Background & Context
It is critical for the College of Letters & Science to provide undergraduates with high quality educational experiences and prepare them for satisfying and rewarding careers as engaged and active citizens.
The College of Letters & Science has always aimed to transform lives through our world-class combination of teaching, research, and public service. In continuing that mission, Dean Scholz launched the L&S Career Initiative in August 2013.
The L&S Career Initiative builds on our existing cross-college strengths and will expand the reach and offerings of L&S Career Services to ensure that all L&S undergraduates are engaged early in the career development process. With confidence, our undergraduates must be able to articulate what they have learned from their degree, not only by describing subject matter, but the specific, transferable skills our curricula develop.
Students must be able to present their academic skills along with the competencies they have learned in research, internships, volunteer/work and leadership experiences, and study abroad as a package they can offer employers or graduate schools and articulate how the combined experiences prepares them to enter the global workforce as the next generation of leaders.
With the rising costs of higher education and a sputtering economy, people nationwide are questioning the value of higher education, especially a liberal arts education. Wisconsin residents, our students, their parents, and alumni, too, are asking about the return on a college investment and the outcomes of a liberal arts degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
The College of Letters & Science must be held accountable and deliver on the return on a university investment. The Career Initiative will build on the strength of our outstanding undergraduate student experience and take new steps to educate our students and give them the tools they need for success not once, but for a lifetime.
It is our mission to provide realistic expectations about skill development to parents and demonstrate to employers that UW’s liberal arts students possess the L&S advantage they can’t afford to miss.
In January 2014, Dean Scholz led a retreat of 40 members of the faculty, staff, administration, and student leadership from the College of Letters & Science and campus partners. Retreat participants identified the following guiding principles by which to transform undergraduate career development and engage key stakeholders.
- Raise the financial resources to support the Career Initiative priorities long term.
- Establish an alumni pipeline to engage alumni with undergraduates throughout their UW career and to create and maintain relationships between alumni and faculty and staff.
- Champion the Wisconsin Experience as an essential component to undergraduate skills development and career preparation.
- Communicate with intention the value of the liberal arts degree internally and externally.
- Maintain a sense of urgency to continually engage faculty, staff, and students in developing and implementing Career Initiative interventions.
- Spark students’ imaginations to build creative academic and co-curricular plans that will help them develop the necessary tools and skills to pursue their desired career direction.
- Increase faculty motivation and skills needed to communicate to students how each course they teach can be valuable lifelong.
- Actively cultivate short-term wins.
- Showcase initiatives across the College that are already meeting the goals of the Career Initiative.
- Develop Career Initiative priorities within an intentional, holistic framework for advising.
- Continually test assumptions about how much students will voluntarily and effectively engage with new personal and career development programs.
- Deliver data on alumni career trends to key stakeholders We will conduct two post-graduation surveys of alumni one and eight to ten years out of college, and supply advising units and departments with major-specific reports that can be shared with students and their parents.
- L&S Second-Year Career Development course We will offer a one-credit course (Inter-LS 210) that teaches students about strategic academic planning, exploration of interests and values, skills development, career exploration, and job search strategies
- Build alumni networks We will develop strategies to connect alumni back to departments and connect students to alumni. A special emphasis will include developing department LinkedIn pages and identifying alumni for participation in the second-year course and other career development activities.
- Define transferable skills We will work with department chairs and faculty to improve the articulation and communication of transferable and employable skills learned in majors, certificates, and courses.
- Increase access to quality career advising We will deploy more career advisors in departments. In addition to career advising, these advisors will help build employer and alumni networks, develop student programming, track labor market trends, engage faculty and departments, and teach a section of the second-year career course.