Heart of the Matter

Andy Chan's Blog for Parents, Mentors and Teachers


Video: Debra Humphreys

Debra Humphreys, the Vice President for Communications and Public Affairs, Association of American Colleges and Universities, answers questions after speaking on a panel at “Rethinking Success: From Liberal Arts to Careers in the 21st Century,” a conference held by Wake Forest University on April 11, 2012.

Video: Debra Humphreys »

Employment and Market Data and Trends

Mark Zandi

Mark Zandi makes a point.

Where are the jobs of the future? Top sectors will be energy and the environment, and health and wellness, said Steve Nelson, partner and managing director of Wakefield Group and the co-chair North Carolina Innovation Council.

Are we teaching our young people to be swift, bold and decisive? If so, liberal arts students will fair well in these fields. Students today, said Nelson, must embrace “creative destruction” and be ready to change operational paradigms to improve success.

Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, said that the returns to higher education are high and have risen significantly in the last quarter century. He also noted the recent recession was more benign for workers with higher education. But for colleges to continue to succeed, they must be able to convince businesses that what they are doing (educating articulate students with an understanding of global issues who are able to write well and think critically) will increase value for employers.

To do this, faculty, advisors and administrators must help liberal arts students tell their stories, said Philip Gardner, director of research with the Collegiate Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University. “Liberal arts students need to learn how to translate their academic experiences into something that makes sense to employers.” He also said research shows that businesses are most interested in students who have held internships because it is easier for employers to understand the value of these experiences.

Panelists agreed that silos at educational institutions are harmful, and that in order for a liberal education to work, faculty must know how to connect across departments. Rather than drill deeper into their own academic disciplines, faculty must learn to think broadly. “Narrow learning is not an option when the world we are preparing students for is an innovation-driven economy,” said Debra Humphreys, vice president for communications and public affairs at the Association of American Colleges and Universities.

To better prepare students for transition from college to career, panelists suggested universities develop stronger relationships with local and regional employers, including developing internship opportunities. Humphreys suggested that colleges require every student to complete a capstone project before graduating — one that involves working with a team to solve a real-world problem and being able to discuss methods, successes and challenges related to that project.

At the end of the discussion, Gardner made a surprising prediction for the future of student recruiting. Social media will allow businesses to pinpoint first-year students entering a university as potential employees before the students even arrive on campus. Companies will approach the career center having already identified 40 or so students they are interested in employing after graduation. The company will be able to groom and guide these students before they have enrolled in their first class — creating internships and learning experiences tailored to developing particular skills that meet the organization’s needs.

Tomorrow’s high school student will be less concerned with Facebook and more concerned with creating an electronic portfolio for future career opportunities.

— Guest post by Kim McGrath,
Wake Forest Communication and External Relations,
from the “Rethinking Success” conference

Video: Andrew Delbanco

Andrew Delbanco, the director of American Studies at Columbia University, answers questions after speaking on a panel at “Rethinking Success: From Liberal Arts to Careers in the 21st Century,” a conference held by Wake Forest University on April 11, 2012.

Video: Andrew Delbanco »

The Historical Perspective

Stanley Katz

Stanley Katz

The enemy:  specialization

Andrew Delbanco and Stanley Katz, who have both been awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Barack Obama, advocated for higher education institutions to focus on undergraduate liberal arts education and resist narrow specialization.

Delbanco went back to America’s colonial roots to describe what distinguishes this country’s colleges and universities:  the democratic expansion of higher education and the value of peer-to-peer education—the idea that students have something to teach one another.  He explores these ideas in his most recent book, College: What it Was, Is, and Should Be (2012)

He believes the peer-to-peer experience offered in college and university communities is still important. He shared the “relay race” idea of advancing knowledge, “pass the baton and they start where you finish.”

His comments drew from Herman Melville, Arthur Miller, Cotton Mather and Homer. In emphasizing the importance of the liberal arts and the humanities, he said, “There are very old ideas and old questions that are as pertinent to our existence to day as they were when they were written.”

What is missing at colleges and universities? “At many institutions, we are not providing time to reflect… time for contemplation.”

According to Katz, the current most urgent problem in higher education is specialization and getting faculty to commit to liberal arts education.

He highlighted the need for faculty to take a cue from his intellectual hero, John Dewey and focus on a liberal, integrated approach to knowledge to develop the “agility of mind” students need.

Katz said, “There is no reason we can’t address practical problems, but there is no reason we can’t do that in a humane fashion.”  The current culture of research institutions may close out the kinds of teacher scholars who make a difference in the lives of students.

