Launched in fall 2012, the CHABSS Career Readiness Initiative at CSUSM is picking up steam. With the aim of better preparing liberal arts majors to transition into their first professional careers post-college, the initiative is being deliberate in its efforts to help students connect their skills and knowledge to career choices, providing them with the tools and strategies they need for career success.
Unlike programs such as business, nursing or teaching, the liberal arts aren’t tied to a professional disposition. But Dean Adam Shapiro says this is a benefit to his college’s students who have the option of pursuing interests in an extremely wide variety of fields.
"Students majoring in the liberal arts learn to think critically and problem solve. They understand diverse communities and cultures and value teamwork," he said. "While our programs and classes may not explicitly focus on a particular profession, our graduates leave CSUSM with a broad, portable skill set that can be used in a range of workplaces and careers."
In fact, a recent report commissioned by the Annapolis Group, a consortium of 130 liberal arts colleges, supports Shapiro’s claims, also noting that graduates of the liberal arts are more likely to say they participated in smaller classes, worked with professors on independent study or research projects, and received outside-of-class faculty mentorship. This broad education is critically important in an era where careers are no longer linear and college graduates can expect to change jobs several times during their lifetimes.
But despite their knowledge and skills, national data shows that liberal arts graduates have higher rates of unemployment immediately upon graduation than students with professional career-driven degrees. And that’s where the CHABSS Career Readiness program comes in. With an initial gift of $25,000 from a generous local donor, the College is working to prepare its students for the workplace.
An important component of the Career Readiness Initiative is a mentoring program with regional professionals, connecting students with business, non-profit and community leaders who can provide an inside view on careers of interest while providing information and resources. The College is actively recruiting executives and career professionals and looks forward to matching mentors with students in the spring.
Shapiro says this extra career coaching and mentoring will be particularly impactful for those students who are the first in their families to attend college. "Many haven’t been exposed to the cultural and social events found in the professional world," said Shapiro.
This fall semester, the College is hosting three panel discussions comprised of community leaders from different sectors of business to give students ideas on future career opportunities and answer questions. The panels are: Logistics, Transportation and Aviation Employers on Sept. 17; Nonprofit Employers on Oct. 22 and Government Employers on Nov. 12. All panels will take place from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Commons 206 and are free and open to the community.
Meanwhile, CHABSS faculty are meeting on Oct. 15 for a showcase on innovative ways to integrate career preparation into their curriculum, collaborate with one another and provide career advice and connections. When professors can clearly articulate to students how academic material can be applied in a variety of work settings, students are better able to recognize and market their skills.
These are just the first steps for this important program and the College looks forward to an expanded focus on career readiness for its students with community support. "Our College has a strong academic foundation rooted in the values and traditions of the liberal arts," said Shapiro. "We just want to add even more value to what we are already offering to ensure that students have the best launch pad for the future."
If you are an alumnus, a parent or an industry professional, you are invited to get involved in the CHABSS Career Readiness Initiative. Recently appointed Director Dr. Katherine Brown, is eager to speak with you about mentoring, internship possibilities and other opportunities to share your knowledge with students. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 760-750-8073.