A Model for "Career Preparation Across the Curriculum"

from AAC&U News…

Mapping a Path from Curriculum to Career: The Lynk Initiative at Mount Holyoke College

With the value of college increasingly being questioned as tuition continues to rise and the job market remains weak, how, asks Mount Holyoke College President Lynn Pasquerella, “do we articulate the value of a liberal education in a compelling way to those outside of the academy?” At Mount Holyoke, a liberal arts college for women in Massachusetts, the answer was to build a bridge between the liberal arts curriculum and students’ careers, and to create a comprehensive college-wide infrastructure to support that bridge.

The new initiative, known as Lynk, encourages students to start thinking early about connections between their academic work and career aspirations. It offers support—in the form of advising, mentorship, and funding—to help students complete internships, research projects, or other experiential learning opportunities that will allow them to demonstrate and reflect on the various applications of their studies in the liberal arts and sciences. “You are forced to ask questions of yourself,” says Tatum Lindsay, a recent graduate with a degree in gender studies. “How do I get where I want to go, who can mentor me, how do I identify the next step? When you have a community of people helping you with that and challenging you, [those steps] become much clearer, and it emerges what you’re passionate about.”

Involving the Whole Campus

The Lynk program comprises four stages: 
  • goal setting, 
  • professional development, 
  • practical experience, and 
  • “the launch”—a series of symposiums and presentations at which students showcase what they have learned and reflect on their next steps. 
During each stage, students work with teachers and mentors from across the entire college, including the faculty, the career development center, and the college’s three academic centers: the Miller Worley Center for the Environment, the Weissman Center for Leadership, and the McCulloch Center for Global Initiatives. Faculty and staff share advising roles and co-teach courses that prepare students to move out of the classroom into internships or other professional experiences. “We’ve created parallel structures so that Lynk is not any one department’s responsibility,” Pasquerella says.

Decreasing Teaching (Course) Load at Swarthmore College

Note: This makes for an interesting pairing with the previous post. It does not take too flexible a mind to think of expanding admin ranks as effectively reducing the work load in those precincts.  General pattern is clear: when duties expand, in some areas workforce expands, in others workload.

Several years ago faculty and administrators at Swarthmore College started talking about reducing faculty teaching load from 5 to 4 courses per year. The college is presently in the midst of a multi-year transition to a 4 course load. Some initial discussions are captured in their 2009 Middle States Reaccreditation Self-Study (which also mentions a “Teaching Load and Faculty Development at Peer Institutions” document) and in their 2011 Strategic Plan.

A 2012 article from Swarthmore student newspaper contains an excellent summary of the motivations behind as well as analysis of the implications such a switch. Among the phrases that might grab your attention:
“One of the consistent things we heard [in Strategic Planning sessions] was that people felt a need for time in order to do what they considered to be the professional minimum… Not only are people doing more work in order to deliver excellent instruction, but some of them are plausibly close to the line where they can’t do that. If we’re so close to the edge, then that’s something to take seriously.” 
​”most of us are scrambling” ​“running on fumes​” “long-term sustainability of the teacher-scholar​” “creep of time commitments” ​“acceleration of change and an expansion of how we learn​”“subtle, fundamental, and inevitable shift in professors’ job descriptions” “intensification of professor responsibilities”

    Students also penned articles suggesting the plan was not in their interest
    The plan was, apparently, eventually put into place, though not with immediate effect.  Here’s a summary from another student newspaper:

    Continue Reading at The Phoenix

    Props to Siobhan Reilly for calling this to my attention.