Jana Mathews

Career and Life Planning

Graduates of liberal arts colleges have all of the skills that employers are looking for in new hires. Helping students to communicate the value of their majors and degrees to prospective employers has been--and continues to be--one of the most rewarding pedagogical experiences of my professional career.

In 2012, I partnered with Anne Meehan to develop and pilot a 2-credit career and life planning course targeted to first and second-year Humanities majors. The 2013 iteration of our course was linked to a parallel course taught at the University of Richmond. The runaway success of Careers in Humanities inspired us to expand and develop a sister course--Making any Major Marketable--for all majors. Over the past 5 years, Making any Major Marketable has grown from serving under 15 students a year to close to a 100. 

In 2015, Anne and I developed and piloted a week-long intensive Job Market Bootcamp course for 50-60 graduating seniors. Since, then, I have co-taught this course every academic year. In this course, students get brush-up tutorials on LinkedIn, resume and cover letter writing skills, learn job interview techniques, participate in workshops on salary negotiations, benefits packages and post-graduation financial planning and budgeting. The course concludes with a mock networking event with college alumni.

I believe that career and life planning in higher education should not just take the form of stand alone courses, but is content that should be integrated into every course one teaches. In the Fall 2018 semester, junior and senior-level students enrolled in my general education course (rFLA) partnered with Barnie's Tea and Coffee on a comprehensive re-branding project. Students worked in multi-disciplinary teams to develop new "brand stories" and marketing campaigns for the company's brick-and-mortar cafe, new line of premium sourced coffee, on-line retail business, and social media platforms respectively. They pitched their ideas to Barnie's executive team and public relations firm, received feedback, and then developed formal proposals and business plans that will be implemented starting in the Spring of 2019. In addition to gaining invaluable experience working with a real client, some lucky students in this course ended the semester with internship offers!

My upper-division Globetrotters course (transatlantic literature 1400-1700) offers another example of how students in my courses apply their academic training to professional contexts. One student group conducted anthropological field-based research at bible-themed attractions in the Orlando area. Their collaborative work resulted in the production of a virtual tour of the Wycliffe Discovery Center for the Materializing the Bible Project, run by Dr. James Bielo at Miami University. 

A second student group partnered with middle school drama teachers in the Boston area to develop an interactive age-appropriate curriculum for Early American Puritanism and the Salem Witch trials.

On a broader campus-wide level, my work on career and life planning issues includes serving as the co-director (with Norah Perez) of Rollins's Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) Development Committee. Our multi-disciplinary group was charged with leading the College through the process of devising a 5-year plan to integrate career and life planning into our faculty-student advising model. Since rotating off that role, I have the privilege of serving as a lead QEP Reviewer for the Southern Association of Colleges and Universities (SACS), where I get to help peer institutions build and assess similar programs.

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