Students in the College of Humanities, Arts, Behavioral and Social Sciences (CHABSS) are frequently asked by well-meaning family and friends, "So what exactly are you going to do with that degree?"

And while there are some who consider an education in the liberal arts and sciences to be impractical, especially given recent high unemployment figures and the down economy, CHABSS Dean Adam Shapiro argues that the education students receive in his college have never been more relevant.

"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."

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. Shapiro wants to turn this statistic upside down through a new Career Readiness Initiative aimed at making CHABSS grads even more competitive in the workforce. A $25,000 gift from a generous local donor will provide the seed money that will be the catalyst for the project.

Creating more numerous and diverse internships for CHABSS students will be one of the key features of the Career Readiness Initiative. Internships not only provide students with insight into a position or industry but they enhance their academic experience, allowing them to put theory into practice. Last academic year fewer than four percent of CHABSS’ nearly 5,000 students received the hands-on office or field experience that many employers are looking for in a new graduate each semester. The new Career Readiness Initiative will match more students with employers, increasing the number of internships available.

"We are seeing more employers who are using their intern programs to fill full-time positions," said CSUSM Career Center Director Pam Wells. "Internships provide valuable work experience that make students more competitive and confident in the job marketplace."

The second component of the program will seek to establish a student mentoring program with regional professionals, connecting students with business, non-profit and community leaders.

"Employers tell us that our University is academically rigorous and that our students have a strong work ethic," said Wells. "But where our students don’t stack up is when it comes to how they market themselves - they need more coaching and refinement in interview skills, resume writing and job searching."

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.

The final element of the new Career Readiness Initiative will have faculty and college staff working to more clearly articulate the kinds of skills that students are learning in the classroom so that they may deliberately incorporate additional skills students need for workplace success into the curriculum.

"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."

"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," said CHABSS Dean Adam Shapiro.