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.