Podcast

How to Make Career Services a Requirement by Embedding It Into Curriculum

Gene Rhee and Jessica Best share how they’ve partnered with faculty to embed career-related assignments into three core business classes.

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In an effort to engage more students with career services (and earlier in their college careers), the University of Oregon Lundquist College of Business career center partners with faculty to add career-related assignments to three core business classes. 

The assignments, all asynchronous and requiring no live class time, are sprinkled throughout: 

  1. BA 101: Introduction to Business (a freshmen-level class)
  2. BA 240: Spreadsheet Analysis and Visualization (a sophomore-level class)
  3. Marketing 311: Marketing Management (an upper-division class)

That way, by the time business students reach their senior year, they’ve already been exposed to career multiple times. And because the assignments are part of their grade in three required classes, every student gets the opportunity to learn more about the career center and what resources are available.

“It’s a way for us to signal as a college that we feel this is so essential to your education that we are embedding it into these core classes and assigning points to it. We’re using the incentive that we have trained them to cue into, which is points in a class,” says Jessica Best, Director of Career Strategy for Mohr Career Services. “We can ensure everybody at least has equal access to it and then they can make the choice whether they want to engage or not.”

Best says about 90% of students engage with the career assignments, and her team frequently surveys the students to get their feedback on the program and track their progress.

In this episode, Best and her colleague Gene Rhee, Executive Director of Mohr Career Services, share what the assignments look like, how (and why) they built the program, how they got buy-in from faculty and senior leadership, how they handle grading, and more.

Resources from the episode:

Transcript

Meredith Metsker:

Hey everyone, welcome back to the Career Everywhere Podcast. I’m your host, Meredith Metsker. And today I am joined by Gene Rhee and Jessica Best, both from the Lundquist College of Business at the University of Oregon. Gene is the executive director of Mohr Career Services, and that’s Mohr, M-O-H-R, and Jessica is the director of career strategy for Mohr Career Services. So thank you both for being here.

Gene Rhee:
Hey, thanks for having us. We’re excited to be here.

Jessica Best:
Yeah, I’m glad to be here.

Meredith Metsker:
Yeah. Well, I’m glad to have you both and I’m excited to talk to you too today about how to make career services more of a requirement in maybe moving away from that traditional opt-in model. So I know this is top of mind for a lot of career leaders these days. And it’s been top of mind for me even because two of our past guests actually said something about this a few episodes ago. When I asked if they had a magic wand and can change anything about career services, Megan Baeza and Maribea Merritt, both from The University of Texas Permian Basin, both said that they would make career services a requirement for all students somehow. So I’m excited to dig into how you are making career services more of a requirement for your students there in the Lundquist College of Business at the University of Oregon. Before I get into that though, is there anything else either of you would like to add about yourselves, your backgrounds, or your roles in the Lundquist College of Business?

Gene Rhee:
Meredith, I was actually going to just mention about Mohr Career Services. I think a lot of people sometimes don’t understand or know where does that name come from. So just wanted to share that Jay and Kim Mohr are a couple committed Ducks and donors who’ve contributed quite a lot to the college and obviously to the career center. They really have a heart for student success. So I just want to explain where the name comes from. Yeah, and on top of that, I think they’re just lovely people. So hopefully to give some context to the name.

Meredith Metsker:
I think we need more of those folks in the career services in higher ed world.

Gene Rhee:
Absolutely.

Meredith Metsker:
Jessica, anything else you’d like to add?

Jessica Best:
No, I think I’d love to talk about the program and get into it.

Meredith Metsker:
All right. All right, let’s do it. So first I’m going to kick us off with a question I have been asking all of our guests on this podcast and that is, what does Career Everywhere mean to you?

Gene Rhee:
Jessica, do you have any thoughts? Do you want me to go?

Jessica Best:
You go first and then I’ll add.

Gene Rhee:
Okay. So to me, Career Everywhere generates the idea that it’s a primary focus career, that is nice to have, that it’s an imperative. I think a couple other thoughts that come to mind also, that it’s a shared responsibility, that it’s not just one person, one department, but the entire community. I think that’s another word that comes to mind. Yeah, That it’s not just the career center, but that it’s everywhere. And so those are some thoughts that generate for me.

Jessica Best:
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. It’s a shared responsibility, shared effort, and also shared joy, the fun that we get, getting to talk to students about, “What are you doing to explore? What are you engaged with? What kinds of activities have you been learning from? What kinds of classes are you taking? And how are you thinking about that in the larger context of your life and the impact that you want to make in the world once you graduate?” Those are great conversations that we can have, and anybody can have. So, if it’s somebody in the context of their job working for campus facilities.

I mean, you might hear the lawnmower going outside my window here. There’s a lot of those employment opportunities and different kinds of experiences that students have that they can use to really explore themselves, understand themselves better, and also find a way to make meaningful change in the world once they graduate. And so that Career Everywhere, it’s like thinking of how can we connect all of the amazing things that are going on at the university with the larger impact that students are making.

Meredith Metsker:
Perfect. I love that. I especially love that community angle, making sure that everyone is involved. I think I’ve said it before on this podcast, but it’s like Career Everywhere is a team sport. Everyone has to be involved. All right. So now I would love to dig into that program you were mentioning, Jessica, and talk about how you’re both making career services, again, more of a requirement for students there in the College of Business. So I think we’ll spend a little time discussing what you’re doing and then we’ll really zero in more on how you’re doing it and the why you’re doing it. So first, can you just give me a quick overview of what you’re doing to make career services more of a requirement?

Jessica Best:
Yeah. You asked me background earlier, I’ll give you a little snippet here. I’ve worked here in the College of Business for 15 years, so I’ve seen a lot of iterations in a lot of different ways that we have tried to connect with students and we were really finding that we weren’t seeing the level of both impact in terms of career outcomes and also engagement in terms of students coming in to meet with us or to work with us along the way that we would all love. And so we looked at a lot of different models of ways that we might be able to engage students more and we had really great support from our dean and our academic heads and department heads to really make career this thing that’s a long term not urgent goal, it’s important, but it’s not urgent, to make that a little bit more urgent.

