In the 2014-2015 academic year, nearly 80 percent of first-year students participated in career workshops. The number of students enrolled in internships increased by 140 percent and the number of first-year students using the Writing Resource Center (WRC) increased by 240 percent. With the establishment of the Center for Engagement and Opportunity (CEO) came challenges in identifying and addressing the most critical student needs. As the center met the requirements of the state’s Performance Improvement Plan it was reinstated its initial grant of $1.1 million for the 2015-2016 academic year.
The center was created with two broad goals: connecting undergraduate arts and sciences to the work force and student success and persistence to second-year and graduation. “The first year was a lot of trying things and seeing what worked,” said Andrea Knies, internship coordinator at the CEO. “This year we are being more strategic about what we take on and the activities we deliver because we have a better feel for the needs of the campus.”
In its first two semesters, the CEO has organized a part-time job fair where 130 students met with 15 employers, offered graduate school entrance exam preparation in which 56 students
participated, created peer mentor programs, and co-hosted an internship workshop with USF Sarasota-Manatee and Ringling College of Art and Design, attended by 28 local employers. In total the CEO has hosted 25 career-focused events with 612 students in attendance.
Knies said she would like to see more students take advantage of the graduate school preparation services. “I think because we refer to it as career services, people don’t realize that that includes graduate school prep… if you want to go to a graduate school at anytime that this is also the place to help with that.”
The center is also hoping to increase event attendance by organizing workshop clusters lasting three days each. “Instead of just doing workshops periodically throughout the semester they are going to group them by theme,” Knies said. “We found that there are so many things going on on campus that for us to just do a workshop here and there doesn’t really have the impact that we need.”
A CEO survey conducted at the end of the 2015 spring semester found that 90.3 percent of students were satisfied with the CEO. The center attributes the success to its central location, new staff, increased visibility through CEO events, outreach and campus partnerships, and new programs designed to keep students engaged with the center from orientation through graduation. The center also currently offers Leadership, Engagement, Awareness and Professionalism (LEAP) sessions, the CEO Next program, and a mentorship program.
The LEAP sessions originated from alumni opinions on what they believe would be most beneficial to New College. “We looked at different programs on professional development and leadership but we didn’t want to just tell students what to do,” Knies said. “Because that’s not the New College way.” To provide this, each LEAP session is centered on a particular piece of research. The sessions are offered every other week in Hamilton Center on various topics related to professional skills, leadership and collaboration, and each last 30 minutes.
“We do address public speaking but we look at things like why it is one of the biggest fears and what causes this anxiety,” Knies said. “Rather than just saying imagine them in their underwear… if you can understand where that anxiety is coming from psychologically, biologically even, you can help yourself based on what’s happening to you.”
CEO Next is a six-week summer program that offers CEO’s services to recent graduates. “The idea of CEO Next was making sure that students who were fourth-years when we started still had the opportunities that are going to be developed as we continue with the office,” Knies said. “In your fourth-year you are doing your thesis – you are really wrapped up in that, you might not be thinking about what’s next, so right after graduation you still have that option, and for free.”
The Academic Mentor Program links rising second-year students with the next year’s incoming students over the summer to provide information and tips about adjusting to New College’s academics. The student mentors will be nominated by faculty based upon academic success and leadership qualities.
As of this year the center is also offering to pair students with alumni for mentorship. “It could be an alum who is in a geographic area of your interest, or an industry that you’re interested in, or even somebody who went to the graduate school you are interested in,” Knies said.
In addition, the center had a number of ongoing initiatives including developing an internship preparatory tutorial or ISP, create an online system for the completion and signing of internships, increase student and faculty knowledge of internship best practices and regulations and ensuring students have an internship prior to their fourth year. The CEO also aims for 60 percent of students to have participated in an internship by graduation, successful semester-away internship programs in Tallahassee and Washington, D.C. and to increase additional experiential learning opportunities in addition to internships.
“Students should know they don’t have to know what they are looking for or what they need when they come here,” Knies said. “You can just come and say ‘I am confused about this or I want to explore this, I don’t know how to get started,’ we can help with that. Just know that we are a friendly office and we can help even if you don’t know what you need.”
Information taken from the Performance Improvement Plan 2014-15, June 2015 Final Report