BOV hears update on total advising

Career Center working to increase student engagement

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The Dathel and John Georges Student Center will open on the second floor of Clemons Library in the 2017-18 academic year.

UVA Today | Cavalier Daily

Due to evolving student needs, the Career Center is reworking total advising at the University.

Archie Holmes, vice provost for academic affairs, and Everette Fortner, associate vice president of career and professional development, addressed these changes at the Sept. 16 Board of Visitors meeting.

They are a result of an effort to evaluate student needs and desired outcomes led by the the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost over the last two years.

Fortner discussed four factors that led to the changes — student concern with debt and finding jobs upon graduation, parental issues with financially supporting their children, increased expectations from employers and legislative review based on outcomes of students after finishing school.

Students have emphasized to the Career Center a need for more personalized counseling, connections to alumni and specific advice for their desired careers.

“With all those factors the key recommendations were to increase student engagement by creating career communities,” Fortner said. “They help students explore different career paths in these six areas, so they bring in alumni and put on events to help students understand what these careers are. And the second thing is they help give students specific advice on how to get a job how to get a career in those specific industries.”

The career communities have been created as a part of a two-year process of reconstructing total advising at the University. The six career communities are business; creative arts, media and design; education, counseling and youth development; engineering, science and technology; healthcare; and public service and government.

Each community page on the Career Center website provides applying and interviewing advice, as well as resources by by industry and a find opportunities option. Pages also offer ways to do research in their respective fields or resources by industry.

The University reported to the Academic and Student Life Committee that website traffic has increased by 140 percent. Social media engagement has seen dramatic improvement as well, with Facebook interactions seeing a 300 percent increase.

However, students are still encouraged to visit the new Career Center office.

“In January we opened a location in Newcomb and already we’ve seen more students this fall in Newcomb than we did all of last year,” Fortner said. “In the month of October to drive awareness [of these communities] … we’re having community Monday office hours from three to six, and we have all six communities represented in Newcomb for students to meet with.”

An improvement in technology was also necessary to better reach students. This has been done primarily through the implementation of Handshake, the new career management system.

In addition to supplemental advising, the Career Center has found ways to connect with students through academic classes.

The Career Center offers for-credit classes for second-, third- and fourth-year students focused on career development, placement and internships, reaching over 200 students in the last two years.

Another area the Career Center has focused on improving is employer relations.

“Our goal is to be the number one place from which recruiters find talent,” Fortner said. “We have over 400 companies that come recruit on grounds. Since Charlottesville is kind of off the beaten path, we need to be the best customer service school that they can go to — we’ve really focused on making that happen in the last year.”

To address student desire to connect with alumni, the Career Center created a program called Virginia Alumni Mentoring which uses a software similar to a dating site in order to match students with alumni. The program was first piloted in 2013 by the College Foundation.

More than 1,000 students have been matched with alumni in the last 18 months using this system.

Fortner and Holmes presented on the improvements at the Board of Visitors meeting. They provided a timeline and plans for the Dathel and John Georges Student Center, which will open on the second floor of Clemons Library for the 2017-18 academic year.

“We’re going to need to figure out how we are going to manage the space in such a way that meets the student's academic needs but allows us to achieve what we are trying to achieve with total advising,” Holmes said in the Board of Visitors meeting. “We can't commandeer this space entirely for total advising, it’s important that students have this space in the time they need in pursuing their academic pursuits.”

When not in use by the Career Center, 88 percent of the space will revert back to student areas.

“The key is to make sure students know we have those resources and we help them figure out how to best use them,” Holmes said. “We believe this physical space will allow them to do that.”

Holmes did not respond to a request for comment for this article.

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