What can be done to show the value of a liberal arts education? “I think the best thing we can do is do our jobs really well,” Katz said.  The best spokespeople are our own graduates.”

— Guest post by Cheryl Walker,
Wake Forest Communication and External Relations,
from the “Rethinking Success” conference

Envisioning Liberal Arts and Careers in the 21st Century

When I was hired at Wake Forest three years ago, President Hatch and I envisioned that we would hold a national conference for liberal arts colleges to discuss the importance of personal and career development as a mission critical component of the college experience. I am excited that our vision will be realized this week.

As we discuss the role and value of a liberal arts education in the 21st century at Rethinking Success, we hope to address the question: Is higher education fulfilling its role to intentionally prepare students for life after college?

National thought leaders, including Stanley N. Katz, Philip D. Gardner, Teresa A. Sullivan, Martha O’Connell, Mark Zandi, Neil Howe, Marc B. Lautenbach and others will serve as speakers on the following panels:
  • The Historical Perspective
  • Employment and Market Trends
  • View from the Top – University Presidents
  • View from Liberal Arts Colleges
  • Understanding Today’s Students
  • The Current and Future World of Work
  • Real Transformational Change

To review the entire conference agenda, click here.

We are especially honored to host two dynamic keynote speakers at the conference, Dr. Condoleezza Rice and A.G Lafley.

Dr. Condoleezza Rice, Former US Secretary of State, Professor and Senior Fellow at Stanford University, and Founding Partner of The Rice Hadley Group, will speak on the state of America and the role of higher education on Wednesday, April 11th.

A.G. Lafley, former Chairman of the Board, President and Chief Executive Officer of Procter & Gamble, and Chairman of the Hamilton College Board of Trustees, will speak on the divergent perspectives and roles of colleges and employers that carry serious consequences on Thursday, April 12th.

It is my hope that our conference will unearth key insights and conversations, as well as identify next steps to continue the dialogue and maintain momentum on this important issue. We will have guest blog posts and live updates during and immediately following the conference as well as an ongoing Twitter conversation at #RethinkingSuccess. I hope that you will join in the conversation. To learn more, please visit the Rethinking Success website.

Rethinking Success for a Liberal Arts Education

Next week from April 11-13, Wake Forest will host “Rethinking Success: From the Liberal Arts to Careers in the 21st Century,” a national conference to examine issues related to the relevance and value of the liberal arts education to the new world of work. We are very excited about the conference with over 70 premier colleges and universities to be in attendance. Follow the conference news and insights on Twitter at #RethinkingSuccess.

To kick off the conversation, Jacquelyn S. Fetrow, Reynolds Professor of Computational Biophysics and dean of Wake Forest College, and I recently co-authored the following Op Ed, which was posted by Daniel de Vise in the Washington Post online.

Seniors graduating this May started their college careers shrouded by the dark cloud of economic insecurity. In September 2008, they were eager freshmen adjusting to campus life when the subprime mortgage crisis forced Lehman Brothers to file for bankruptcy. Four years later, many college students, recent graduates and their families remain paralyzed with fear and pessimism by the dismal prospects for turning a diploma into a paycheck. Although the economy may be recovering, the world of work has fundamentally changed.

Innovative technology, higher productivity, international outsourcing and our self-service economy have replaced thousands of entry-level jobs that were once ready-made for college graduates, and are now gone forever. In addition, the competition for jobs is fierce as employers raise their sights in recruiting new talent.

The March 2012 Duke University/CFO Magazine Global Business Outlook Survey of chief financial officers projects increased hiring which will bring the national unemployment rate below 8 percent by the end of the year. However, nearly half of the employers actively trying to fill vacant positions are struggling to find qualified applicants. Extremely selective recruiters have their choice of attractive candidates ranging from ambitious college grads to experienced Gen-X professionals to humbled baby boomers desperately needing work. The old “get a good college education and you’ll be successful” adage isn’t nearly enough today – and it may not be enough for job-seeking college grads in the 21st Century.

Politicians have fueled the fear and pessimism by questioning the value of college – and especially the liberal education – both in terms of cost and content, trumpeting the need for a technically skilled workforce as a solution to our floundering economy. Ironically, China, Singapore, South Korea and other Asian countries are adopting the opposite position by investing in the creation of high school and university curriculum to provide a liberal education in hopes of developing nimble, adaptable and creative thinkers. Concerned that their traditional system only produces stellar test takers, but few innovators and inventors, they are moving towards the educational model that America seems ready to leave behind.

