Fairfield University's Classroom to Career initiative helps prepare students for life beyond college


Image: Jim SimonWhat can you do with a liberal arts degree these days? Anything you want, according to Fairfield University's new Classroom to Career initiative, a four-year road map for students looking to get a solid education and plan for the career of their dreams.

The initiative - with advice and goals specifically tailored to each of 16 departments in the Fairfield's College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) - aims to give students concrete steps to build on their classroom work for each year of their college experience, helping them discern how their studies will translate to a meaningful career.

"We always emphasize how a liberal arts education is the best - and the most practical - education for students due to its emphasis on transferrable skills such as critical thinking, writing, problem-solving, and interdisciplinarity," said Robbin Crabtree, Ph.D., dean of CAS. "Even though our alumni know this to be true, our current students (and their parents) who have chosen liberal arts education seem to forget it, as the pressures of the job market and the uncertainties of the current economic climate converge." 

"While we must continue to emphasize the inherent value and lifelong relevance of the liberal arts, we also want to ensure students (and their parents) that we in the College of Arts and Sciences are very aware of their desire to be career ready when they graduate."

Classroom to Career dovetails with Fairfield's Jesuit mission, which emphasizes educating the whole person. The University provides dozens of ideas to increase career readiness, while giving the student the reins of control.

James Simon, Ph.D., associate dean of CAS, who oversaw creation of the initiative, said the program helps prepare students broadly for future jobs that don't yet exist today. Today's students will need to be able to pivot and change directions as the job market shifts in the coming decades.

"The program reminds students that they - not their faculty advisor, not Mom and Dad, not Career Planning - are in charge of their own future," Dr. Simon said. "They need to start freshman year and dedicate time every semester to learning outside the classroom and pursuing their passion in different ways. Come junior and senior years, they should get job experience through internships, leadership in campus clubs, summer jobs and volunteer opportunities. As graduation nears, students should reflect on these experiences and decide how to capitalize on their strengths and address any remaining weaknesses."

Classroom to Career offers online guides specific to each year of each major, as well as information for undeclared students. For instance, freshman English majors are encouraged to attend a Majors Night to talk to faculty and alumni about careers open to them and to begin considering research and graduate school opportunities. Students are given real-life testimonials from recent graduates about what they learned during their job search. By junior year, they are given advice on tying together internships and other pre-career opportunities, such as summer jobs, to build the skills they need to secure a job and succeed in their chosen fields.

The initiative augments services through Fairfield's robust Career Planning Center, which offers mock and real interviews, resumé advice, networking opportunities and a host of other resources for students in the College as well as Fairfield's professional schools and graduate programs.

While most colleges offer students career planning services, Dr. Simon said he believes Classroom to Career gives Fairfield students an extra edge.

"Fairfield is ahead of other peer schools in having students build on their classroom work, look for other campus experiences that tie into their potential 'dream job,' then test their skills through a variety of job experiences," he said.

"By graduation day, most students who start this process early and dedicate time to it should have a package of experiences that will be attractive to an employer who wants new hires to hit the ground running, not need a lot of training, and be the ‘new blood' that can immediately add value to the company."

For more information on Classroom to Career, visit www.fairfield.edu/c2c.

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Media Contact: Meredith Guinness, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2950, mguinness@fairfield.edu

Posted on April 3, 2013

Vol. 45, No. 243