Author: Amy Mattson
A diploma wasn’t the only achievement Andrew Quillin had in hand following his May 2013 graduation from the University of Iowa. The health and human physiology major from Chariton, Iowa, also had a lucrative internship with the Iowa Cubs baseball team—an opportunity that later morphed into a full-time position as a stadium operations manager.
But Quillin admits he had help. As the job climate continues to evolve for graduating College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) majors, the UI has developed a number of new courses designed to aid students as they prepare for what comes after the classroom.
More faculty-led classes than ever before are encouraging undergraduates to perform internships, network in their chosen field, sharpen resumes, and hone interview techniques.
Among these courses—which were included in the CLAS annual report at the Iowa Board of Regents meeting June 4-5—is the recreation and sports business practicum that catapulted Quillin into his current job, and English at Work, a class built specifically around the skills obtained by English majors.
In this proposed course, literary minded individuals can build portfolios and learn how to apply their writing and analytical know-how to viable careers or graduate study.
“English continues to be an effective stepping stone to so many careers. It’s important for us as a department to help our undergraduates realize how they can obtain good jobs with the transferable skills they’ve acquired at Iowa,” says professor and UI English department chair Jon Wilcox.
For May 2014 graduate Sophie Amado from Elwood Park, Illinois, that job will be teaching overseas, where she plans to implement an after-school creative writing workshop for Madrid high-schoolers.
Amado, who travels to Spain on a Fulbright scholarship this September, says her writing courses at the UI were instrumental in helping her garner such an opportunity. Besides working with professors who imparted upon her their love of the craft, she learned how to become a more concise communicator—an ability CLAS associate dean Helena Dettmer identifies as key.
“We want our students to lead with excellent skills in writing and communication because we know these are things employers value,” she says. “Career oriented courses reflect the UI’s commitment to help our students be as marketable and as well-prepared as possible.”
To that end, new courses across CLAS are focused on “learning by doing,” which Kathryn Hall, CLAS director of curriculum and academic policy, describes as emphasizing transferable skills. Students have the opportunity to directly apply what they have learned in the classroom to real-world, practical experiences.
Take for instance Quillin’s practicum. He and other students traveled to the home of the San Diego Padres, where they were challenged by sport industry executives to create solutions centered around improving ticket sales and increasing corporate sponsorship.
In just two-weeks and three semester hours, Quillin had gained professional contacts with the Padres and other organizations, including the University of San Diego Athletics Department and the National Sports Forum.
“Because of that opportunity, I really stood out in interviews,” said Quillin of his post-graduation job and internship hunt. “I was able to take advice I had received from my contacts and carry on a professional conversation. I still draw upon my practicum experience today.”
Other students have found similar opportunities at the Pomerantz Career Center, which has added courses such as Suit Camp for the Job Search, in which undergraduates can learn the basic skills necessary for finding full-time employment.
But the Career Center also offers a range of classes that director of academic and leadership programs Kelley Ashby says “prepare UI students for whatever might be next,” whether that entails an internship, admission to graduate school, or a position in the workplace.
Many of these courses have been around since 2007, while others such as Suit Camp are new to the 2013-14 and 2014-15 academic year.
“CLAS faculty have been working on educating students about careers and opportunities related to a major for a long time,” says Hall. But she emphasizes that in today’s dynamic economy, “faculty know that connecting students with hands-on experience is essential.”