So we also talked to a lot of students who said, “We worry about career. We think it’s important. We know we’re supposed to be doing stuff. But we also know that we won’t do it unless you make us do it, so make us do it.” So this was the landscape of where we started. And so we explored a few different models, which we can talk about in a minute if you want. But what we landed on for what was right for us, given the constraints and the context and the other kinds of things that we had built here was that we would embed career readiness activities into key core business classes. So these are classes that all of our students who graduate with a business or accounting major, all of them will take them at some point. They’re all required. And we spaced them so that we would have a touchpoint in our BA 101 class, which for people who are going to major in business usually take that in their first term on campus. That is the Fundamentals of Business.

And then the next time they would see us is in our Analyzing Spreadsheets class, which is BA 240, which is a sophomore-level class. So again, they would have that in their first year, their second year, and then we would see them again in our Marketing 311 class. And even though it’s a marketing class, again, all of our business and accounting majors take it. It’s a core class. So we’re seeing them all there. So what we’ve done is we’ve built in bite-sized chunks along the way so that we can have, students can engage in that iterative process where they think about their strengths, their interests early on. And then they think about it again later, and they think about it again later after they’ve had a chance to take classes and get some experience and explore different things. So we have those three touchpoints.

The career readiness activities that we do are different in each of those classes and they build on each other. So it’s not like they’re encountering the same thing over and over. And they get a chance to do some self-assessment to work on their personal branding materials like resumes. They get to understand the career search process and how important networking is. They go to an event, they can do practice interviews. So there are a lot of things that we scaffold for them along the way so that when they are looking for that internship and job, they have something to rely on both in terms of confidence, but also in terms of hopefully have some experience up to that point to leverage for that next thing that they want to do.

Meredith Metsker:
Okay. I love how, I think you called it’s reiterative. I know for me, for my learning style, I wouldn’t need that. Otherwise, I’ll just forget it after the first time.

Jessica Best:
Well, and the whole point of education, we want them to be changed by their experience here, so they’re not going to have the same idea of themselves or the world when they start. We don’t want them to. We want them to revisit it. And really the required part is that in each of these classes, the activities that they have to do count as a percentage of their grade for that class. So students can choose just like any other class assignment, they can choose not to do them, but there’s a consequence to that choice.

And also it’s a way for us to signal as a college that we feel this is so essential to your education that we are embedding it into these core classes and assigning points to it. We’re using the incentive that we have trained them to cue into, which is points in a class. This is what we think is important and we’re assigning value to that. So again, it’s one of those things where we can ensure everybody at least has equal access to it and then they can make the choice whether they want to engage it or not. But we really see very high engagement rates up in the nineties in terms of what percentage of students actually engage in these assignments in their classes.

Meredith Metsker:
And I imagine it’s hard to get 90% engagement rates anywhere else, or it can be.

Jessica Best:
And certainly not at any opt-in activities, for sure. Yeah.

Meredith Metsker:
Okay. I’m curious, you mentioned it was bite-sized bits of career development for these assignments. What are a couple examples of assignments students might have to do?

Jessica Best:
Sure. Sure. So one of the things that we’ve been able to do is because we have gotten some great support from donors to invest in some technology platforms, we’re able to scale things in a way that we couldn’t do before. So to give you an idea, last year, the academic year of 2021 through 2022, which is the last full year we have data for, we ran about 3,000 students through each of these classes combined. About 2,300 of those were in those first and second-year classes, so they’re early in their career, which is great. But let’s say we were going to ask students to come in and get a resume review. We have five folks who do a portion of their job is dedicated to career advising. There’s no way we could run all of those students through five live humans to do that. So we’ve gotten some great support through technology platforms to be able to give students the option to come and talk to humans, and we encourage them to do that.

And also if that doesn’t work for them, they can access an AI-assisted resume review platform to get feedback on their resume. So it’s not just learn about how to write a resume and then you’re on your own. It’s learn about how to write a resume, answer a little quiz about good resume writing practice, and then create a resume and get feedback on that to improve it to a certain level of competence. So it’s either a score through our online tool or filled out a rubric with our career peer educators, our student advisors, to be able to say, “I’ve achieved a certain level of competence on this resume.” So that’s one example of what we would do. And resume’s a good example I think because it’s that thing that students feel like unlocks opportunity for them. They feel like they have to have a resume before they can do anything. So by having them have that basic foundation, then they feel empowered to go after different kinds of opportunities or experiences.

Meredith Metsker:
Okay. Yeah, I love that. So I think that’s a pretty good overview of what you’re doing with this program. So now I want to dig into again the why. So why did you structure these career development assignments this way? Or why did you do it with this more required model versus opt-in?

Jessica Best:
Yeah. So I think what we talked about a little bit before was that we weren’t seeing the numbers that we were hoping for. So career outcomes at the time we were seeing, and we were just looking at three months after graduation at the time, about 60% or so of our students, of those who were seeking jobs, we’re reporting having a job at three months after graduation. That’s not what we would want. That’s not what we want for our students. It’s not what they want for them.

And then when we would look at engagement rates with career services, either advising or our events, we were only seeing about 20% of our students in the college were actually engaging with those. I looked at over the past year. So over the course of one year, only about 20% of our students were engaging with us, either in advising or events, which are the main ways that we were engaging at that point. And again, like I said, the students said they wanted it. We know it’s important, but until you make it urgent for us, we’re just not going to do it. And so that’s where having that required part comes in. We looked at a lot of different models of ways that we might do that. And for us at the time, this is the model that seemed to work the best. I don’t know if Gene wants to talk about other sorts of reasons or why this is important.

