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Merging the Classroom and the Real World

This year, TLC engages in the theme of merging the classroom and the real world. I’m excited to learn from our presenters at Ashford and many other institutions about career-focused educational opportunities that support students striving for their professional and personal goals.

During this morning’s keynote, Mr. Robertson shared his framework of check, experience, and experiment to explain career skills that mattered most in today’s changing world, as agreed between academia and industry. Among them were teamwork, leadership. communications, problem-solving, and creativity, all of which boosted students’ adaptability skills to manage VUCA (i.e., volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity). To explore the framework under the specific Ashford context, I asked myself: What are we? Are we proactively open to new opportunities? Ashford serves a highly diverse, underserved nontraditional student population. Our students tend to be older, with eighty-eight percent of them over the age of 25. Like many adult learners, our students come to higher education with rich life and work experiences that enhance their learning ability. Often, they focus on career and professional development. And my second question was well answered in the panel discussion on course design with career in mind.

The presenters described how career competencies were built into course work and materials. They represented cross-departmental collaboration among faculty, career services, and instructional design to develop career-based curriculum at the course level. Moreover, Dr. Hall from Northcentral University suggested a portfolio requirement throughout the curriculum rather than at the end of the program, which was in line with NACE integration at the program level proposed by Drs. Woods and Minnick. The panel has inspired me to think about our first-year students at Ashford, who take general education courses to various extents before progressing to major courses. The idea of course design with career in mind can be expanded to Day 1 of a student journey. If major programs focus on field-specific competencies, general education can be broad-based customized pathways that are meaningful and relevant to the students.

When we visualize adult students shouldering family obligations, balancing busy schedules, and juggling life roles, what else can we provide to help them become career ready? They need more than an academic transcript and a degree. Likely, they need valuable experiences to attract potential employers. Can we provide our students convenient and accessible co-curricular opportunities where the student can take full advantage of years at Ashford and demonstrate mastery of related knowledge, skills, and competencies in addition to course work? The Champs peer mentoring program exemplifies student success as mentees and mentors and builds the Ashford learning community. I’ve noticed university-wide increased faculty involvement in student support and engagement beyond the classroom. This is a new opportunity area where faculty help enhance student experiences and bridge content expertise to real-life experience. For example, faculty host student-centered roundtables on career development topics such as leadership, interpersonal relations, public speaking, and time management. Faculty launch student conferences and student publications that feature research and other written work of students. Faculty also recognize high achievers and facilitate student academic clubs. Together, we empower our students and provide a holistic learning experience that is transferrable to their resume qualifications.

Thank those who have contributed to the conference. Thank you for all your hard work to provide such a well-organized and informative conference during this special time. I look forward to learning more from you in the next few days.

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