PULLMAN, Wash.—Starting early in their college program, Washington State University students will soon directly experience how college coursework prepares them to be career ready, thanks to a University Common Requirements (UCORE) general education pilot program.

The inaugural Core to Career cohort are learning to infuse career-ready skills into their UCORE courses. (l to r: Lisa Johnson-Shull, Amy Heile, Kate Watts, Eugene Smelyansky, Ken Faunce, Karen Phoenix, A.J. Miller, and Anna Whitehall).

Fifteen educators make up the first Core-to-Career Program cohort. Throughout fall semester, they are attending workshops and revising course plans to include lessons and assignments that tie to desired job competencies.

“In this way, classes across several disciplines will feature messaging about career-readiness, and these lessons will impact students even before they declare their majors,” said Clif Stratton, UCORE director. UCORE is part of the Division of Academic Engagement and Student Achievement in the Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President.

“From some of their first college courses, this unique initiative aims to help students learn, cultivate, and be able to communicate about specific, valued skills. Ultimately, this could help them reach future professional and personal goals.”

Skills that Employers Value

The pilot program uses as a framework eight career competencies identified by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), said Stratton. The organization has been a source of information about the employment of college graduates since 1956.

Those competencies are:

  • Communication
  • Critical thinking
  • Career and self-development
  • Equity and inclusion
  • Leadership
  • Professionalism
  • Teamwork
  • Technology

“Like others at WSU, we value and use NACE information and data as we plan for avenues leading to student success.”

Core to Career Programming

At seven workshops, the faculty fellows are being led by facilitators through topics aligned with the competencies. Faculty are revising curricula for several spring 2022 courses which will impact literally thousands of undergraduates.

Students in those classes will develop presentations, team projects, webpages, or social media campaigns, for example, related to a career competency. They will also write reflections on how work in the class translates into career readiness.

“It’s our intention that faculty explicitly help students leverage gen ed coursework to add meaningful examples of skills to their resumes and portfolios, and be able to talk about them as examples in interviews,” said Stratton.

Donor-supported Innovation

Support for the pilot program came from a close source. Retired WSU faculty member and WSU alumnus Carl Hauser (’75 Computer Science) served on the committee that designed the UCORE curriculum a decade ago and believes deeply in the importance of general education. When Stratton and retired Vice Provost for Academic Engagement and Student Achievement Mary F. Wack shared the vision for Core-to-Career, Hauser determined to invest in it.

“Students spend nearly a quarter of their education hours in UCORE courses, so I’m for strengthening the relevance of those,” he said. “It’s important that students appreciate the courses in the moment and understand what they are about.

“Building a career component into the courses can help undergraduates better recognize the relevance. This will help them get value from general education and also perceive that they get value from those courses.”

Faculty fellows who complete the workshop program and infuse career-competency exercises into their courses will each receive a stipend for their efforts.

Next Cohort Planned

Stratton said it is intended that the fellows program expand to other lower-division UCORE courses and campuses beyond Pullman with subsequent cohorts.

“The goal is that by 2024, it will be relatively difficult for a four-year matriculating undergraduate not to engage the habits of mind and action that signal career readiness in their first two years,” he said.

Inaugural Core-to-Career Cohort (2021-22)

  • Daryl Deford, Dept. of Mathematics and Statistics
  • Teena Edwards, Dept. of Strategic Communication
  • Ken Faunce, Dept. of History
  • Michael Goldsby, School of Politics, Philosophy, and Public Affairs
  • Amy Heile, Dept. of English
  • Jeanette Martin, Dept. of Mathematics and Statistics
  • J. Miller, School of Music
  • Karen Phoenix, Dept. of History
  • Eugene Smelyansky, Dept. of History
  • Michael Thomas, Dept. of English
  • Erin Tomson, Dept. of Strategic Communication
  • Lora Tsui, Dept. of Strategic Communication
  • Kate Watts, Dept. of English
  • Katy Whalen, Dept. of History
  • Anna Whitehall, Dept. of Human Development

Core-to-Career Organizers

  • Chris Cooney, Dept. of Management, Information Systems, and Entrepreneurship
  • Joe Hewa, Dept. of Human Development and Center for Transformational Learning and Leadership
  • Clif Stratton, DAESA/UCORE and Dept. of History

Media contacts: Clif Stratton, director of WSU UCORE general education program, 509-335-2230, clif.stratton@wsu.edu

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