Gene Rhee:
Yeah. One thing that comes to mind is, every single institution they have requirements for students on a lot of different areas, and certainly on the academic side. If you’re going to major in something, you want to pursue a degree in something, they have things set up and they tell students, “You must do these things in order to graduate with X, Y, or Z.” And so there’s a precedent, there’s a way that we interact with students and engage with them. So I guess the question is, why not on the career readiness side? We have people, like Jessica, who has a lot of experience in this area. Why don’t we tap into that knowledge and experience to share with students, “Hey, this is what we think is best for you. This is what we think you should do.”

And the reality I think is this is oftentimes for many of our students the first time that they are really engaging in any career development. I mean high school jobs aside, I think many of them, this is the first time and it’s hard. I mean I don’t think I need to tell anyone listening to this podcast that finding an internship, finding a job is a difficult thing to do. And put yourself back into the shoes of whether it’s a traditional student of 18, 19, 20 years old trying to navigate this, it’s a challenging thing. It’s scary. It’s stressful.

And I think just as humans when things are difficult, I think for the most part, majority of people shy away from it. They delay, they procrastinate, they don’t want to do it. And so I think taking all that into consideration, and I think as Jessica said before, when we were doing our focus groups and students were like, “Well, if it’s so important, just make us do it.” Okay, well let’s try that. Let’s see if there’s an opportunity to do that. And yeah, really, really excited about what we have been able to develop. And I think some of the outcomes, and we can go into that a little bit more, but just being able to see thousands of students in a year. Yeah, it’s not a one-on-one appointment, but I think getting students, putting them through some paces of this is what you need to do to prepare yourself. Yeah, we’ve been very happy with it.

Jessica Best:
Yeah. And I think Gene, what you’re saying also reminded me a couple points. One is that by embedding it into the curriculum, we’re telling them they have to take these classes. We’re also making it very clear that this is for everybody. Career services is for everybody. It’s not just for people whose parents know to tell them to go in and seek career services. It’s not just for people who might have that social capital coming in or have somebody, know somebody who can give them an internship. This is important for everybody, and it’s our responsibility as an institution to make sure everybody has access to that. So that’s one of the key things about making it a requirement. Requirement sounds very like, “We impose this on you.” And really, I like to think of it more as that we are making sure everybody has access to these things.

Not that they have to do it, but they get to do it. Right. And then the other piece I think that’s important about the model that we’re embedding in existing classes is we’re not asking students to register for an additional credit that then they have to pay for. And that we’re not putting that burden on the students to say, “Oh yeah, you have to pay for the benefit of being able to have an outcome after school.” It’s a way for the institution to say, “It’s our responsibility and we are putting that on us rather than making you have to pay for it,” which also has resource implications, which is a whole different thing. But I think embedding it in core classes is good for the student because it is iterative and they get to see it several times. And also they don’t have to pay for additional access to it.

Gene Rhee:
And I know Meredith, for uConnect, I know that you all are pushing in this direction of equitable outcomes and how to share best practices and how to thematically get that out there to career services and institutions around the country, around the world. As Jessica was saying this, think of all the students who cannot attend our evening event in the atrium that we had last week because they have to work. They don’t have that choice. And yeah, there are virtual options that we come up with and we have those.

But at the end of the day, when we ask our students also, “How do you want to engage with a lot of this material and a lot of, let’s say, recruiters and alums?” in the classroom is one of those is, if not number one, but very high up on the list. And so being able to say to those students, “No, you don’t have to go anywhere else. You don’t have to attend anything else. It is here. You’re already Here.” And I think that has helped out and will continue to help in terms of equitable access for sure. But then how does that translate into equitable outcomes for a lot of colleges? I think that’s the exciting part. Yeah.

Meredith Metsker:
Yeah. I’m glad we touched on that access point because I think that is so important. Like you said, Gene, that’s right up our alley here at uConnect. It’s something we’re definitely trying to address with our product as well. I also wanted to touch on maybe the scalability side of this program, because I am guessing that it’s a little easier to reach thousands of students with a program like this than it is to have thousands of one-on-ones. So can we talk a little bit about that scalability element?

Gene Rhee:
Scalability for us, I mean, we have a team of, there are 10 of us, and you can split it down. We have five folks on Jessica’s team doing a bunch of the career advising. And then there are really three and a half of us on the industry engagement side. And as she mentioned before, there’s no way, I mean, we graduate roughly 650, 700 students a year. I’d love to be able to go to the dean and say, “Hey, all of those students within the college are coming to see us and beaten down the door.” But I think the reality is that it would be a challenge to be able to serve all those students in a one-on-one capacity.

I think part of our discussion early on was how do we figure that point out. And I think it’s getting into some of the “how” in terms of designing the program. But we’ve had a couple different options of how to deliver this. And I think it was probably key to being able to influence in getting some key people on board is showing that here are some different options and what are the pros and cons with doing that.

But having these assignments built into these courses, students can do them. They have access to them. It doesn’t interfere with class time. And I think I’ll let Jessica get into the details of it, but how can we impact all of those students without impacting class time? Which that would’ve been an absolute deal-breaker for our faculty at least. You can’t take their class time. So this was designed in a way that helped us reach all of those students, explain to them like, “You had to do these things,” but also help them to understand the different components when they start to think about them on their own time. So I know Jessica talks a lot about messaging the students. So, “Yeah, you have to do these things,” but by us even asking the question, it starts to plant the seed into their minds of, “Oh, networking, informational interviews, these are things that I should be doing.”

So I think that being able to use technology I think helps out greatly. And for us, having the ability to, we have several technology platforms. Again, thanks to donors who have been able to help pay for those things. How many times do we have platforms and what’s the uptake on this? How much are our students using those platforms? And by designing this requirement and embedding the technology platforms into the program, now we’re also using those platforms in instead of them just sitting on the shelf collecting dust. And I think that’s a major issue. I would imagine, I think for a lot of us, is you’re spending a lot of money on some of these platforms and are they being utilized? And I think that has helped out with scale as well. Jessica, anything that you want to add there?

