Guest blog post by Ray Angle, Assistant Vice President for Career & Professional Development at Gonzaga University and Matt Small, President and CEO of Symplicity.
As the semester wraps up, career centers across the country are closing the books on another tumultuous semester in the wake of upheaval from the pandemic. Without access to a crystal ball (and if you have one, let us know), many career services professionals are planning for the year ahead, once again, into somewhat uncharted territory. Despite the unknown, continued challenges provide an opportunity for career centers to re-evaluate their cross-campus partnerships and faculty collaborations.
As the heads of Gonzaga’s career center and Symplicity, we know the value of cross-campus collaboration between faculty and career centers is critical to supporting career readiness among students. In fact, we’d argue that it’s central to the sustainability of higher education as a whole as more and more institutions are under pressure to show career readiness outcomes for their students. Not to mention, career centers are pivotal in the conversations surrounding a renewed spotlight on diversity, equity, and inclusion. However, getting faculty to care about their students’ careers and see career development as part of their role can be challenging. Barriers between academic and career services professionals are slowly coming down as institutions continue to emphasize a holistic approach to student success.
It's understood that faculty have the most frequent and impactful touch points with students, more so than any other campus stakeholder. So connecting with them in a meaningful way is key to any career center’s success. While that’s not breaking news to professionals in the field, knowing that and acting on it are two different things. There are many barriers to bridging campus faculty and the career center, such as the old notion that faculty don’t care about their students’ career readiness or that the career center is another unnecessary student service. Both of those old notions aren’t true, but the challenges that come with cross-campus collaboration are.
But, how exactly do we foster collaboration between career centers and faculty?
Following the lead of Gonzaga University might be a starting point. At Gonzaga, we have seen the success of the Career Kindler Training Program that Ray Angle oversees. The program gets its name from the inspirational quote, “Go forth, and set the world on fire,” which is attributed to the founder of the Jesuit order, St. Ignatius Loyola. The career center views its faculty as partners, central to “kindling” the fires of career success in their students. Over four years, more than 90 faculty and staff have completed this four-hour career development and coaching training program.
Another faculty engagement program that Gonzaga has is a faculty career engagement grant. Since 2019 the career center has been offering a $500 stipend to encourage faculty use for in-classroom career readiness, outside speakers, experiential learning activities, and work-based learning programming. The grant funding application process provides clear guidelines on how the $500 can be used, and encourages faculty members to think beyond the classroom. Emphasis is placed on integrating career development into advising, meetings, classroom discussion, and other interactions with students. It’s become a popular program that has fostered tremendous faculty and staff camaraderie and collaboration.
To recognize its standout faculty, the career center hosts a Faculty Appreciation Breakfast at the beginning of the academic year prior to freshmen convocation where faculty partners are recognized for completing the Career Kindler Program. We know that students listen to faculty members and getting faculty engaged with the career center has been extremely impactful. The career center will also support faculty members going through the tenure and promotion process by writing letters of commendation outlining how the faculty member has integrated career development into the curriculum and engaged with the career center.
Career centers need to market their programs and services consistently and effectively to faculty members – not just to students. This combats the faculty perception that the career center isn’t doing anything for their students. Up-to-date data on student successes coupled with direct outreach to faculty can rectify that false belief. By scheduling routine meetings with deans of colleges, presenting in classrooms, connecting faculty with outside speakers and employers, and suggesting ways to share resources can go a long way in developing goodwill and long-term partners.
Career centers can launch their faculty engagement strategies in very simple ways. Consider reaching out to key faculty members and opening the door of communication. Inviting faculty members to participate in, and possibly lead, existing programs and services makes them feel included and integral to student success.
By showcasing what your office does, as well as the tools available to faculty, you can turn faculty into long-term stakeholders who will promote career services to all students ¾ particularly those who may not typically seek out or use your services. Think of the English major who has studied the classics, but is in the career center their senior year and isn’t sure what’s next other than an academic career that doesn’t seem tangible.
Faculty input to show students what skills they are learning in the classroom and how they can translate their knowledge and skills into an internship, job, or more, can be instrumental in making a real difference to a student.
Ray Angle is the Assistant Vice President for Career & Professional Development at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington with more than 30 years of experience in college career services and teaching. Gonzaga began its partnership with Symplicity in 2020. You can read the press release here and Symplicity's subsequent blog post on the partnership here.
Matt Small is the president and CEO of Symplicity.
Symplicity CSM enables institutions to build better connections not only with employers and students, but across campus. Symplicity CSM has been a trusted collaborator for career services professionals for over 20 years. With unmatched client support, Symplicity works in tandem with institutions to integrate its systems to meet the needs of each institution and ensure cross-campus collaboration to holistically support students. To learn more about CSM Pathways, EL Module, and more can help your institution, watch our video below or schedule a conversation.