Developing Desirable Graduates
Lisa Channer has watched the pendulum shift from employers seeking graduates with science and technology degrees to wanting graduates with emotional intelligence and strong people skills. Channer, an associate professor of theatre arts and dance and head of the undergraduate performance program, knows that theatre students are indispensable hires because their varied competencies apply to any profession.
While studying theatre, students acquire capabilities like collaboration, communication, and flexible thinking. The next step is conveying what they’ve learned and explaining how they could apply them on the job. “I want to make sure that students know the skills they are learning make them incredibly valuable,” Channer says. “We want to make the liberal arts a degree to be proud of and give students the language to explain why.”
As a faculty fellow, Channer is working to help students more fully flesh out the competencies they learn during theatre classes. She started with an existing assignment for her Creating the Performance class called the One-Hour Project. Students pick a topic from the news, history, or personal experience. Then they lead a group of students in creating and staging a performance that they’ve had just one hour to rehearse. It covers four competencies, including leadership and teamwork.
Though students already write a reflective paper about the project, Channer will have them use the RATE tool to take a bigger-picture look at the experience. “It will be good for them to understand that when you work on a play with a group of people, you’re working on math ideas and spatial relationships. They might not recognize that,” she says. “It’s about articulating what we’re doing in a way that the rest of the world can understand and appreciate.”
Going forward, Channer plans to use some of the information she’s learned as a faculty fellow as her department revamps its own career readiness course. She aims to incorporate this focus on the core competencies and supports for students to think about life after college, while encouraging peers to follow suit with their own classes.