Southeast’s ‘Transitions’ Initiative to Prepare Students for Job Market

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo.,

July 27, 2005 – Southeast Missouri State University is launching an initiative with the fall 2005 semester designed to help students prepare for entering the job market from the day they begin their Southeast classes.

Beginning this fall, all new Southeast students will participate in a “Transitions Initiative,” which will take students from First STEP orientation to career planning to hands-on learning opportunities to job placement or graduate school. This new effort will provide a coordinated, integrated delivery of services and support designed to help students make successful transitions into college, majors and career paths, and into the world of professional and community life.

Southeast officials say the initiative will help students make informed choices about academic planning and help them more easily connect academics to post-graduation plans. The initiative offers a personal, professional and practical approach to career planning.

“The earlier students find a career path appropriate for their talents, interests and abilities, the more likely they are to persist to graduation,” said Dr. Leon Book, who has been named the Director of Student Transitions and First-Year Programs. This “Transitions Initiative” will help students “get in, get settled, get connected, get through, get out and get on with their lives.

“The institution is dedicating time and resources to all the transitions students make, not just the first one and not just the last one,” he said. “We want to be more intentional about helping students at all stages of their college career.”

For years, Southeast has dedicated energy, staff and resources to the first transition that students make into college-level studies. With the Transitions Initiative, Book says, the University realizes the need to be more deliberate about the other transitions students make, including admissions, orientation, adjusting to a new and different type of academic schedule, accommodating work and family demands, joining University organizations, settling into junior- and senior-level courses in majors, seeking and obtaining pre-professional practice opportunities such as internships or clinical practica, considering study abroad opportunities and graduating.

To assist in this new effort, Southeast has hired Keri Young as Experiential Learning Coordinator. She will be responsible for working with academic program leaders and on-site practitioners to coordinate pre-professional learning experiences for students. The University also has hired Nolan Brunnworth who is serving as St. Louis Career Specialist. He is housed in Southeast’s suite of offices in Chesterfield, Mo., and will be working with alumni and other individuals in St. Louis to identify internship and placement opportunities for Southeast students.

Additionally, the University is searching for an Assistant Director for Career Linkages. That individual, to be named in the near future, Brunnworth, and Young will report to Book as the Director of Student Transitions and First-Year Programs. In that capacity, Book also supervises the Assistant Director for New Student Programs, who oversees Southeast’s orientation programs for entering and transfer students.

A key component of the Transitions Initiative will be a series of zero-credit “courses” that will intentionally tie students’ academic course work to their career goals. Starting this fall, new students will be asked to meet four career proficiency checks, at no additional cost, during their years at Southeast that ultimately will prepare them for entering the workforce or graduate school.

During the first career check, students will be required to complete a Web-based career assessment inventory.

 “We want students to know where their talents, abilities and interests lie, and what careers or professions individuals with such a profile often pursue successfully,” Book said.

The assessment also will indicate to students the level of credentials necessary for entering specific professions.   

“The idea is to connect academic planning and career planning so students have more than just a vague idea of what direction to go,” Book said.

Students will complete a second career proficiency check during their second, third or fourth semesters in which they will meet with a trained career counselor and review the results of their career assessment inventory. The counselor will help students verify that their academic plans match their profile of talents, abilities and interests. The counselor also will provide students with more assistance in exploring the career paths suggested by the career assessment inventory.

The second career proficiency check will conclude with students completing a personal profile on Missouri’s GreatHires.org, a Web-based career service that matches prospective employees with potential employers.

Book says Southeast has entered into a pilot partnership with Missouri’s Division of Workforce Development, which assists clients and employers in economic development by connecting and matching employees’ talents and credentials with employer needs. GreatHires.orgis an extension of that effort, he said. He also added that GreatHires is password protected and the users (Southeast students in this case) control who gets access to their information and when.

“We are the only university that is in this unique and dynamic project with the Division of Workforce Development,” Book said.

As part of the agreement between the University and the Division of Workforce Development, students must use GreatHires as one of their tools for finding pre-professional internships and practica and for their post-graduation plans. In return, the Division of Workforce Development has hired four career counselors who will work alongside academic advisors on the Southeast campus to provide students with the career help they need.

Book says the counselors will be strategically located on campus so students will have ready access to the services they provide. In addition, Scott Sattler, local supervisor with the Division of Workforce Development, will spend approximately 60 percent of his time on the Southeast campus, with the remaining 40 percent spent at the Missouri Career Center in the Marquette Center.

Book says the University’s partnership with the Division of Workforce Development will give the University access to the Missouri Career Center, which will help place Southeast students in positions.

“The purpose of the first two proficiency checks,” Book says, “is to ensure that students get assistance in choosing a major that supports their plans after graduation, whether they plan to enter the workforce or continue their education in graduate school.”

The third career proficiency check for students will come in their fifth or sixth semester when they will be asked to demonstrate their ability to prepare a resume and cover letter for a mock position. This checkpoint will now be a prerequisite for students taking the required writing proficiency exam.

“Students must demonstrate their ability to research information,” he said, and career counselors and academic advisors will help students in preparing both a resume and cover letter.

Book said Southeast wants students to show they are proficient at these tasks before they apply for graduate schools and internships, and before they enter the job market.

The fourth career proficiency check will require students in their seventh or eighth semester to polish their cover letter and resume and add it to their profile on GreatHires.org.

Book says he is thrilled about the Transitions Initiative and its component parts, and also will offer assistance to Southeast alumni.

“I am just truly energized about the opportunity to do something truly special here,” he said. “Everybody wins if this is successful. Students will get the services they need, and when they enter the job market, they will get jobs because they know how to present their credentials in the right way. This is what it’s all about … to give them the tools they need to get there.”