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How UMGC Career Services Grew Student Engagement by 347%

The future of Career Services and Student Success depends on decentralization.

In 2019, the University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) had over 294,000 worldwide course enrollments — online. The idea that an attractive brick-and-mortar career center would drive student engagement and success was impractical. By necessity, they designed a model that aligned with the widespread shift in learning. The result is a meaningful career development strategy students actively engage with.

In 2018, UMGC introduced the Digital Career Counselor as an outcomes-driven resource for students to link what they were doing in the classroom to real careers based on national and institutional career stats. From 2019 to 2020, they increased adoption by 347 percent.

How does UMGC grow student engagement and success through Career Services?

1. They integrate career resources into curriculum.

The best way to ensure students stay connected to skill-building career exploration and development is to integrate it into the classroom. UMGC's faculty is perfectly positioned to bridge coursework to real career outcomes, because many have professional experience in what they teach. Classroom assignments and projects are directly linked to the resources Career Services needs to promote. Another advantage to curricular-based career requirements is the buy-in students get with faculty. Professors are a highly trusted resource.

UMGC has a standard curriculum, which makes campus-wide integration possible. If your university is not structured this way, here are a few other ideas to spark career development:

  • Invite employers and alumni to speak in the classroom
  • Partner students with local companies to develop case studies
  • Assign informational interviews with professionals or staff members
  • Introduce career resources in required orientations

2. UMGC builds strategies around their student's needs, not their own.

Career Services at UMGC learned to listen to their student body early on and adjust to their behaviors, not the other way around. More than 80 percent of UMGC students work full-time or part-time, nearly half of UMGC students are parents and more than 60 percent of their worldwide student population are military-affiliated. UMGC's students are the definition of nontraditional.

After a few unsuccessful attempts at organizing co-curricular career activities, the Career Services team in charge realized their students have more immediate needs to address, such as work and family, leaving no extra time for optional activities. The answer to this was the seamless introduction of career-related requirements to already established courses and programs.

3. They shared a “grassroots” effort in getting Career Services integrated across campus.

UMGC's Assistant Vice President for Career Development, Francine Blume, led the charge in decentralizing their career center. Blume and her team established networks of career connections across internal and external partners to support career development for over 86,000 students and 200,000 alumni. By collaborating with a variety of university departments, UMGC's career center is able to scale services, improve employer pathways and increase experiential strategies for specific populations.

Student engagement is not one size fits all.

Not every institution can launch a student engagement initiative that mirrors the one above. Barriers such as budget, buy-in and time may pose a unique set of obstacles at your institution and student success may take a different form.

Leverage your students to test other engagement strategies. Student Ambassador Programs offer far more influence than your colleagues in Career Services. Unless, however, you hire younger team members to staff your career center who share the voice of your students.

We interviewed University of Central Florida alum and founder of Declassified College, Justin Nguyen, to learn more about engaging Gen Z with career content. Watch the full interview here. Then, take a look at his viral TikTok demonstrating the Steppingblocks Tuition Analyzer, which reached almost 46,000 likes and 1,000 comments from students asking to see an analysis of their school. The power of the student-led platform is undeniable.

Click here to take a tour of the Digital Career Counselor empowering students, faculty and staff at UMGC. Contact us when you're ready to launch your own student success initiatives.

What is Steppingblocks for students?

Research your future career with real-world stats about your major, your interests, and your job title. Turn billions of data-points into actionable insights about your future with a few simple clicks. Watch the video to find out how.