Jessica Best:
I think the only thing I might add is, I don’t know if we’ve actually said the name of the program to this point, it’s Lundquist Career Fundamentals. And we called it that because it is the fundamental… Sorry, I don’t know if that’s the lawnmowers, so let me throw this down, but you can see them out there. What we’re talking about here are the basic fundamentals, the building blocks that you need. It’s necessary but not sufficient. So we’re trying to reach at scale to get students up to a certain awareness of the process and awareness of what it might look like for them. And also to start the flywheel. We want to inspire them to get involved and get interested earlier and often, because then that makes it a lot more fun. It’s less stressful. You’re not carrying the whole burden of your entire four years in college and then in the last three months, you have to decide how to convert that into some meaningful but also remunerative work. So doing it early and often.

So I think the scale thing is really important, but we also know that it’s not enough and that we’re hoping by putting it in earlier, that then students are taking the next steps on their own. And also to give you a little context, we launched this with one class as a pilot in the fall of 2020. So it’s still a pretty new program, so we haven’t seen the full impacts. We talk a lot about, well, we hope to see the impacts being, but we don’t necessarily have the data yet because it hasn’t had the time for students to work through the entire life cycle of it. But one of the key things that we are doing is making sure that assessment and data collection is a key piece of it built in from the beginning so that we can then have things where we can see the change in student confidence.

We can see the change in career outcomes. We can see what they think of it. And is it something that they would recommend to a friend? And are these things that they would’ve done otherwise if it hadn’t been part of their class? So building in that data and assessment I think is a key piece about the program. And also because it’s at such large scale, then we have good data that we can look at to iterate on our end to adjust and to help students understand how this will benefit them.

Gene Rhee:
I think just, Meredith, if I can just add to that around the data collection, everyone collects career outcomes and that is at graduation, three months, six months does things a little bit differently. You keep track of that stuff, but you can’t really do anything for those students at that point. It’s already done like they’ve graduated, they’ve left. And so I think how can career services, like, what are the different centers around the country doing to collect data and information that can actually help students in the moment? And I think that’s something that Jessica and the team has been able to, like a nut they’ve been able to crack is through fundamentals. We’re asking them to give us that information. They’re taking surveys basically once a year for the first three years. And we can track that information for every single student as a first-year student, as a sophomore, as a junior.

And we can start to see what kind of trends and what kind of stories our students are… What are they doing in this space? Are informational interviews increasing? Are they applying to more or less internships? And so by having that information in the moment, we can then more quickly pivot to, “Look, internship application numbers are down,” for example. “What do we need to do about that?” And so that’s been a big thing is getting that data now as opposed to lagging indicators of outcomes like that. It doesn’t really help you. I mean it tells you something, but I think we’re all wanting to be able to make more of an impact in the immediate term and certainly while the students are still on campus with us. So yeah, that’s been an awesome thing that Jessica’s been able to do with the team.

Meredith Metsker:
Yeah, I love that. I hadn’t even considered that part, but that’s super smart to be pulling that real-time data. It’s another just check in the win column about this program in general. I know it’s still pretty new, but are there any early results or even anecdotal evidence that you’re seeing as to how this is being received by students?

Jessica Best:
Oh yeah, we have lots of data. And so we ask them for about things like, “How much do you agree with the statement, ‘I have a better understanding of my own career journey.’” And we are getting 85% agreed. “I know the next two steps I can take in my career journey. I have tangible things that I can do next.” Again, like 85%. “I would recommend this to a friend.” So this is the question that we ask across all of our programs in terms of general satisfaction, “Would I inflict this on somebody I care about? Is this something that I would put my reputation on to recommend to a friend?” And keep in mind this is, again, a compulsory activity. It’s not something that they chose to do. It’s part of their class. And we’re getting numbers of 77% would recommend it to a friend. So again, when you think about, which again, when I talk to our colleagues who teach large-scale classes and different things are like, this is off the charts numbers in terms of satisfaction or things that they would get.

Even some of the best teachers in the college are saying, “These are really great numbers.” So we see these kinds of things, this feedback from students about the program in general. We also asked the question, “What’s the likelihood that you would’ve done these things if they hadn’t been part of your class?” This is really the rubber where the rubber meets the road like, what kind of impact are we making? Are we actually getting students to take action and do things earlier than they would’ve otherwise? And that number is around 70%. Depending on which class you’re looking at, that’s going to be a little bit more, a little bit less, which is amazing. You are going to see there’s going to be what, 15% of students who will do these things regardless. Even if there were no career services office in the college, they would do that.

There’s going to be 15% of students who just won’t do them because they have so many other things that they’re grappling with and so many other pressures that they need to pay attention to. They have other crises going on. There are going to be students who are just not going to engage. But it’s that middle, I don’t know what is it, 60, 70% that we’re really seeing, I think, that this kind of intervention, it can really move the needle for those folks because, again, it’s putting it, it’s like, “I know I should be doing it, but until it’s in my class and it’s made urgent in the system that I use to identify what’s important and urgent, I’m not going to do it. So once it’s there, I’ll do it.”

And then we again hope to see that spinning up into, “Oh, and that means maybe I’ll join a club.” And then, “Maybe I’ll take on a leadership role.” And then, “Maybe I’ll engage in this part-time job.” So that’s where we’re hoping to see that over time, the engagement with Career Fundamentals will then lead to other kinds of things like higher numbers of students doing informational interviews, higher numbers of students doing informational interviews earlier in their academic career and those kinds of things.

Gene Rhee:
And one thing that’s tangentially related, Meredith, is we’re wanting to do a better job of how do we disaggregate data based on ethnic groups backgrounds, and we’re nowhere near where we want to be. And I think it was just instead of getting paralyzed with, and I’m talking about myself, it’s hard to understand even where to start, but I think let’s just get started and using demographic data and how do we start to measure who are the students that are coming to see us relative to that. So if 20% of the population is from X group and we’re seeing 15%, then, “Hey, we need to improve on that.”

