Prospective students and their parents look for higher education programs that establish clear links between classroom experiences and job opportunities, and for schools with connections to potential employers. For students nearing graduation, the transition out of student life and into a career has real mental health implications, and the best way to mitigate those impacts is to build in career learning opportunities from students’ first semesters onwards.
While programs across campus have worked individually for decades to connect academic work to career opportunities, it was formal recognition of the importance of career readiness within the Blueprint for Success that jump-started the work to develop Integrated Career Education at Boise State.
Recently surveyed Boise State graduates cited career aspirations and success as the largest motivating factors for attending college, and while many felt that their time at the university helped them prepare for their careers, formalizing the career engagement process will improve preparedness.
In many conversations about the value of higher education, one of the most significant factors is cost. The “return on investment” of a degree is one of the biggest questions for prospective students and their families. “Integrated career education can be an answer to that question,” said Emily Jones, a member of the working group and a faculty member of the Honors College. When students have a defined path beyond graduation, the degree holds more tangible value.
This is especially important for students identified in the Student Engagement and Retention Plan (SERP) who face the greatest accessibility gaps, including those who are Pell-eligible, first-generation, Latinx, and those from rural communities. Debbie Kaylor, the Director of Career Services, emphasizes that closing accessibility gaps will help all students at Boise State.
Based on the hard work of everyone involved in the development process, the university looks forward to seeing the integration of Career Reflection components in a 200- or 300-level course in every major, with three common elements: Looking Forward, a chance for students to identify and explore their post-graduate plans; Looking Back, a moment for students to reflect on their experiences so far; and Next Steps, a time when students will outline the actionable steps for achieving their plans.
The faculty working group leading the development process identified that there must be a balance between increasing career readiness and academic freedom for instructors, and that many faculty already make efforts to include career exploration in coursework. Rather than requiring all programs start from scratch, Integrated Career Education recognizes and seeks to catalog the currently-existing efforts across campus. They are sending out an inventory for faculty to capture those components within campus curricula this week.
One of the other key components to maintaining balance and limiting additional work for instructors is providing resources that ease inclusion of career reflection materials. One such resource is a Canvas module, designed by Career Services with input from the faculty working group, that will be offered to all faculty teaching these courses as an optional “plug and play” or customizable item. It includes resource links for students in addition to the content presented.
Faculty will be able to provide field-specific knowledge and experience that more general career guidance will lack. As efforts expand, there will be more opportunities for increased involvement among faculty. One of the goals of the vision behind Integrated Career Education is to form a community of so-called “Career Influencers,” faculty engaged in encouraging career exploration among students across campus.
We thank the members of the faculty working group for their efforts: Karen Viskupic, Jason Herbeck, and Heidi Estrem from the College of Arts and Sciences, Bill Wynne from the College of Business and Economics, Sherry Dismuke from the College of Education, Diana Garza from the College of Engineering, Jaime Sand and Travis Armstrong from the College of Health Sciences, Amanda Ryan from the College of Innovation and Design, Isaac Castellano from the School of Public Service, Emily Jones from the Honors College and Debbie Kaylor and Alex Gutierrez from Career Services.