In 2013, we launched a new Career Initiative in the College of Letters & Science, intending to transform the way liberal arts students think about, and approach, their future.
We knew that students, and their parents, were hearing that the liberal arts was a “luxury,” and that they’d be better off studying fields where the job market is “hot” right now, or entering programs that train them for niches in engineering, nursing, or business.
But we knew that wasn’t what employers were saying.
In 2013, a survey of 318 employers (with 25 employees or more) conducted by the Association of American Colleges and Universities found that two-thirds of those employers wanted college graduates with broad knowledge in the liberal arts, expert knowledge in their specific field and an electronic portfolio.
Other surveys, not to mention our own conversations with employers in our region, revealed the same insight: to succeed in today’s economy, students need breadth and depth, not necessarily narrow specialization. Planning an academic career around what’s 'hot' right now is “a fool’s game,” warned the Wall Street Journal. Market trends shift and it’s impossible to predict what will be “hot” three or four years out.
The biggest predictors of successful job placement:
- Actual work experience (such as through an internship)
- Ability to articulate skills
- Flexibility, problem-solving, and critical thinking on the job
We wanted our liberal arts students to feel empowered about their skills, their talents, and their choice of major. We launched the Letters & Science Career Initiative to help every one of our students realize his or her potential.
We set 5 goals:
- Develop a new “Taking Initiative” course
- Focus on internships that will provide them with real-world experience
- Involve our L&S alumni
- Increase access to advising services
- Survey our graduates to determine where they are in life
The LSCI team has made enormous progress on all fronts:
- 600 students enrolled in the Taking Initiative course in the first year
- More than 300 Badger alumni are actively engaged
- 3,000 new jobs and internships were posted by L&S in Fall 2015
- 100% increase in employer attendance at career fairs this year over last
And our alumni surveys showed that L&S alumni get jobs—nearly 90% are employed full-time or in graduate school (the national rate is 73.4%). What’s more, most feel their education has given them a competitive advantage over their peers in the work place.
With the LSCI, we are leading the way among large public universities in preparing our liberal arts students for life after graduation. I am enormously proud of this effort and the people who make it happen.
I invite you to get involved as a mentor and a volunteer, and I want you to know that your financial support is critical to this effort on behalf of our great students. The Letters & Science Career Initiative is funded entirely through donor gifts and employer sponsorships.
Visit http://www.allwaysforward.org/initiative/career-initiative/ to learn more about opportunities to give, mentor and volunteer
John Karl Scholz, L&S Dean and Nellie June Gray Professor of Economics
L&S Alumni Surveys
Data from two comprehensive surveys, conducted as part of the Letters & Science Career Initiative, show L&S alumni are reaping the benefits of those widely-applicable skills after graduation.