And so I think the next step is with this program specifically, if we’re gathering a lot of information and gathering a lot of data on this, how can that help to inform us at a more granular level about our student populations and the different segments of student populations and how we can be helping them even further. That’s a whole nother area that we were wanting to push into. And yeah, if maybe that’s a podcast for you, if you can find someone that’s doing excellent work in that area, I’d love to hear that.

Meredith Metsker:
Okay. Yeah, I love that. And I love hearing that the early results have been so encouraging so far. I imagine that’s validating to you and your team as you continue this work. So now I want to talk a little bit about how you built all of this. Yeah, let’s just go, let’s just start there. How did you go about building this program? I imagine it was a pretty big project.

Gene Rhee:
Yeah, I think first, just to be clear that there was a lot of work and a lot of people that brought us to the point where we were able to launch Fundamentals. And from the different programs and the way that we worked with students, even one-on-one workshops, the reputation of career services over the years. And I think it helped, what’s the word, clear the runway or smooth that path for us to be able to launch something when we did. So I just wanted to make sure that that’s known. Like there’s a lot of work that went into things before this program was launched. And there’s a lot of people involved. I mean, it’s higher education. Yes, of course lots of people are involved in that. But I think there was an opportunity from the dean that was here, Sarah Netter. So she was our previous dean. And she had made a comment one day around, “Well, maybe we just need to make things required.”

And at that moment it’s like, “Okay, well if students are saying that and the dean is wanting to push in that, so how…” Like, “The iron’s hot. I think we need to strike.” And so then it was a series of conversations with various associate deans, “Hey, how could we make this a reality?” And getting some ideas. And then I think we got to a point where, “Hey, here’s a proposal.” And it was five-page document, four-page document of why are we doing this, how does it help students, how does it help outcomes, how’s it help in terms of equity and access for our students, what are we asking the faculty. So it answered the basic questions in this proposal. And we scheduled a meeting with several associate deans as well as, we call them department heads. So we have faculty, we have departments within the business school faculty, and each one of those departments has a chair.

And so we met all together and shared the document in advance, but I think this was key is that we had people that were advocates from the dean to the associate deans, and I think that was a big help. And I think another thing that helped was market research that we did within that document to show what other peer and aspiring schools are doing in this space, who is or who’s not requiring to have a career requirement. And then the last piece of not saying this is what we’re going to do, but here are a few options, and let’s talk about those options. And I think having a conversation like that, it just allows people to feel a little bit more included. And it’s not just the career center dictating this is the way it is.

And from there, there’s a lot of work that went into that in itself, but then it triggered, “Okay, well, how do we pilot? How do we start small and then grow from there?” And we were only in one core class to begin with. And that was, I mentioned all the work that went in beforehand. Jessica did an incredible job building relationships with several faculty members, very strong relationships. And so where did we pilot? We piloted in one of our classes where she had a really strong relationship and a great advocate in one of those professors and gives us a better chance of success starting there. But that’s, I don’t know, the genesis. Jessica, anything else that you want to add from those early days?

Jessica Best:
Yeah. I think build the stakeholders. We had a lot of data to show that we had a great product. Students really appreciated and valued their interactions with us because we had been collecting data all along around advising and workshops and events and things, so we were able to also show that we weren’t just asking for time for something that was not of value to students. And then the other piece, and this came up through the discussions with the department chairs and with faculty, is that we weren’t asking for live class time. So at Oregon, here we are on quarters, which means we have three terms, fall, winter, and spring. And then there’s a summer term which is much smaller in terms of enrollment, but each one is only 10 weeks of content and finals. It goes super fast.

We couldn’t ask for live class time in every single term of every single section of any given class, and so we built out the asynchronous module so that it could be something that students could do outside of their live class time, but also on their own time. And that also allows us in terms of scale, to make sure that every single section of any given course has the same modules in it. And so again, it says stakeholder development, really understanding what are the things that are going to be like no-gos, non-starters. And a lot of that happened through informal conversations that we had before the proposal, talking to our faculty partners who have been good partners and say, “Okay, so we’re thinking about this. What are some ideas? What do you think? How would you respond to this? What do you think your colleagues would think? Or what are some things that might help us pave the way to make it more attractive to them? How can we sell it to them?” Those kinds of things.

So yeah, the stakeholder development was really, really key. And then also just being clear about the trade-offs. Gene mentioned we had several options when we went to the faculty department heads. Any of them could have worked. And from our perspective, each one of them had different pros and cons though, different resource requirements to make them happen and different kinds of things. And so just being very clear about there are different choices and there are trade-offs to each one, and which trade-offs are we prepared to make at this time?

Meredith Metsker:
Yeah. I imagine giving them those choices helped them be more invested in the choice that ended up being made. Okay. Really quick, do either of you have a hard stop in four minutes? Okay. We might go a little bit over since we started a little late, if that’s okay?

Gene Rhee:
Yeah.

Meredith Metsker:
Okay. So you mentioned a lot of this building partnerships with faculty ahead of time, but I think this is probably a question I imagine our listeners are going to be asking too, is how do you get that buy-in from faculty? How do you convince them to make this part of their classes even if it is asynchronous? I’m curious what that process looked like for you.

Gene Rhee:
I will just go back to relationships. I mean, I think that’s the foundation of getting buy-in. Like if you don’t have the relationships with people, then I think it’s going to be a little bit more challenging. And then just noting where are those strong relationships? And I think having those earlier conversations, is it a way to leverage that person in having other conversations with other faculty members? It’s like students. Students, I can say something to a student 15 times and they can hear it once from a fellow student or an alum and it impacts them. It hits different. And so how can you use a faculty member with whom you have a strong relationship? And can that person reach out to other faculty members perhaps or join the conversation, be an advocate in that conversation.

I think it is just also mapping out who… Every institution’s a little bit different and understanding who are the influencers. Who has that “power” in the institution? And I think mapping that out and understanding who that is. For us, I think department heads, the dean’s office obviously, but then we also knew that we heard from the department heads that course coordinators, which are individual people that are coordinating those courses and all the faculty members that they were going to play a role in this. And then another group that we haven’t talked about, we have an undergraduate program committee, and that was another layer. But I think it’s mapping out like, “Where do we start? Who we talk to first? And how do we start to build and snowball this and have it grow and gain momentum?” But fundamentally, I think it comes back to the relationships that you hold with faculty members.

