ANDERSON, SC - Most peoples' opinion of e-mail falls into one of three categories: it's a useful communication tool, a necessary evil or a distraction from work.
Rebecca Albert has a different view. After all, she regularly gets messages like these:
"Hi! So I got the job!!!! Thank you so much for everything! I was prepared because of you."
"Just wanted to let you know that I have officially accepted the job. I appreciate all of your help."
"We are looking specifically for Anderson University graduates. I currently have an AU graduate working in my office, and I am VERY impressed."
"Working with AU students is very rewarding for me, especially when I hear their success stories," said Albert, Director of Career Planning and Professional Development at AU. "It is such a great feeling to know that I am able to assist a student in preparation for their future. I believe in going above and beyond to assist our students."
Albert should plan on hearing from students a lot more - and she'll soon have the tools to continue going above and beyond.
That's because Anderson University is launching AU-PRO (Professional Readiness Opportunities), an initiative to better prepare all students for their career the moment they step foot on campus. Faculty and staff say AU-PRO is a game changer that will revolutionize the career-planning experience at AU.
AU-PRO is a series of activities designed to enhance classroom instruction and offer more practical experience to prepare for a career. Among the workshops being offered are those in resume writing; building a strong LinkedIn profile; professional etiquette; and job interview and networking strategies. All AU students will be required to participate when the program launches in 2019.
Nathan Cox, Assistant Provost for Faculty Development and Core Curriculum and Director of the Center for Learning and Teaching Excellence, said AU-PRO is part of a strategic and comprehensive renovation of the core curriculum at AU.
"The administration, faculty and staff recognize that vital learning happens both inside and outside the classroom at AU," Cox said. "Professional preparedness is one of (the core curriculum's) essential goals, and AU-PRO being intentionally designed to support this goal is a great example of how we all work together to reinforce critical learning outcomes for our students.
"AU-PRO is an incredibly valuable addition to the student experience at Anderson University, and one that will help prepare them for impactful work and personal and professional success after college," Cox said.
Higher education experts and advocates echo Cox's sentiments. Being prepared for a career in the 21st century requires more than lectures and labs. That dynamic is reflected by ACT, the non-profit that administers the popular college-entry exam. In 2016, ACT added a nationwide sample of workforce supervisors and employees to its annual National Curriculum Survey.
The survey revealed companies are increasingly interested in non-classroom skills in prospective employees. Indeed, several industry leaders said non-academic criteria such as work ethic, professional appearance and ethical behavior are even more important than experience or education.
That sentiment extends to college students as well. While part of the college experience is living on one's own, meeting new people and participating in extracurricular activities, most students themselves recognize landing a career is the ultimate post-graduation goal. The Higher Education Research Institute, in a survey of first-time, first-year college students, found more than 86 percent of students claimed it was "very important" to attend college to get a better job. That makes sense.
So, if securing a career is one of the most important parts of attending college, it also makes sense that universities like AU prepare its graduates with skills not often taught in the classroom.
"With AU-PRO, we are targeting specific areas of professionalism throughout a student's time at AU, beginning their freshman year," Albert said. "It is imperative that students are exposed to opportunities that will equip them for their future. AU-PRO offers a campus-wide approach to professionalism with the intent of students becoming career-minded, so they will be career-ready."