April 25, 2024

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VCU Career Champions program infuses career and professional development for students into campus culture – VCU News

A new program called VCU Career Champions is equipping faculty and staff with tools, theories and resources to support Virginia Commonwealth University students through their career development, experiential learning and job search process.

“Our philosophy at VCU Career Services is that career development and students’ postgraduate success is a campuswide effort,” said Samara Reynolds, executive director of VCU Career Services. “We want to empower the faculty and staff members that students are already going to as trusted sources of career and professional development advice to be able to support them with confidence in the moment, refer appropriately to our services and utilize all the great resources available, setting them up to succeed while at VCU and beyond.”

VCU Career Champions is a “train-the-trainer” program to help faculty and staff have career-related conversations with students and to expand the reach of VCU Career Services.

“We know that students are engaging with their faculty, student organization advisors, coaches and more about their career and professional goals, and we wanted to provide the tools to empower those individuals to promote student success beyond only referring students to our office for career conversations,” Reynolds said.

The program was piloted in 2021 and then relaunched in fall 2023 on an ongoing basis, led by Haley Sims, senior associate director of career advising and discovery. So far, 50 VCU faculty and staff members have taken the training, which has been streamlined into a half-day experience.

Participants receive a Career Champion certification sticker, similar to other campus programs such as Safe Zone, Rams in Recovery and Green Zone.

Stephanie Tignor, director of Global Learning at VCU, attended a recent VCU Career Champions training.

“It was a deep dive into all the amazing support VCU Career Services offers students throughout their time at VCU,” Tignor said. “I especially enjoyed learning about the theory behind career advising and the evolution of the career advising field’s focus from vocational guidance to social mobility.”

Since completing the training, she said, she has been thinking about ways in which Global Learning can support VCU students’ career preparation and development.

“For example, in [the Global Education Office] we offer a returnee workshop for our students who recently studied abroad, but not all students choose to participate, so I would like to find ways we can increase participation in the program to ensure that all of our study abroad participants make the connection between their international experiences and the employer-valued skills gained through those experiences,” Tignor said.

Bridget Prince, associate director, academic coaching, for the Campus Learning Center, also recently took the training.

“I found it particularly helpful in framing conversations that come up about careers with the students that I meet with for academic coaching,” she said. “The tools that were shared, such as the gap analysis tool, and thought-provoking questions to explore were useful. I would recommend this program to anyone that meets regularly with students.”

According to the participant feedback survey, 100% of the faculty and staff members who completed the most recent training said they would recommend or strongly recommend the experience to a colleague.

“I would certainly recommend it to others,” Tignor said. “In fact, I would like my whole team in Global Learning to participate in this program eventually since career preparation and development is an important component of supporting student success.”

Feedback from anonymous surveys of participants also included comments such as:

  • “[The training] gave me ideas on what I can add to my classes and improvements I can make. I will feel better informed when talking with students when they ask questions.”
  • “[The training] provided me a lot stronger basis to support students in their efforts to find a career of interest.”
  • “[I will be] emphasizing students’ skills that they are gaining every day and how those can apply in many industries and roles.”
  • “I found the theories and the [National Association of Colleges and Employers] competencies information to be the most significant. The training helped me see value in my own career path and gave me concrete things to say to help empower students!”

Moving forward, VCU Career Services plans to offer this training at least once each semester and during the summer, primarily in-person. Faculty and staff interested in taking the VCU Career Champions training may contact Samara Reynolds at [email protected] for details.