And fortunately for us, we had some good ones coming into the conversation, some very strong ones. And also the relationship with the dean’s office. I think with the various deans, associate deans from faculty side, from the administrative side. Them wanting career-ready students I think was a huge part of getting this, pushing that snowball down the hill to have it gain momentum. And I understand every institution is different. I think we’re explaining what it is that happened for us and how that works. And I think everyone’s going to have to figure out what does that look like for you at your college, at your university, your school.

Meredith Metsker:
Cool. Jessica, anything else you want to add to that?

Jessica Best:
I mean, the only other thing on a more granular level is that, we’re not asking them for anything. I mean, we’re asking them to maybe rearrange the course points a little bit, but we’re doing all the work. We’re not asking for class time, we’re not asking them to grade any assignments. We’re taking that on ourselves. We are managing what the content is in these things, so we’re not asking them to become experts in career readiness. So we made it as easy as possible at the class level and made it clear that we are not putting more work on them.

And in fact, what we’ve heard from faculty is that, “This actually makes it easier for me because now I don’t have to be responsible for knowing, like, if a student comes to me to ask about career stuff, I don’t have to feel like I have to be an expert in that.” One of our faculty members also says that clubs and different organizations come to them all the time to ask for time in the class to do announcements, and he knows it’s very valuable. But now that we have Career Fundamentals, there’s an avenue in that particular class, we do weekly announcements for them. And so that’s where all of those things go, into the canvas announcements.

So it makes it easier for him that he doesn’t have to then manage all those things, or he doesn’t have to build these things into his class. And again, this is somebody who’s a big advocate and who really has a personal story about how college really changed his career trajectory and prospects and socioeconomic status. If we weren’t doing it, he would be doing it, but now he gets to have us as the experts in this field do it so then he can focus his class on the core content for the class. So anyway, in terms of the buy-in, it’s really about saying, “This isn’t going to be more work for you. And also it may reduce some of the work outside of your natural scope that you might have had to work with before.”

Meredith Metsker:
Okay. I’m glad you mentioned the grading because I’m curious how that works. So who does the grading if it’s not the professors?

Jessica Best:
Yes, we do. Okay, there’s a short answer, which is the machine does it. The longer answer is the machine does it, and then we do some follow-up. In some of these classes, we may have 1,500, 1,800 students going through the assignments at a time in a given term. So what we have done is we’ve set them up in Canvas, and this might get a little wonky, but we’ve set them up as graded surveys, which means if a student submits anything, they get the points. What we then do is, depending on the assignment, we’ll go back and either spot-check and see what people are writing. Or for some of the assignments we can go and verify through a different way that they’ve done what we have asked them to do. In the earlier classes, the stakes are a little lower, and those are the massive enrollment classes.

So those, we aren’t as careful about in terms of looking at every single one. In the upper division course, we are much more meticulous about making sure that students are doing what we ask them to do. And we’re not asking them to do a lot. So in BA 101, it might be, “Watch this video about the career decision-making cycle and then answer this quiz for understanding.” And a little reflection, maybe type up a little reflection piece. So again, it’s not something that would be, we’re not looking for right or wrong answers, we’re not looking for things that are objectively correct. What we are doing is looking for students to just pause and think about this stuff. For some of the assignments, for example, in that sophomore-level class, we do ask students to attend a career event sometime during the term. That can be a career fair.

That can be one of our events that we put on. That can be one of the many webinars that’s coming through on Handshake that employers are putting out there, those virtual events. And each term we have more than a hundred events, so there’s a lot of choice for students there in terms of what might work for their schedule and how to access them, and interest. So with that, what we do is we say, “Here’s the list of students. I pull a report from Handshake. Who’s checked into an event? And if they checked into an event, I assume that it’s good.” And then for those maybe 20% of students who don’t have the checking in Handshake, we actually have our student assistants, our career peer educators, we have a couple of them that are trained to help evaluate these things. So they go through and what the students have to do is upload a screenshot of the event that they went to, screenshot or photo.

Then our student staff then goes through and checks that 20%. And if there are ones that look suspicious, then they flag those and I will write a message to them and ask them to please submit resubmit or whatever it is, right. So we try to, as much as possible, build in the assignments in a way that we can verify at a math level, that they’ve done what we’ve asked them to do and so then the individual things that we’re doing are more targeted. We’re not looking at every single screenshot. In the upper division courses we have, again, a career peer educator who is trained to read those reflections. She has stock comments and feedback. But we do try to give a lot more feedback at that level to show a closer connection with them. It’s a smaller scale. In that one, we’re running about 650 students per year through that course, so it’s a little bit more manageable.

But still with that, she drafts them and I just review them to make sure everything looks good and then she posts them. It’s a little mix of machines, humans looking at every single thing, looking at only a select identifying which things might be problematic in looking at those. And again, for each of these, it’s not a huge portion of their course. I have to say even just putting one point toward anything in a class, we see a change in student behavior. And so what we’re talking about here is 3% or 4% of a course grade being assigned to these career readiness activities. So it’s not going to necessarily change their grade in the class, but it could take them from a B to a B+ or somewhere in that range. And so the specificity of the grading and the individualization of the grading, I think, is more important at that 300-level class. In the other classes, it’s not as high stakes.

Meredith Metsker:
So I want to be mindful of our time here. I know we’re already a little over, so I’ll start wrapping us up. But first I want to ask if either of you have, or what advice do you both have for other career leaders who maybe want to launch a program like you’re doing or embed career more in classrooms and make it more of that requirement?

Gene Rhee:
I would say that firstly, just to really understand the culture of your institution. And we talked about working with faculty, working with the dean’s office for us, and understanding the dynamics, the relationships, the politics that exist in a place. And I think just mapping that out a little bit and understanding, have a better understanding of that. I think it’s important to know where you can lean in, where can you start, who might be the ones where you’re going to have to work perhaps a little bit harder to get on board. Just I think identifying that.

