By Ryan Bell, Brandon Adler, and Scott Pentzer, University of New Orleans
The University of Memphis Collaborative Opportunity Grant (COG) Project Team is a group of professionals who have a passion for student success and are not afraid of trying out big ideas. Caitlin Fisher (Career Specialist in Career Services), Melvyn Harding (Director of Student Success Programs), and Alisha Rose Henderson (Director of Career Services), share a vision of all University of Memphis students graduating fully equipped and ready to enter the 21st century workforce. The idea that spawned their application for the Collaborate Opportunity grant displays their passion and the big thinking needed to reshape the University’s approach to workforce readiness: develop a method for incorporating NACE’s Career Readiness Competencies into a curriculum accessible to a wide swath of students, ensuring that they not only gain valuable soft skills but are also able to articulate how they can apply said soft skills in the workplace.
The team decided to focus their efforts on first generation students from traditionally underserved communities as the ideal audience for a curriculum informed by the NACE Career Readiness competencies, which encompass a bevy of soft skills shown to support success for those new to the workforce. Caitlyn and Melvyn both teach sections of ACAD 1100, a course designed to teach students the academic strategies needed to be successful as a college student at the University of Memphis, a course taken by the majority of freshman, and a perfect avenue for this career readiness content. The team worked with course development specialists to create 10 modules teaching the competencies as well as final projects that require students to do some self-reflecting and create a final product expressing their takeaways.
To increase the number of faculty equipped to teach the competencies, the project team is also organizing a faculty summer institute where five faculty will spend time learning more about the competencies as well as developing assignments around them. The team is rightfully hopeful that over the next few years, this NACE Career Readiness Competencies-informed content will find its way all over campus, helping to prepare all University of Memphis students regardless of their demographics or major.
This project team has accomplished a lot in a very short timeframe, and while they admit that the ambitious timeline they created for themselves is one thing they would amend if they could go back to make changes, we think they deserve a lot of praise for the amount of work they have done in so little time! During our conversation they also offered us great advice about making sure any major project we are working on aligns well with strategic plans already in place and that it speaks to the demographics of your institution. The University of Memphis COG Project Team are a wise group who we were really glad to speak with about their work and to share thoughts with about the trials and joys of working on very similar projects. We can’t wait to see all the great things they accomplish and hope to find ways that we can collaborate with them in the future.