Work With Drexel Students? Consider Becoming Their 'Career Champion'

Over 230 faculty and professional staff members registered for programming last year to better connect with students and University resources. After that success, a new year of programming is starting up this term.
Image of a hand putting a puzle piece showing a map of growth in a puzzle with other iconography  related to career success, like an email and a lightbulb and a handshake and a magnifying glass.

"As a professional academic adviser and adjunct working in higher ed post-pandemic, I personally feel that those of us truly dedicated to student success, particularly in Drexel’s environment, must be ready to help students bridge the connection between what they are learning in the classroom to possible career pathways," said Dionne Gordon-Starks, a senior graduate academic adviser in the College of Computing & Informatics and an adjunct professor in the Goodwin College of Professional Studies' First-Year Exploratory Studies program.

Making the connection between classroom and career is part of the reason why Gordon-Starks participated in the Career Champions Certificate Program last year. The Steinbright Career Development Center, in partnership with Drexel Human Resources, created it for Drexel faculty and professional staff who actively work with and mentor students, and offered five virtual workshops to provide information about best practices and resources around the University.

Over 100 participants attended sessions about career counseling, brain-based career advising, LinkedIn and other relevant topics to support students in their academic and professional lives. The Steinbright Career Development Center team collaborated with Drexel experts from the Center for Black Culture, the Counseling Center, Graduate Admissions and the Graduate College presented at these sessions to explain their areas and expertise and how participants could refer students to them. A similar series of sessions and experts will be included in this year's programming.

"The Career Champions Certificate Program is essential for campus partners that are in career conversations with students to strengthen those meaningful moments and ensure there is clarity in referring students to Steinbright," said Nicole Dalberto, director of career services and strategic initiatives at the Steinbright Career Development Center. "The first-year participants highlighted that Drexel is rich with amazing mentors across campus and each person shared how much they learned from the Career Champions Program that could help students find their footing at Drexel and clarify how they can succeed professionally."

Now, the second year of programming is starting up this winter term. There will be three primary sessions (core components required to receive the Career Champions certification) and two electives, and all sessions are one hour long. Participants can sign up for these workshops in Career Pathway via DrexelOne (search for "Career Champions 2023").

Core components:

  • Finding the Path at Drexel with Career Counseling: Feb. 23 from 2–3 p.m.
  • LinkedIn as You've Never Seen It Before: April 20 from 2–3 p.m.
  • Handshake: Insights into The Future of Work: March 16 from 2–3 p.m.

Elective components:

  • Brain-Based Career Development: May 25 from 2–3 p.m.
  • Co-op Details That Matter: time and date TBD

For Michelle Quigley, associate director of student and alumni services at the Dornsife School of Public Health, both "LinkedIn as You've Never Seen It Before" and especially "Brain-Based Career Development" provided new perspectives and opportunities to meet students where they are.

"I enjoyed learning about the neuropsychological considerations for having career conversations with students, and how using mindfulness to keep students present can help reduce anxiety in career-based conversation," said Quigley. "Additionally, I found the appointment outline for career conversations to be insightful. I had not considered using visualizations when introducing new concepts in a career counseling appointment, and how this technique may better appeal to different learning styles."

The Career Champions program has enriched how Quigley actively engages with students. 

"I check in with the student before, during and after the appointment about how they’re feeling about their own career development and address any concerns, and I utilize two visual resources during appointments: a document that provides comparative examples of statements for a résumé, and a flyer that highlights the services I provide," she said.

Both Quigley and Gordon-Starks recommend the program for people who want to improve how they engage students and learn from their peers across the University. Sometimes, faculty and professional staff are the first point of contact with students — meaning that they regularly see them when teaching a class or through career, co-op or academic advising — who can inadvertently serve as the boots-on-the-ground lifeline and a one-stop-shop that a student turns to for questions big and small and, sometimes, not related to their work at Drexel. For those employees, taking the Career Champions sessions can expand their professional network and add to their own career development at Drexel, so they're better aware of resources and areas across the University that the student might need to be connected to.

"Academic advisersare the first to really develop relationships with students in a crucial time of their development," said Gordon-Starks, who was a senior academic adviser at the College of Engineering at the time of earning her Career Champions certification. “It helps advisers gain add perspective in aiding a student create a vision for themselves post-Drexel. 

One of her biggest takeaways from that program, she said, was helping students try to visualize what a career, job or opportunity could look like. It helps them gain the confidence and life perspective to make decisions and move forward with the kind of soul-searching and life-changing thoughts and opportunities they can encounter. Her caseload of about 25 first-year students with undeclared majors at the College of Engineering all declared a major before the end of the winter term. 

"When a student comes in, you don't know what's going to be happening on the other side of the door or when you pull back the curtain," she said. "There's no formula for advising, so I want to be as prepared and as well-versed as I can be to help those students thrive. That's why I highly recommend this program!"