And then a couple other basic things about just proposals is having a very clear understanding of what it is that you’re wanting to do, and then knowing even how will that it’s working. I think basic questions that people will want to know, and having thought that out doesn’t have to be the final answer. At least having a place to begin the conversation. And then for us, I think it was important to have done some research around what are other peer schools doing or not doing in this space. I don’t know.

I sometimes don’t care about that. If it’s a good idea and it’s good for students and other schools are doing it great. If they’re not doing great, okay. But I think there are some administrators that really look at that and they want to know if it’s being done or not. I don’t know. So I think that’s important to do. And maybe I should have started with the thought of talking to students and really hearing from them and understanding them a little bit more in relation to what it is that you’re trying to achieve. And yeah, I think the student voice is not only important but very influential in your conversations with administrators. It carries weight. And so I think, not just because you think it’s a good idea, but because students have told you X, Y, or Z. Yeah, so those are a few things.

Jessica Best:
Yeah. I’m so glad you said students because, yes, that’s really where it starts with. And not just surveying students, but actually talking to them and listening to them and really hearing, “Okay, what are the barriers that you’re facing? How do you decide how you spend your time? What are the different things that you’re looking at? And what are the things that are a priority for you? What are the things that keep you up at night?” And so really not assuming that you even know the questions to ask. And so that interview process really can unearth a lot of things that you might not be aware of at all. So that’s one thing. I think the other thing that I would think about is the crawl, walk, run. Don’t feel like you have to start with everything and starting with something where you can prototype, test something out, get feedback from that, iterate, adjust, and use that as an opportunity to see what might work at a little bit smaller scale.

So then you can be confident when you’re taking it to 1,500, 1,800 students in a term, that this is something that has been vetted and that there’s some real value there. And so, yeah, I would say that I had a colleague who would say, “Don’t try to boil the ocean.” We’re not trying to do everything at once. We’re not looking at a problem that’s impossible. We’re taking one chunk at a time and moving it forward. I think that’s one thing, the timing we started in the fall of 2020, and if you remember, there was a lot going on in the world. I think one of the big benefits at that time though was that people were letting go of this idea that something had to be perfect when you launched, especially things having to do with video or asynchronous or online or those kinds of things.

Everybody was just like, “We got to throw something up there.” We had let go of this idea that there had to be a certain status or it had to have a certain production quality. And that gave us a lot of freedom, frankly, to play and to experiment with things and to try stuff out. And for the first year, all of the videos were recorded in my dining room because that’s where I was. And so having that freedom to be able to just try stuff, it’s what we tell our students all the time, “Just try stuff.” And that’s where we had good faculty partners who were willing to experiment with us and willing to go down that road to then build on that and to make it a more systematic thing. But that initial prototype play stage I think is really important too.

Meredith Metsker:
Yeah, because you all started with one class, right? Yeah.

Gene Rhee:
Yeah. And Jessica, I love that point you brought up about not letting perfection get in the way of progress. With everything that we’ve talked about today, this is our version of that and it’s working for us. It’s not perfect, and I think we realize that, but we want to make an impact on students. And we’re going to look at the data to tweak things and make things better. For everyone listening, we might have said some things that are deal-breakers for you, and that’s fine. I think everyone just needs to figure out what are the things that you want to improve and make progress on and design around that. There’s some things like some of you might be listening and going, “This is awesome. I want to do exactly what they talked about.” Great. Get in touch with us. For others, the answer was no, because of X, Y, or Z.

That’s great. Well, not great, but I think everyone just needs to figure out what it is that’s going to work for you and what you want to design for your students at your institution. I think the reality is just, careers and students, it’s just going to… The connections and the topic is going to become more and more relevant and more important for us. And I know that there’s a tension there between career services and outcomes and, “Oh, we can’t. It’s not placement and we don’t have control over X, Y, Z.” Yeah, I fully understand that. But the reality is, this conversation is not going anywhere. And I think we need to be on the forefront. We need to be thinking about things. We need to be having these kinds of conversations.

And thank you to uConnect for even the idea and the theme of Career Everywhere. It’s important that we’re leading that conversation as opposed to being reactive. And so the question for everyone else listening is, what is it that you’re doing for your students? Because those questions are going to get asked if they haven’t been. And I think we don’t want to be in a reactive place, and instead leading on the front foot and saying, “We’re not waiting for and being dictated to, but instead this is what we want to do for our students because that’s what’s important and we want our students to be successful.” That’s the encouragement of not waiting for perfect conditions because, I don’t know, last time I checked, that’s it’s not going to happen. So yeah.

Meredith Metsker:
I love that. Well said. And I imagine it’s also nice for you two to know that if someone asks you that question, “What are you doing for students?” You can say, “Here’s this program. Here’s this data. I can show you exactly what we’re doing for students.”

Gene Rhee:
Yeah. Yeah, Really, I mean, Jessica’s been here for 15-plus years and me for five, but having this formalized in that… I talked about the undergraduate program committee and it is a formal piece of that. And if either one of us is gone tomorrow and not working here, this is a sort of program that will stay in existence for a while, and I think that’s awesome. Something really to be proud of. And the team’s working incredibly hard and I think they deserve the credit that comes this way.

Meredith Metsker:
That’s huge.

Jessica Best:
And we’re not done yet.

Gene Rhee:
Yeah.

