Spotlight for Career Services Professionals
Recognizing that competency development is essential for student success after graduation, colleges and universities are integrating this development campus-wide by infusing intentional student learning mapped to competencies into the curriculum and co-curriculum. How they are going about developing these initiatives, however, can differ greatly.
In May, Clemson University and the University of Tampa co-hosted a symposium that was designed to bring faculty, career services staff, administrators, student affairs staff, and employers together to discuss strategic campus-wide approaches. More than 180 attendees from 60-plus institutions, employers, and vendors participated in the day-and-a-half symposium.
Kristin Walker, associate director of analytics and initiatives in Clemson’s Center for Career and Professional Development, and Tim Harding, associate dean of career development and engagement at the University of Tampa, agree that, no matter the approach, there must be a university-wide culture around competency development for efforts to be effective.
“We started in two completely different areas,” Walker says. “Whereas the University of Tampa started by incorporating competencies into its division strategic plan, we started in-house by infusing competencies into everything within our career center while the university underwent its strategic planning process. Regardless of where you start, competency integration isn’t a recipe where if you don’t do things with the right ingredients in the right order, the cake isn’t going to taste good.”
Harding adds: “We recognized that we have very different approaches to university-wide competency development and are implementing it in very different ways, and we both are having success. Although there is no one model that exists that everyone can adopt, there are some foundational principles that everyone can build upon as a starting point.”
Walker and Harding identified the aspects their efforts had in common that could be recognized as foundational. The four “pillars” they identified framed the sessions and discussions at the symposium, and included:
- Pillar 1—Competency learning, development, and articulation should be made apparent and infused into the curriculum and co-curriculum to provide opportunities for students to actively demonstrate competency development and readiness. Framing programs, services, and one-on-one conversations around competencies provides students with multiple touchpoints throughout their time at the institution.
- Pillar 2—Competency development and career readiness should be integrated broadly into the life and culture of the institution, and their value should be reflected in institution/division/department strategic plans and general education. Cultivating and sustaining relationships with upper administration, faculty, staff, students, and employers is essential for making a competency initiative part of the fabric and vocabulary of the institution.
- Pillar 3—Institution-wide competency integration requires an investment of financial and human resources to reimagine how institutions prepare all undergraduate and graduate students for a lifetime of success. Keeping a pulse on trends and issues affecting higher education and the evolving world can help ensure an institution-wide competency initiative remains relevant.
- Pillar 4—Competency development should be assessed, measured, and tracked in curricular and co-curricular experiences. Collecting outcomes data will help individual students realize developmental progress and institutions’ work toward continued improvement.
The approaches to university-wide competency development taken by Clemson University and The University of Tampa will be featured in upcoming issues of Spotlight.