All of the projects, tools, resources, and strategies implemented in our faculty-led Career Readiness initiative drive towards helping liberal arts students conceptualize and articulate the value of their education. Our ultimate goal is for College of Liberal Arts alumni to be the most desirable graduates available to employers, graduate programs, and professional schools.
CLA’s Context and Organizational Structure
The College of Liberal Arts (CLA) at the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities has embarked on an ambitious effort to make career readiness an integral part of the undergraduate student experience through the Career Readiness Initiative. We are a national leader in evolving our approach to serving 13,500+ undergraduate liberal arts students, who make up approximately 45% of all undergraduate students at The University of Minnesota–Twin Cities campus. The College of Liberal Arts consists of 31 academic departments, and 65+ majors and 70+ minors.
Readiness is one of four strategic CLA Roadmap goals formulated under the leadership of Dean John Coleman in 2014. The Career Readiness Initiative is structurally positioned within CLA's Office of Undergraduate Education, with oversight by the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education. The initiative is funded by an annual recurring investment by the Office of the Provost of $500,000.
The current organizational structure for Career Readiness was put into place at the end of the second year of the initiative. The original Faculty Director position has been elevated to become part of the role of Associate Dean, as this position oversees units where Career Readiness is integrated, such as Career Services, Academic Advising, President's Emerging Scholars Program, the Martin Luther King Junior Program, and the Office of Student Experience. A different Faculty Director role focused on the Faculty Engagement Strategy of the Career Readiness Initiative has been created to lead the effort to embed Career Readiness into the classroom, working with faculty and instructors in the college. The original position of Coordinator of Career Readiness was elevated to a Director-level position to drive the day-to-day responsibilities and opportunities to impact the student experience across the college. Career Readiness has invested in the development of the Career Management Curriculum in CLA by funding the Curriculum Coordinator position in CLA Career Services. Career management courses are largely taught by CLA Career Services counselors, with additional sections taught by teaching specialists who are mostly CLA academic advisors.
The Career Readiness Initiative and CLA Career Services are separate but well-coordinated and interdependent units within the Office of Undergraduate Education (UGE), which also includes units for academic advising and student services; first-year and transfer student experience; curriculum; communication, recruitment, scholarships, and awards; diversity, inclusion, and equity programs and initiatives; individualized degree programs; and the learning abroad initiative. Together, the UGE units provide resources, opportunities, and systems that promote student academic success, professional readiness, and personal wellbeing.
Also critical to the success of the Career Readiness Initiative is the support and effort of a dedicated cross-functional committee of CLA faculty and staff, the Compass Team, which meets monthly to provide a coordinated effort on different aspects of the Career Readiness work that is going on at all times throughout the college.
Our Philosophy and Purposes
CLA approaches Career Readiness as being the work of everyone in the college. The responsibility for career development is shared between student services units and academic units, as CLA faculty are key participants in the Career Readiness Initiative working to embed the framework of the Core Competencies into the classroom. This integrated model bridges both the curricular and co-curricular experiences of students.
The key focus of the Career Readiness Initiative is to help liberal arts students understand the Core Competencies they are developing in their liberal arts education, articulate how they have developed these competencies through their academic and co-curricular experiences, and translate the value of these experiences into the language of employers. Additionally, the Career Readiness Initiative serves to:
- Create a cohesive and unavoidable student experience as it relates to Career Readiness and Career Management
- Help students plan both their academic and co-curricular experiences to develop their Core Competencies
- Provide a proactive approach to defending the liberal arts as a sufficient and even preferential preparation for future career success
- Provide a common language for all staff and faculty to talk about the value of the liberal arts from a position of strength
- Help level the playing field for first-generation students and those from underrepresented backgrounds
- Fulfill our land grant mission and advance the importance of how our graduates shape our communities and our state
Development of Our Framework
We conducted extensive research and peer review of key reports and articles related to liberal arts education and employers while developing our Career Readiness Initiative. CLA asked employers what they most valued in recently hired and experienced employees. We also asked our CLA alumni what made them successful in their careers. Overwhelmingly, they reported that the liberal arts education generally and competencies such as thinking critically, communicating clearly, and solving complex problems are what matter more than having a specific major as a career path. In other words, employers and alumni told us that a liberal arts degree, with its emphasis on a well-rounded education, is the foundation for a productive and successful career. Accordingly, the centerpiece of our Career Readiness framework is a set of ten Core Competencies that reflect the very essence of liberal arts education. These competencies were identified through discussions with employers, graduate and professional schools, faculty members, students, alumni, government agencies, and national career development organizations.
