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  • Early Adopter Touts Positives of First-Destination Survey for Liberal Arts Colleges

    Catherine Neiner appreciates the simplicity and the standardized nature of NACE’s First-Destination Survey Standards and Protocols. As an advocate for liberal arts education, she also feels that the data collected will empower liberal arts colleges.

    “[Liberal arts colleges] are under a spotlight, and sometimes we have to defend ourselves and explain our value,” says Neiner, the new director of the career development and advising center at Georgia Gwinnett College, who previously was director of career planning at Agnes Scott College.

    “The NACE First-Destination Standards and Protocols level the playing field for liberal arts. We’re getting the same general data across the board. We can now make the case that our students are going out into the world and being productive. I am hoping that this will be an important component of advancing the liberal arts.”

    Experience and an effective data-collection mechanism have helped Neiner achieve success collecting first-destination surveys in the past.

    Prior to her work at liberal arts colleges, Neiner spent time in M.B.A. career services.

    “This [standardized surveys] was always a very important component of our work,” Neiner says. “With that foundation, I had an understanding and awareness, as well as some experience, about how first-destination surveys work and why they’re important on the undergraduate level.”

    She explained to administrators, faculty, and others at Agnes Scott why a standardized survey would serve the institution well. Neiner also assured them that career services would conduct the survey and handle the data collection and reporting, which eased concerns about additional work for those outside of career services.

    “Once we were able to tell that story, we got the buy-in and that made it easy for us to implement,” she explains. “For example, it was easier to get assistance with implementation, such as by faculty being willing to remind students to take the survey, sending them the link to the online survey, and more.”

    At Agnes Scott, Neiner also required seniors to submit a completed survey before they were able to receive their tickets to graduation. Using this arrangement, 96 percent of seniors completed Agnes Scott’s first-destination survey.

    “That was a very effective mechanism to ensure students took the survey,” she says.

    Acknowledging that getting students to complete the survey is the biggest challenge she faces in this endeavor, Neiner advises her colleagues who are adopting NACE’s First-Destination Standards and Protocols to track the Class of 2014 to find a mechanism in their schools that has enough value that career services can tie it to the completion of the survey.

    “Once your institution has the mechanism in place,” she says, “it will run pretty smoothly.”

    For the NACE First-Destination Survey Standards and Protocols and associated resources, see