Employers are seeking candidates who have the critical, creative thinking and interpersonal skills that result from a liberal education, plus the technical skills required for the job and finally, the hunger and passion to do and learn what’s required to be an outstanding and productive contributor for the firm. According to former Procter & Gamble chairman A.G. Lafley, “The formula for businesses trying to compete in today’s economy is simple: hire employees with the mental agility, leadership and passion to navigate constant change – in other words, hire those who are liberally educated.” Sound advice when you consider the CEOs of Dell, JP Morgan Chase, Walt Disney Company, IBM, and FedEx were liberally educated.

Here are a few recommendations for liberal arts colleges to more deeply realize and communicate the value of the liberal education for the world of work today:

• Develop partnerships that bridge the career development office with the faculty and academic advisors. Students demand to know how their choice of major will affect their career options. By sharing these data and student examples with the faculty and academic advisors, the career development office becomes more vital to students and to the faculty. With the endorsement and influence of the faculty, students utilize the complete range of resources offered by the career development office starting from their first year on campus.

• Provide opportunities for faculty to understand the needs of employers. When professors understand why employers hire certain students, they can articulate how the academic material can be applied variety of work settings and help students recognize and better market this knowledge and skills. They can also more effectively mentor students and provide career advice and connections.

• Make internships and/or research projects an integral part of the student experience. Make sure the student demonstrates the drive to stick with a research problem for longer than a semester. A survey by the Association of American Colleges and Universities found that 84 percent of executives at private sector and non-profit organizations expressed a desire for students to complete a significant project before graduation to demonstrate their depth of knowledge and a passion for a particular areas, as well as their acquisition of broad analytical, problem solving and communication skills.

• Offer credit-based courses in career development so that students learn the fundamentals for lifelong career management. With projections that today’s graduate will have eight or more jobs in their life, they must be equipped with the knowledge, skills and tools to navigate the path from college to career as well as post-graduate career changes.

• Bring recent alumni from a variety of careers to campus and perhaps into the classroom to share their experiences for how they utilize their liberal education. Today’s students expect immediate answers and a direct line from major to career. At Wake Forest University, history professors require their students to participate in teleconferences with alumni who applied their bachelor’s degree in history to relevant but not directly related fields, such as journalism, law and marketing. Understanding the breadth of real-world opportunities dispels the myth that all history – and other liberal arts – majors are destined to become professors.

• Develop partnerships between the liberal arts college and the business school to enable faculty and students to work and learn across boundaries. Entrepreneurship and Social Enterprise, now the most popular minor at Wake Forest, emerged from a college-business school collaboration. Alternatively, many students choose to acquire the Masters in Management degree at Wake Forest in their fifth year to develop the business knowledge and leadership skills to complement their liberal undergraduate education. These types of partnerships are essential to provide students with the skills to apply their liberal arts skills to business-world problems.

There are many possible solutions to help students realize and articulate the relevancy of the liberal education to the world of work. The one requirement is that liberal arts colleges must make personal and career development a mission-critical part of the undergraduate experience – and they must collaborate with faculty in the endeavor.

A liberal arts education, long regarded as one of America’s unique sources of strength, remains an important vehicle for nurturing young talent who will produce the answers for our future. However, a liberal education without regard to career relevance is not enough. Liberal arts colleges must begin rethinking success by demonstrating relevance beyond the classroom.

The OPCD is in Overdrive!

As graduation nears, the Wake Forest campus takes on a different energy.  Some students are excited for the long break. Others are sad to be leaving friends and faculty.  In seniors a different energy can be felt. Some seniors feel the buzz of accomplishment and excitement for things to come, but for others, graduation evokes a sense of panic and anxiety.

To make sure we’re meeting the needs of all of our seniors the OPCD has gone into overdrive! We have continued to offer our traditional services, including; daily resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile reviews, one-on-one counseling appointments, online assessments, events and workshops, G-Chat hours with our career counselors, mock interviews in the office or on-line, and hundreds of job postings through DeaconSource.

In the past few weeks we have also begun reaching out to target employer populations to increase the number of available jobs, opening the career counselors schedules to allow for more senior-only appointments, adding programs and workshops specific to the senior job search, extending resume book submissions, and providing more networking opportunities for students.  The introduction of these additional services not only opens doors for our seniors, but also gives all of us in the OPCD the opportunity to work with these spectacular students before they leave Wake Forest.




