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  • Success of Dominican University Business School’s Career Development Program Leads to Campus-Wide Initiative

    July 10, 2023 | By Kevin Gray

    Award-Winning Programs
    A group of students work with a career adviser.

    TAGS: best practices, internships, program development, career readiness, nace insights, mentoring, career development, nace award winner

    Dominican University, a Hispanic-serving institution with 64% of students identifying as Latinx and located just outside of Chicago, launched its successful career development program in its Brennan School of Business in fall 2017.

    In 2016, Jamie Shaw was hired by the business school as director of career development, with full support from the faculty and dean, to embed career development into the curriculum to meet the needs of Brennan’s student population.

    “Dominican is unique in the student population it serves—most students commute to campus and balance part-time and full-time jobs while taking classes,” explains Shaw, the university’s executive director of career programs and employer relations.

    “Dominican students do not have the capacity to add to their already heavy workload by attending optional workshops and visiting the university career center on their own. By embedding career development into the curriculum, Brennan was able to create an equitable model that guaranteed all students received the same support.”

    Dominican University is the small-college winner of the 2023 NACE Award for Career Services Excellence for its Career Development Program. For more information about the NACE Awards program and the full list of award winners/honorable mentions, see

    Successful Outcomes

    The Brennan Career Development Program (BCDP)—which is composed of four required career development courses, a required internship, and built-in mentorship from executives in residence (EIR)—is embedded into the curriculum for all undergraduate business students with faculty and staff support.

    Since the launch of the program, graduate outcomes have increased by 35% from 2016, with 77% of 2022 Brennan graduates employed or attending graduate programs within three months after graduation.

    The overall goal of the curriculum was to increase success outcomes to 75% three months after graduation within five years of launch. Success outcomes were defined as full-time employment, graduate school attendance, or full-time internship/volunteer.

    “This initiative was an immense undertaking, accomplished in collaboration with many departments on campus, including Student Success & Engagement, the Office of Institutional Effectiveness, and Mission & Ministry,” Shaw notes.

    Courses, Interactions, & Evaluations

    The graded, one-credit-hour courses were designed from scratch, in partnership with faculty, using industry best practices. A major component of the courses was that they were taught by more than 10 adjunct instructors who were industry professionals. The courses equate to approximately 14 classroom sessions per course.

    The BCDP was funded by the business school through reallocation of funds and support from leadership.
    Students take one course each year of school, and the courses build upon each other. The courses cover various career development topics, such as:

    • Creating a resume;
    • Developing a LinkedIn profile;
    • Interviewing;
    • Crafting an elevator pitch, and more.

    In addition to career development topics, interactions with employers are built into the courses. Three times throughout the semester, employers are invited to present in a webinar format to connect with students. These “Employer Virtual Visits” take place during Week 3, Week 6, and Week 9 of the semester, allowing students the opportunity to network with different employers and learn more about various industries during class time.

    “Additionally,” Shaw says, “the capstone assignments in all of the classes incorporate employer relations. We integrate information interviewing in the 100 Level, mock interviewing in the 200 Level, elevator pitch presentations in the 300 Level, and e-portfolio creation in the 400 Level. Students are able to interact and network with employers across all levels, often making valuable connections that launch them into careers. Students are also required to attend the career fair and meet with an EIR in the course.”

    The career development team evaluates the BCDP based on key performance indicators that include:

    • Employment outcomes (with a target of 75% employed three months after graduation);
    • Internship placement;
    • Number of career advising appointments;
    • Event attendance; and
    • Career self-efficacy.

    “Ultimately, changing the culture of a school is innately challenging, but with support from the dean of the Brennan School of Business, we were able to fundamentally change the culture in four short years,” Shaw points out.

    “Students are completing more internships than ever before. Faculty are invested in career development outcomes and regularly bring in guest speakers and companies to their classrooms to support the shift to experiential education.”

    Since launching, the program and students have connected with organizations like US Foods, Amazon Web Services, Bosch, and the Chicago Cubs for career fairs, mock interviews, and more.

    The Program Expands

    Due to the success of this program, the Dominican University faculty voted in favor of developing a new revised core curriculum, which includes four one-credit-hour career development courses and a required internship, similar to the Brennan School of Business model.

    “Dominican is fortunate to have a Title V grant focused on expanding and transforming career development services, aligning curricula with employer needs, and improving the financial literacy for our students, which is helping to support our efforts in expansion,” Shaw explains.

    “Beginning in 2024-25, all Dominican students, regardless of major, will have an equitable career development program where they are required to engage in more than 40 instructional sessions and multiple opportunities for employer engagement.”  

    Although the courses are not yet required, there are currently 88 students enrolled in the fall pilot. The university is also currently revising its core curriculum and has proposed three models, each of which includes career development courses.

    “By Fall 2024, we are hopeful that all undergraduate students at Dominican will be required to take these career courses prior to graduation and complete a required internship,” Shaw says.

    “Our program has been so successful because it is curriculum-based, which guarantees that all students receive the benefits of career development. Career development has typically been a resource students have to seek out themselves, and we wanted to change this model to something entirely equitable. We also launched this program with support from the faculty and administration, which made adding additional requirements to the curriculum an easier sell.”

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