Last March, Angelo State hosted accreditors from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) for the university’s required reaffirmation of accreditation, which takes place every 10 years.
A key component of the accreditation process is the university’s Quality Enhancement Plan, or QEP. Chaired by two faculty members, Drs. Amy Murphy and Heather Schoen, the QEP is an action strategy to improve student knowledge, skills, attitudes, values or behaviors to impact the student learning environment and student success.
“Each reaccreditation cycle, the topic can change,” Schoen said, “but it’s always based on students and the learning and success they achieve while here at the university. The QEP should always align with the strategic plan.”
“It’s required as a part of our SACSCOC reaccreditation processes,” Murphy added, “but it’s also an opportunity for us to focus our resources in a certain area. So, for the next five years, that special focus will be on career readiness. It continues our strategic plan’s focus on career placement and marketable skills.”
Several methods were used to choose the topic of career readiness, including a survey sent to alumni, faculty, staff and students. “Career readiness and career preparation” came back as one of the top choices. Institutional data was also reviewed, which showed some areas that needed improvement.
“Students told us that they wanted to talk more with faculty about careers, and they needed help connecting what they are learning in the classroom to careers,” Murphy said. “Then, some of our data around students expecting to have jobs or having jobs after graduation showed that we were lagging a little behind in some of those areas.”
The official theme of the QEP is, “When Your Career Goals Become REALity: Ready. Explore. Apply. Launch.” – and the plan has two specific goals.
“Ready to Explore (Goal One) is about helping students make informed academic and career selections,” Murphy said, “and then Apply and Launch (Goal Two) is about helping provide opportunities for them to gain and demonstrate career readiness.”
Goal One utilizes resources already present at the university.
“We’re really going to use the General Studies (GS) 1181 signature courses through our Freshman College to support our freshman students,” Schoen said. “These courses help them to be aware of the resources we already have. They’ll also learn about the Career Development Center and using Handshake (our off-campus student job platform). We’re helping them align not only their interests, but also their plan. Our academic advisors are going to be a really big support in Goal One.”
Goal Two involves identifying courses within each academic program designed to help with career readiness.
“We are calling these REAL courses,” Murphy said. “These are existing courses where faculty are already doing some of what we are calling ‘high-impact career-readiness practices.’ These can include opportunities to talk with faculty about careers, participating in internships or service learning, or helping students design a résumé or interview alumni in the field.”
“We’re identifying where in each academic program those practices exist for students, and then knowing where our gaps are so we can target those areas to fill in those gaps,” she continued. “We want all academic programs to have at least one REAL course as part of the degree plan.”
Another major part of this QEP is building Angelo State alumni involvement and support.
“Some of our academic areas already engage with alumni really well,” Schoen said. “We want to provide support for those students who aren’t having that same experience, or if they are in a field that’s not as common. We hope to develop a speaker pool of alumni in different fields and careers who would be willing to talk in courses and activities to ASU students about career pathways and work in those areas”
“Alumni can be particularly helpful in providing work-based learning experience for students,” Murphy added. “Having conversations with ASU students about careers is a really powerful way for alumni to support the QEP. We know that networking with professionals in their field of interest and understanding how what they are learning in the classroom translates to the workplace is a really important aspect of being career ready.”
Interested alumni can contact the ASU Alumni Association for more information on how to get involved and support current and future generations of ASU students.
“When our students complete that post-graduation survey, are they career ready?” Schoen said. “Do they have a job in the field? Do they feel they have the skills and competencies to be able to go into their career, go into graduate school, go into the military? We want to see those measures increase. We want them to get career ready while they are here, but the ultimate goal is that they are successful and are in a career when they leave.”