CLA Career Services Structure
CLA Career Services strives to offer a continuum of increasingly inclusive, unavoidable, high impact career management development that advances readiness for all CLA students. The office has four functional areas: Career Counseling, Employer Engagement, Career Management Curriculum, and Internship Support. Each serves a distinct purpose, but all are interrelated in the day-to-day work of the primary mission for CLA Career Services: To develop our students' competency in Career Management, which is one of the ten Core Competencies for CLA.
Career counseling uses a blended model to support our liberal arts students, by their major or by their intended career field.
- Support by Major: Each major or department in CLA has a dedicated liaison relationship with one of our career counselors. This facilitates more personalized referrals from the departments to CLA Career Services and has allowed counselors to develop expertise in the unique career needs of students in each major across our 31 departments and more than 65 majors in the college.
- Support by Career Field: During the second semester of our required First-Year Experience course, students are asked to opt in to receive one or more of our eight Career Field Monthly Updates. (This is also broadly advertised to all liberal arts students and is integrated into the career management course curriculum.) The eight Career Fields are Arts, Business, Communications & Media, Education, Government & Law, Healthcare & Science, Nonprofit & Advocacy, and Tech.
Both of these counseling paths are closely aligned with our Career Readiness Initiative, our employer engagement efforts, and our Career Management model (Explore, Experience, Excel).
Scaling Up Our Support of Students
We do not rely on students to visit our CLA Career Services office; rather, we use every opportunity to integrate Career Readiness tools and resources into the student experience at key moments and touchpoints including recruitment activities, admissions events, orientation, advising appointments, First-Year Experience and Transfer Student Experience Courses, etc. For example:
- CLA’s Career Readiness Guide is put into the hands of every CLA student to provide an overview of Career Readiness and support students in all stages of their Career Management.
- CLA Career Corner is emailed to all CLA students, faculty, and staff on the first of each month to highlight timely career management information, opportunities to engage with employers, and other relevant information primarily for students (and also as a key strategy to build a culture of career in CLA).
- The CLA Career Hub is a student-facing webpage centralizing all of the tools and services for their career preparation, including a section that helps students understand the ten Core Competencies through alumni videos that describe how the competencies have given CLA graduates an advantage in their careers.
- RATE™, our digital reflection and self-assessment tool, allows students view a course assignment or co-curricular activity as a career readiness experience and Reflect on the experience, Articulate how that experience helped them develop competencies, Translate how those competencies are of value in professional contexts, Evaluate their level of readiness in those competencies through a self-assessment.
- MyCareerManagement, our digital recommendation tool, checks a student's career progress and suggests next steps they can take for their career preparation.
Faculty & Department Engagement
Engaging students in a consistent conversation about the value of their liberal arts education ultimately needs to happen in the classroom. With 500 tenured faculty and 300+ instructors in CLA, providing opportunities for them to engage in the work and to think differently about their teaching has become a central focus of the Career Readiness effort in the college. CLA’s Core Competencies are aligned with the Student Learning Outcomes of the University of Minnesota. Embedding these outcomes into syllabi, assignments, and classroom discussions is critical in order for students to connect what they are learning in the classroom to their future career success.
Our Faculty Engagement strategy has been led by both the Associate Dean (Ascan Koerner) and the Faculty Director of Faculty Engagement (Amy Lee). This effort has been coordinated with the departmental career counseling model to leverage partnerships with faculty and departments. Key faculty engagement strategies include:
- Creation of the Career Readiness Teaching Fellows (with 52 faculty and instructor fellows and 17 graduate instructors participating as of Fall 2019, representing 21 of our 31 departments)
- Creation of the Faculty Advisory Board to guide messaging and direction
- Building out additional faculty leadership roles and recognizing participation
- Communicating upfront in the initial stages of Career Readiness with departments, and regular updates from the Dean (leveraging the Roadmap goal)
- Building community and providing opportunities outside of departmental silos for faculty to engage around teaching and learning
- Incentivizing participation with stipends for use as professional development funds
- Leveraging the voices of involved faculty to tell their story to others
- Inviting skeptics to join and responding to their concerns (their voices help to shape the direction of the Career Readiness Initiative)
To help incentivize CLA departments that want to initiate, revise, or expand their ability to support undergraduate career readiness, our Career Readiness initiative provides small grants of up to $2,000 to support an event, program, activity or new opportunity related to career readiness.
To recognize faculty and departmental staff who engage deeply in advancing the goals of the Career Readiness Inititative, CLA confers annual awards. The Career Readiness Teaching Award of $2,500 recognizes an instructor who has made outstanding contributions to undergraduates’ career readiness in the College of Liberal Arts and demonstrated leadership in our Career Readiness initiative. CLA staff who find new ways to incorporate career readiness language and thinking into the daily work of the college, in service of helping students understand and articulate the value of their liberal arts education, are recognized with the Career Readiness Advocate Award of $1,200.
