Refocusing Student Advising: College emphasizes career planning in annual student meetings with faculty

Submitted by Carolyn Arnold, Associate Director, Marketing & Communications on November 8, 2013

Unknown copyIt started a year ago when the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) gave students a year-by-year roadmap of how to make themselves more marketable by Graduation Day.

The Classroom to Career  (C2C) program, which provides customized career advice for each of the 16 CAS academic departments, has proven to be a big hit among the 1,600 students in the college. A Google Analytics study showed 1,200 original e-mail addresses accessed it last spring during registration, including 50 students studying abroad in Florence who needed help in planning their next semester.

“Now we want to build on the initial success by expanding it to the faculty advising process,” said CAS Associate Dean James Simon, who helped create the C2C program. “We want students to plan better, focus on their ‘Dream Job,’ and then be very purposeful in picking courses and activities that can help them achieve that dream.”

In November, when students meet with their faculty adviser to discuss their progress, they will have to first fill out a CAS Student Advising Checklist. They will list their remaining courses in the core and major, other unfulfilled graduation requirements, and then look at C2C and discuss their career goals.

Students will then talk to their faculty adviser about how they can build on their classroom experience and tie their career goals to studying abroad, internships, leadership positions with relevant campus clubs, shadowing alumni, possible graduate school, the Career Planning office, summer jobs, faculty-student research, volunteer activities, service learning courses and trips, and the many other opportunities Fairfield provides.

“Parents care a lot about ‘return on investment,’ and we are proud that Fairfield is so highly ranked nationally as a great value based on our graduates’ professional outcomes,” said Dr. Robbin Crabtree, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “But we also want students in the College of Arts and Sciences to seek ‘return on investment’ while they’re here at Fairfield by taking full advantage of the activities outside of classes to build their experience and knowledge. They need to get all they can out of the Fairfield experience to build their post-graduation competitive advantage and longer-range goals.”

“Advising is a conversation that requires student preparation,” she added. “Too often in the past, students would just ask faculty advisers for their registration PIN number instead of taking advantage of the mentoring opportunity. Picking classes comes at the end of a process of reflection and discernment, and it should not be the major or sole focus of the advising meeting.

These advising changes were developed in consultation with the Chairs of the academic departments in the College, who met and listed the strengths and weaknesses of current advising practices and identified several potential improvements. The new approach won high marks from FUSA student government officials and from students in focus groups. Some students said the Checklist would serve as an “ice breaker” for conversations with their faculty adviser. Others said they liked the idea of being more in charge of their own education, having a better sense of what else they needed to do before Graduation Day.

The College encourages parents to access the C2C materials and look for activities that their son or daughter can use to build on their classes and move closer to their career goal. C2C also is useful in helping students (and parents) look for relevant minor fields of study (or even a complimentary second major) that can help a student pursue a Dream Job.

“Career planning resources, faculty advice and mentoring, and many educational and professional enrichment opportunities are everywhere at Fairfield,” said Dean Crabtree. “We hope our students will become increasingly proactive about seeking these out and more intentional about building their career journeys.”

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