Graduation outside of Wait Chapel

Hire Wake Forest Talent

Wake Forest students are known for their interpersonal and communication skills, work ethic and ability to deliver high impact results. Career preparation including mock interviews, resume reviews and self-assessments, along with an excellent liberal arts education, makes Wake Forest students very prepared for any work environment. Our students are eager to make significant contributions to their employers.
If your organization is looking to hire students for full-time positions or summer internships, please contact our Office of Personal and Career Development.To make the process as simple as possible, just complete two simple steps:

  1. Send an email to careers@nullwfu.edu.
  2. Enter “Connect me to a Deacon” in the subject line.
Your email will be directed to a member of our Employer Relations team and you will be contacted to discuss your needs. We appreciate your time and consideration in recruiting and employing our talented students.  We look forward to working with you.

Quick Tips for your Student on Spring Break

Even though there are only a couple days left before students return from Spring Break,  here are a few quick things your  child can do before they come back to campus next week:
1. Network, network, network!
Regardless of the industry in which a Senior wants to find a job, networking and making key connections are always important.  In fact, research shows that approximately 70% of jobs are landed through networking.  This might include reaching out to Wake Forest alums via LinkedIn or talking to any family or friends who work in your student’s career field of interest.  Doing a service trip over the break? Make sure your student gets to know the people they’re working with and stay connected to them on LinkedIn once they return to campus.
2. Join Career Connectors on LinkedIn
The Wake Forest Career Connectors Group is comprised of Wake Forest alumni and parents who are willing to talk with current students and offer career advice. To date, we have over 4,000 Wake Forest fans ready to offer student advice, career tips, and information regarding various jobs and industries.  As a parent, you can also join Career Connectors and help students in their career research and job search.
3. Keep applying for job openings
Your student should continue to use DeaconSource, Career Shift, and other industry-specific websites to apply for as many openings as possible. All of these resources are available on-line which makes them incredibly easy to access.  Even ten minutes of searching for jobs while waiting at the airport could make a difference in your student’s life.
4. Tailor the resume/cover letter to each job
One size does not fit all when it comes to resumes and cover letters.  Be sure to read each job description carefully and incorporate key words and skill sets into the resume/cover letter.  Once your student returns to campus, they can come by the OPCD office from Monday-Thursday from 2-4 pm, and Friday from 10 am-noon, and 1-3 pm to get their resume and/or cover letter reviewed.
5. Practice interviewing
Seniors are encouraged to come to the OPCD for mock interviews, where the interview can be specifically tailored to a job description.  Mock interviews provide students with the opportunity to ask questions about the interview process, practice answering questions so that they are less nervous, and  feel more confident and prepared when heading into their real interview. Even if they can’t come into the office, students can still practice by utilizing Interview Stream, our on-line interview preparation resource.

The First Year Chipotle Challenge

A key objective of our office is to engage first year students right at the start of their college experience. We know that introducing first years to the OPCD’s friendly staff and valuable resources in our office will significantly increase the likelihood of them returning to our office when they need help throughout their college years.

At Orientation back in August, we introduced the entire first year class to the OPCD via an interactive presentation in Wait Chapel. To grab their attention and take action, our marketing team designed a clever competition to encourage all first years to register on DeaconSource, our online source for career-related information. DeaconSource enables all Wake Forest students to receive tailored information targeted to their specific career interests, as well as access internships and jobs from organizations who want to recruit Wake Forest students.

The competition: The first three residence floors to have 100% of students registered for DeaconSource would receive a free Chipotle dinner on us! This announcement elicited a gasp from all the students who love Chipotle; a popular off campus Mexican food restaurant.

Over the next four months, we kept track of each hall’s progress on the glass walls of our office and on our WFU OPCD Facebook page.
By November, three floors had successfully completed the challenge! About 100 residents from Bostwick, Collins and Johnson first year residence halls were rewarded for their efforts with a Chipotle dinner in our office this past month.

Our staff enjoyed dining and getting to know these proactive students. Many of them reported that they had already been in to meet with a career counselor or get their resume reviewed.
I’m pleased to report that currently 45% of first years are on DeaconSource! We are thrilled that so many first year students are getting regular information from us to help them with their academic and major decisionmaking, are aware of our resources and have become engaged with our office.

If your student is not yet on DeaconSource, remind them to get connected.  It’s a very simple process that will pay off for them when they are ready. We can help first year students think about their choice of major and how it will connect with potential careers, and we can help them if they want to find an internship this summer. They can meet a counselor at any time – they don’t have to have it all figured out on their own.