Jessica Best:
Practice makes progress. And also, like we said, talked about, these are the fundamentals. This is the floor. It’s necessary but not sufficient. We don’t feel like, “We’re done now. We’ve checked off the box. Students will be great.” This is a way to start and to grow other things as well and look for opportunities for greater and deeper engagement with students. Because really that’s, I mean, that’s what they’re here for. And so career services I really see is where higher ed makes good on the promise of social mobility, socioeconomic mobility. And the population that we work with, we’re a public school. We have a lot of students where this…

I mean Gene and I were just talking last week. It’s like, this experience here is changing generations of opportunity. We are making a big impact on the ability for those students to change the life for themselves and for their kids and whatever. So that piece of it being tied to outcomes, it’s not just about the prestige for the institution or rankings or the things that are those extrinsic motivators. For me, it comes back to what are the student stories? What are the things that they really are looking for from their experience here? And all of those things aligned. From an institutional perspective, we want to have better career outcomes for a variety of reasons. And then also the individual students and families want those better outcomes as well.

Meredith Metsker:
It sounds like you’re well on your way to making a lot of positive impact on that front. So before I, again, finish wrapping us up, is there anything else you’d like to add? I feel like we’ve touched on a lot of really great stuff in this conversation.

Gene Rhee:
Just reach out to us, I suppose, if you have questions. Yeah, absolutely. Happy to dive deeper into some of these areas. And so let us know.

Meredith Metsker:
If people would like to reach out to you, what’s a good way for them to do that?

Gene Rhee:
You can probably maybe just find me on LinkedIn and we can start there and then move to email after that.

Jessica Best:
LinkedIn or email, either one. Full disclosure, I don’t use LinkedIn as a communication tool very often, and so sometimes those messages can sit in the inbox for a while. But email for sure, LinkedIn eventually.

Gene Rhee:
You can find us on our new website mohr.uoregon.edu. We worked with uConnect to create an awesome new website. And just scroll down to the bottom, Meet the Team, and you can find us there. Really happy with what our new website is doing for students.

Meredith Metsker:
Great. Well, I’m glad to hear that. And I’ll make sure to include a link in the show notes so everyone can go check out their new website and see those emails. So to close us out here, I want to do this answer-a-question, leave-a-question thing I’ve been doing in all of our past episodes. So I’ll ask you a question that our last guest left for you, and then you’ll leave a question for the next guest. So our last guest was Laura Kestner-Ricketts of Augustana College, and she had a pretty specific question. She wants to know how you’re addressing the use of ChatGPT with students around job search materials.

Jessica Best:
I’ll take this one. And I’m really glad that you sent the questions ahead of time because this would’ve been a hard one to answer in real-time. So yeah, ChatGPT is the latest iteration of this whole machines taking over our jobs and our lives. While it is a fairly new thing, it’s also part of a pattern or a trend that we’ve seen for a while and things that we’ve talked with students about in terms of artificial intelligence, human intelligence, what are the things that the two different kinds of things are good at, and how can you as a human understand and promote the value that you add as a human that machines can’t do? So it’s part of that larger conversation. Short answer is we don’t have anything like systematic. We’re not putting on our website anything about how to use ChatGPT.

I will say though, I did an informal poll of our student employees, which is, by the way, if you don’t have student employees, get them because it’s a great way to keep a beat on what students are doing. And I said, “Do you have friends who are using ChatGPT for their job search?” They’re like, “Oh yeah, I have lots of friends who have been writing cover letters with ChatGPT.” And it’s not so much that they are just taking what the bot creates and submitting it, but they’re using it as a way to save time to get a first draft. “I don’t want to stare at a blank page. I’m going to put this in here. That’ll give me something that at least I can start with.” So there’s that.

As we’re thinking about this, there’s a lot of what we talk about around career readiness, but also the personal branding or how do you put yourself out there. We talk a lot about storytelling, stories are things that people remember. And we talk a lot about the preparation that it takes to be able to then perform well in an interview or in the job. So with storytelling, that’s something that the ChatGPT’s not so good at because they don’t have all of the context and it’s really impossible to give them all of the context to be able to pull that out. And with cover letters in particular, we really emphasize diving deep into a couple of stories and not just taking your resume bullet points and putting them into a paragraph format, which is what ChatGPT does. It can pull that over and do that pretty quickly. So the storytelling piece is something that you as a human can really add color to. But again, with a draft at least, it can help to highlight what might be some key skills or strengths that you want to highlight through stories.

And the other thing we talk with students about a lot of times is, nobody’s ever required to read your cover letter, so it could be possible that it’s all just an exercise for you anyway. But what it can be a really good exercise in is helping you articulate and craft your value proposition, how do you want to tell that story when it comes to an interview, how can you use the cover letter as a tool to help prepare your pitch for yourself. And so again, even if you have a bot do that, that’s not part of your learning process or part of your preparation process. So those are a couple of things that we talk about with students when it comes up. But yes, it definitely is part of this larger trend of, “Okay, the machines are coming for our jobs. What are we going to do?”

Gene Rhee:
So Meredith, I just put the prompt into ChatGPT. And it ends with, “In all of these scenarios, career services staff can use AI as a tool to enhance their work with students. It’s important to note that AI should not replace the expertise of career services staff, but rather complement it by providing additional insights and information.”

Meredith Metsker:
Well, there you go. Straight from ChatGPT itself. Yeah, this has been an interesting conversation in the content marketing space as well. Like how do you use it? When do you use it? Is it weird to use it? So it’s interesting to hear how that’s playing out in career services as well.

Gene Rhee:
Yeah.

Meredith Metsker:
So what question would you two like to leave for the next guest?

Gene Rhee:
Yeah, I’ve got a pretty serious important question, especially for career services. So the question is, “Is a hotdog a sandwich?”

Meredith Metsker:
These are the important questions.

Gene Rhee:
Thank you. Thank you for recognizing that. Yeah, I’m like-minded and I appreciate it.

Meredith Metsker:
I love it. All right. Well, great. Thank you so much to both of you for joining me on the podcast today. This was an incredible conversation. And I’m sorry we went a little long, but this was just an hour and nine minutes of straight gold, so that’s awesome.

Jessica Best:
Well, and thanks for hanging with me on the technical stuff. Sorry it took so long, but hey, we made it through, so it’s good.

Meredith Metsker:
That’s all right. There’s always some tech issue. All right. Well, thank you both again and I hope you have a great rest of your week.

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