CLA to put greater focus on career prep

A $500,000 boost for the college in Kaler’s budget could add more advisers.

Tyler Gieseke

Students in the University of Minnesota’s College of Liberal Arts could soon see a greater focus on jobs and more advising support.

In an attempt to combat common negative perceptions regarding the practicality of liberal arts degrees, the college is launching a multi-year plan this fall that will put more emphasis on career preparation for its students by adding scholarships, internship programs and potentially career counselors.

“We’re being challenged by students, parents and the public at large to prove that a liberal arts education leads to career success,” read an outline of the plan from a CLA Advisory Group meeting this spring.

University President Eric Kaler’s budget proposal for next year allocates $500,000 for CLA’s initiative, providing financial assistance for the plan’s first phase. That money will likely go toward attracting donors who could provide scholarships for students with low-paying internships, said CLA interim Dean Raymond Duvall.

Some administrators say the new funds should also boost the college’s counseling programs and help students find career opportunities in their fields. Duvall said he hopes to receive continued University funding for the initiatives in upcoming years.

The long-term plan — which includes making opportunities like internships, study abroad and career counseling more accessible for liberal arts students — will take several years to implement fully, Duvall said. Next school year, he said CLA will strive to establish relationships with alumni who could serve as mentors or offer internships to students.

CLA also plans to develop various incentives for faculty members so more of them will choose to provide research and service learning options for students, Duvall said.

Psychology sophomore Ashley Aune said there’s a common idea that liberal arts degrees aren’t as worthwhile as those that traditionally prepare students for specific careers. She said the new plan is important because many students consider CLA a second-choice college and enroll only if they aren’t admitted to their first choice.

CLA Student Board President Matt Paulbeck said an increased focus on career preparation would complement some of the events his group hosts, like networking events with alumni.

Despite all their efforts, college administrators say the changes will take time to be implemented correctly.

“We want to be really thoughtful and really intentional about this,” said Jennifer Windsor, CLA’s associate dean for undergraduate programs. “We are taking our time to think about those steps.”

Amping up advising

To promote career success for CLA students, the college might hire more academic advisers and career counselors down the road.

“It’s absolutely being considered,” Windsor said.

Plans aren’t final yet, but a written outline of the college’s plan includes hiring four more CLA Career Services counselors as a future option.

Right now, there’s one CLA career counselor for every 2,800 CLA students, according to the outline — compared to one career counselor for every 500 students in the Carlson School of Management. Adding four counselors would help put CLA on par with peer institutions, according to the outline.

But the college also needs more academic advisers, some students say, to make the advising experience more meaningful.

Aune said her counselor in the Department of Psychology is helpful, but the CLA adviser she was initially assigned to wasn’t personal or beneficial.

“I don’t think there are enough advisers,” she said.

With the new funding, Windsor said CLA is working to ensure the money goes toward preparing its students for jobs related to their majors.

“We want to spend this money well,” she said.