Win tickets to see the smash hit musical Mamma Mia at the Roanoke Civic Center. Two winners will each receive four tickets!
Sunday, October 6, 2013
Proclaiming it was “time to stop subsidizing schools that are not producing good results, and reward schools that deliver for American students and our future,” President Obama recently announced with much fanfare a plan to help address the complex and challenging issues facing higher education, and the students and families served by America’s colleges and universities. Described by The Chronicle of Higher Education as “a mix of carrots and sticks,” the president’s proposal generated controversy by linking federal student financial aid allocation to college performance, which would be measured through a new ratings system that focuses on cost, quality and outcomes.
At Hollins University, we take very seriously our charge to provide students an affordable, academically rigorous experience.
We are also committed to ensuring our graduates are fully prepared to pursue a lifetime of careers. Hollins has long recognized the value of internships with exceptional local, national and international businesses and organizations as a way for students to gain valuable real-world experience — on average, 65 percent of Hollins students have at least one internship during their college careers, and in the Roanoke Valley alone, more than 100 businesses, nonprofits and cultural organizations have welcomed Hollins students as interns.
To complement these opportunities, we have launched an ambitious new initiative to engage our alumnae network in career preparation at a level unprecedented at Hollins. Along with expanding alumnae-sponsored internships in Roanoke and throughout the country, we are bringing alumnae to campus to serve as mentors to our students through the annual Career Connection Conference (C3), which this year takes place on Thursday.
In a single afternoon at C3, hundreds of our students will network extensively with approximately 100 Hollins alumnae.
They will discover how a liberal arts education can be the foundation for a powerfully satisfying career and get sound, practical advice on landing that first job.
During the conference, “Speed Connection” sessions will enable students and alumnae to interact in a fast-paced and informal setting. Panel discussions will cover a wide range of topics, such as building an effective résumé; interviewing do’s and don’ts; searching for a job; and translating the liberal arts into careers in business, law, science, public service and entrepreneurship. As an alumna who took part in last year’s inaugural C3 said, “We alumnae have learned a lot both in our personal and professional lives; why not share that wisdom with students starting their careers? It’s a simple thing to do with the potential for big results.
“And that’s the point of the C3 conference,” she continued, “to create an environment in which students can ask questions and get answers . . . to be there when someone asks, ‘This is what I want to do. How can I get there?’ ”
Our students report they are energized by C3. One junior blogged after last year’s conference, “I spoke with three women I probably would not have approached otherwise but who were fascinating and so excited to share insight gained over many years of experience in the working world.”
C3 is just one example of the innovative programs independent colleges and universities such as Hollins have established to support career preparation, initiatives that echo President Obama’s commitment to serving our students both in the classroom and beyond. Yet, many of us in higher education are concerned the new ratings system outlined in the president’s plan does not adequately assess nor adequately reflect our graduates’ accomplishments.
With its focus on what students earn after graduation, for example, this ratings system may inadvertently imply that colleges producing large numbers of graduates who pursue careers in well-compensated fields are somehow better or more effective than schools where grads consistently enter graduate or professional school, or seek jobs in education, the arts, or the nonprofit or public sectors that pay less. The proposed ratings system also discourages students from pursuing careers in these fields even though they may find the work to be meaningful and fulfilling as well as important in our society.
What colleges and universities such as Hollins seek to do is prepare students with the skills and knowledge to achieve success, not just in their first jobs, but throughout their lives, no matter what career path they choose to follow. As J.P. Hansen, author of “The Bliss List: The Ultimate Guide to Living the Dream at Work and Beyond,” stated in “What Is a Liberal Arts Degree Worth These Days?”, a 2012 FOXBusiness article: “A liberal arts degree provides an inherent advantage in written and oral communication, interpersonal skills, problem-solving, critical and analytical thinking, and adaptability to change. The ability to comprehend, communicate and conquer problems is the name of the game, and is implied with a liberal arts degree.”
In that same article, Paul D’Anieri, dean of the University of Florida’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, added, “I keep reading statistics about how many times today’s graduates will change careers during their lifetimes. A liberal arts degree is the ideal preparation for that kind of world, even if the degree does not channel one neatly into one’s first post-college job.”
Indeed, more than ever, employers are seeking the skill set a quality liberal arts education provides. Associated Press economic writer Paul Wiseman reported that organizations want college graduates “who can work well in teams, write and speak with clarity, adapt quickly to changes in technology and business conditions, and interact with colleagues from different countries and cultures.” Wiseman cited a survey released by the Association of American Colleges and Universities last April in which 93 percent of companies said “a capacity to think critically, communicate clearly and solve complex problems was more important than an undergraduate major.”
After observing the passion with which our alumnae serve as mentors, and witnessing the gratitude with which our students welcome their counsel, I am confident Hollins is providing the tools today’s students need for lives of leadership and service to others.
After announcing his plan, President Obama noted he would engage the higher education community to find ways to strengthen his proposals. I would be delighted if he attended our next C3 conference to see firsthand the difference we are making.
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