Timeline of Our Implementation
Professor Ascan Koerner is appointed Faculty Director for Career Readiness
A college-wide steering committee, the Compass Team, is established
Alumni, employers, and faculty identify 10 core competencies that are inherent in liberal arts education
A Career Readiness Coordinator is hired to support the initiative
Workgroups are established to identify strategic projects
Opportunities to integrate Career Readiness into the student experience are identified
Core Career Competencies are defined
A college-wide campaign about the value of a liberal arts education is created and “the wheel” becomes the signature visual of Career Readiness, with students at the center and “the liberal arts advantage” as the headline
Career Readiness is aligned with the role of CLA Career Services and the Career Management competency is integrated into the framework (9 competencies that are inherent in the liberal arts and the 10th competency of Career Management that gives students the tools to seek and obtain the career they desire)
Several faculty groups are invited to participate and department meetings begin
A Career Readiness Guide, as a tangible resource for all CLA students, is identified as a need
A sophomore year career course is proposed
The SuperStrong is identified as a scalable tool to support career infused advising
The RATE process is conceived
The Career Readiness Teaching Fellows program is conceived
Use of the Career Readiness Pathways Administrative (Explorer Tool) begins
The Career Readiness Certificate approval process begins
36 advisors and career counselors are certified in the Strong Interest Inventory (for SuperStrong)
The Career Readiness Guide is printed and distributed to all CLA students
The Career Readiness model is presented to first-year students in the CLA 1002 First Year Experience course, along with the integration of the SuperStrong
Core Career Competencies & RATE are piloted in a CLA Career Planning course during a research project with Professor Mike Stebleton
An alumni video project is launched
A 50% time coordinator is hired to create a vision for internships in CLA
A Career Course Curriculum Coordinator is hired in CLA Career Services
The alumni and competency videos are created
The CLA Get Ready site is launched to support students' understanding of the value of their liberal arts education and to focus on helping students articulate the value of the competencies they develop throughout their education.
The CLA Internship Summit brings departments together to discuss needs for increasing the number of students completing internships, resulting in a CLA Internships Review Process
The first sophomore CLA Career Management Course is taught
24 faculty members and instructors become the first cohort of Career Readiness Teaching Fellows
Dr. Phil Gardner, Center for Employment Research at Michigan State, is guest speaker for a faculty event
The Career Readiness Certificate is approved by University of Minnesota Board of Regents
A CLA Internship Student Survey is conducted, reaching 2,400 students
The Faculty Director for Faculty Engagement role is established
Career Readiness Faculty Workshops are hosted
The CLA Internship Guide is printed and distributed
The Career Readiness Guide is updated (version 2.0)
The Internship Employer Toolkit is created
The second cohort of Career Readiness Teaching Fellows begins with a redesigned semester-long program
CLA Internship Minimum Standards are implemented
3896 becomes a common course number for all CLA Internship Courses
The third cohort of Career Readiness Teaching Fellows begins
The workshop series on Making Excellence Inclusive in Undergraduate Education features Dr. Jeffrey Milem and Rev. Dr. Jamie Washington
The Internship Insights Dashboard is launched
The Alumni Outcomes Dashboard is launched
A Career Champions site is launched in Canvas for onboarding CLA staff to the career culture of CLA
The foundation for a CLA Career Readiness Consortium is created
The fourth cohort Career Readiness Teaching Fellows is disrupted by COVID-19
The Day of Teaching and Learning is disrupted by COVID-19
The Pre-Health Initiative becomes a focus for undergraduate education
The Career Readiness Guide is updated (version 3.0)
The number of students taking CLA Career Management Courses doubles
The number of RATEs completed reaches 30,000
The MyCareerManagement Tool is piloted
Career Readiness is situated as being the work of everyone in the College of Liberal Arts. Our initiative brings together faculty and instructors, academic advisors, career counselors, and student programming staff to demonstrate to students the added value and lasting results they get from their educational experience in the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities.
How We Onboard/Train Our Faculty and Staff About Career Readiness
We developed a Career Champions training module in our Canvas course management system to equip CLA faculty and staff with an understanding of career readiness and career management information, tools, and referral resources so they can be confident in their interactions with CLA students about career preparation. Level one training is an orientation to CLA Career Readiness & CLA Career Services for understanding the liberal arts advantage, key talking points for career readiness and career services, and key resources and tools. Level two training focuses on the skills of Career Infused Advising and Mentoring, and level three is centered around Community of Practice.