Formally Integrating Professional Development into the Curriculum: A Required Course for Undergraduates
Friday 1:30pm Weeks Geo: 140
Kyle Fredrick, California University of Pennsylvania
Fear is a powerful motivator. We often use this to our advantage as teachers and advisors of undergraduate students. But when students are not cognizant of the expectations they'll need to meet in the professional world, they lack a healthy fear that might spur them to better prepare. Over several years of program development, and through student and alumni feedback, we found that our students were not as prepared as they should be for graduation and what comes next. An almost-ubiquitous problem we encountered was students asking questions in their final year of an undergraduate program that should have been asked and answered much earlier. But how do you disseminate professional development lessons in a formal way that will reach ALL of the students? Our answer to that question was the introduction of a required course in our BS Geology degree entitled, Professional Development for Geologists. The course covers a variety of topics we felt students should learn as undergraduates, but that don't fit in the content of normal geology classes. Example topics include finding and selecting graduate programs, preparing a discipline-specific resume, job-searching and interviewing skills, and professional networking methods and etiquette. The course is a one-credit requirement, with the option to take it up to three times. We emphasize it to sophomores to open their eyes to what lies ahead and to seniors for adding polish to their resume. After two consecutive offerings this academic year (2015-16), we've learned important lessons. Students are fearful and uncertain to their own detriment. Peer support and mentoring develops naturally through this non-content course focused on deeply held anxieties that they share. Exit interviews and course assessments show that the course has generated a more professional atmosphere in our program and has been a wake-up call for our students and faculty.