Q&A: Teaching Future Flexibility With Dr. Angela Christie from GSU
The employment market is shifting, the workforce is more competitive and the value of a degree is questioned like never before. Students need help not only acquiring marketable and transferable skills, but communicating their experience to prospective employers. So how do you teach students to transition seamlessly from college to career?
Georgia State University’s answer to this question is in their latest Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP): College to Career (CTC) This university-wide initiative aims to increase students’ ability to recognize and demonstrate career competencies they learn through curricular, co-curricular and extra-curricular experiences.
As faculty director of the College to Career QEP, Dr. Angela Christie oversees the development, refinement and implementation of the program across the university. Here’s what she has to say in our quick Q&A.
Q. Describe what it means to be future flexible.
A. The days of landing a job and staying in it until retirement are long gone. It is very rare for people to work in the same industry, let alone the same company the majority of their working life. Students often come to college thinking: “I am going to be a future THIS or a future THAT.” They don’t go into the undergraduate degree with the mindset that they will earn as many career skills as they can, so they can apply for any job. We want them to start thinking like that.
We want GSU students to be future flexible; to see a variety of job postings across a variety of employment fields and have the confidence their skills and training prepare them to apply for any job.
History majors are not just teachers (though a remarkable and noble profession for sure!). The skill-sets these students develop as History majors prepare them for jobs in business, education, government, media and data analysis. If we can teach students to see the undergraduate degree as a process during which they can earn required career skills applicable to a variety of job fields, then they can major in what they love and be prepared to be future flexible during their job searches.
Q. How has that definition changed or strengthened during covid?
A. It’s no secret: College grads during the Spring of 2020 faced an unprecedented challenge when it comes to the job search. Many opportunities evaporated overnight. Internships disappeared, and hiring freezes, layoffs and downsizing became common. If our students have just one or two jobs for which they are prepared to search and apply, they will have difficulty post-graduation.
Future Flexibility teaches students to look closely at job calls and translate their skills in appropriate and creative ways to match the skills required by the hiring committees. It’s not about training for THE job. It’s about training for a job and understanding that the job experience is a further training that prepares one for the next opportunity.
Q. Step 1 of the QEP Student Learning Outcomes is Awareness, stating that in the first year, students become aware of the career-readiness competencies employers value most. Can you explain how you’re using data to communicate employer trends?
A. We use NACE’s eight career competencies as a guideline, but then connect these competencies to skills we think students are likely to encounter in their classes (and then offer training for faculty who want to add skills curriculum into their coursework and provide connection tools to help them make the skills to course work clear to students). We use Steppingblocks to highlight to students the in-demand skills by industry and employment field.
Q. How does GSU’s College to Career initiative align curriculum with in-demand skills by major?
A. The Skills Builder Tool helps connect skills practice in assignments, projects and co-curricular activities to career readiness competencies and allows students the opportunity to practice articulating the connection. Furthermore, the tool reminds students to collect projects that demonstrate the skills they have earned.
Faculty also have access to assignments that can be easily adopted into their coursework. The assignments are competency-focused and housed in the learning management system for easy adoption and assessment. Finally, CTC works with faculty across all majors to make sure career development curriculum is a part of what students encounter as they work through the major.
Q. How will GSU keep up with the rapidly evolving economy in regards to skills development?
A. CTC is currently working on a Skills Gap workshop that can be added to the curriculum of any course. By using data from Steppingblocks, Handshake and surveys sent to employers (UCS), we have developed a list of 10 skills students should develop in order to be competitive. We would like to create online 15-hour credential courses for these skills, which can be added to any course in the catalog. A faculty member who would like to use GISARC Mapping, for instance, in his/her course on Medieval Literature will be able to add the online course for GISARC Mapping to his/her iCollege page.
Students finish the course on their own time, but submit a project/assignment from the course in fulfillment of the credential. Students must receive a C or better on the final project for it to complete the credential. Students earn a credential and also have an academically-reviewed project to demonstrate their proficiency in the skill.
Q. Can you explain the relevance of using institutional outcomes to support career readiness?
A. The institutional outcomes we use to support career readiness are part of our Quality Enhancement Plan. We use the QEP as a way to get institutional backing and faculty involvement — mainly to start the work that will later fold more organically into the mission of GSU.
Who is Dr. Angela Christie?
In addition to being selected as the faculty director of the GSU College to Career QEP, Dr. Christie is a senior lecturer on the Atlanta Campus in the Department of English. She has also been the associate director of Lower Division Studies since 2007 where she has mentored graduate teaching assistants, edited the university’s Guide to First-Year Writing, served as the assessment reporter for the department’s core courses and developed paired-instructor courses for the College of Arts and Sciences.
Image originally published in Georgia State University’s “Public Relations and Marketing Communications” December 2018 Issue.