce Statistics), this is not – on its own – enough to describe to students today how their college experiences matter in today’s workforce. It takes nearly all the courses a student takes as well as the kinds of conversations with support staff and student organization leaders to offer a culture of learning that takes pride in communicating the combined academic and career development outcomes.
This kind of work to allow for greater ease in student communication of the “market value” of their college experiences is already underway nationally. With funding from the Lumina Foundation, the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO) and NASPA: Association of Student Affairs Professionals have been working on different models for a more comprehensive student record. The idea is to develop and implement a single learner record across many different colleges and universities in the U.S. that communicates learning outcomes not only from programs and degrees but also co-curricular activities. The College System of Tennessee is the latest awardee from the Lumina Foundation to work on a model for a Comprehensive Student Record. However, in 2016 twelve colleges and universities were chosen as pilot institutions to work on new models, including IUPUI, Elon, Stanford, UMUC, U of South Carolina and University of Wisconsin-Extension and Wisconsin Colleges. Why not Kentucky?