Spotlight for Career Services Professionals
Six years ago, California State University, Fullerton (CSUF) made an intentional culture shift by creating an integrated ecosystem within its eight colleges and across its campus.
CSUF created its Student Success Teams (SST) model to:
- Increase graduation rates;
- Close the achievement gap;
- Further integrate academic and career advising across the eight academic colleges; and
- Prepare students to compete in a global work force.
The model better meets the needs of a large campus of 39,774 students as of fall 2018, of whom 30 percent are first-generation and 43.6 percent are underrepresented. CSUF’s six-year graduation rates stood below 50 percent, which was below the national average graduation rate for a state institution and below the graduation rate among the 23 California State University System sister campuses.
“The objective was to increase the six-year graduation rate from 50 percent to 61 percent to be at the national average for a state institution of our size, close the achievement gap, and realign and re-imagine academic and career advising in an effort to meet institutional strategic goals,” explains Elizabeth Zavala-Acevez, director of the CSUF Career Center.
“The SST model was heavily focused on building a strong ecosystem across campus by scaling services and blurring the lines that often exist between the academic affairs and student affairs divisions, and to work side by side as equal partners in meeting these institutional goals.”
Members of both divisions collaborated to design and implement a new integrated framework on the campus and create SSTs across its eight academic colleges. The SSTs are led by an associate dean of each college, and include an assistant dean, faculty advisers, a graduation specialist, a retention specialist, and a college career specialist.
Additionally, the university created Student Success Centers to provide a dedicated space for students to have access to resources and Success Team members. The model allows these members to provide special advising, programing, and services within the academic Student Success Centers, in addition to the assistance students can receive from the central career center.
Each of the SSTs share similar advising platforms, are able to share and review each other’s advising notes, and are charged with specialized campaigns focused on increasing career readiness and career success as well as graduation and retention initiatives.
This framework is evaluated by various metrics. For instance, the Office of Assessment and Institutional Effectiveness has developed dashboards tracking CSUF’s six-year graduation rates, statistics about closing the achievement gap, and data on how CSUF has prepared graduates for life after college.
The career center has also gathered data via several reports that are sent out every year to capture student engagement, their learning as it relates to career readiness, and what employers who hire CSUF students are saying about the students in relation to how they are able to demonstrate their proficiency in the eight NACE career readiness competencies.
The establishment of college-based SSTs resulted in CSUF:
- Exceeding its six-year graduation rate goal, improving from 51 percent to 67.8 percent for first0-time, full-time freshmen (which exceeds its goal of 61 percent).
- Narrowing the achievement gaps between underrepresented and non-underrepresented students (from 12 to 8.7 percentage points, with the goal of 6 percentage points) in the first three years.
CSUF exit surveys for the Class of 2019 found that 88 percent of students agreed their degree prepared them for the work force. Additionally, the career center’s annual reports have captured a combined increase of student engagement in overall career services use of 26 percent increase year to year.
A recent Student Comprehensive Learning outcome survey indicates that 80 percent of the CSUF students who used career services moderately/strongly agreed that they were more career ready. Also, employers that hired CSUF students rated their satisfaction with these students with 92 percent and above in all of the eight NACE Career Readiness competencies.
“CSUF continued its commitment to this model and continues to do so via moving the needle forward in our graduation rates,” Zavala-Acevez says.
“We are now focusing our next goals on increasing our four-year graduation rates and by hiring more members of the SSTs—including assistant deans and graduation and retention specialists—to be able to keep up with the capacity of a campus with nearly 40,000 students.”