University plans to launch “career bundles” program next year

by Youssef Rddad

As an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota, Matt Paulbeck knew he wanted to go to law school after graduation.
 
But the 2015 graduate said he wanted the necessary skills to obtain a law degree in addition to a well-rounded education.
 
Paulbeck, the former College of Liberal Arts Student Board president, created his own bachelor of individualized studies, focusing on political science, English and philosophy, which he said will help him with his career goals.
 
Starting next year, CLA will make getting an interdisciplinary education easier for students in any major through what it calls “career bundles.” The idea aims to make liberal arts graduates more prepared for careers after graduation and includes initiatives to make grads more attractive to employers.
 
The bundles will take resources the University already provides and combine them to create an education tailored to students who are interested in working in a specific field. 
 
The new program will also advise students to take certain courses, apply for specific internships and hone skills, like résumé writing and networking, based on their career goals to make the relationship between their educations and careers clearer.
 
“I took the bundling process into my own hands,” Paulbeck said. “It’s a really good example of how you can take courses and be deliberate and find yourself going into a career path you’re interested in.”
 
The University plans to spend $500,000 to develop the career bundles. While the concept primarily focuses on careers, some school leaders said liberal arts educations prepare students for more than just a job.
 
“Over time, there’s been a growth in belief that higher ed is about job training,” CLA associate dean for undergraduate studies Gary Oehlert said. “In the liberal arts, many of our degrees are not one-to-one connected between the major and a job,” he said, adding that to some extent, the bundle plan would help ease those worries.
 
CLA houses more students than any other college at the University’s Twin Cities campus, and last year, the college doubled its career counseling staff, Oehlert said. 
 
“The landscape of the job market is changing. In the past, having a degree was sufficient to get a job,” said Samuel Fogas, the current president of the CLA Student Board, which has been pushing for the idea since last December. “I think career bundles are going to be one of the ways to make [U students] more competitive.”
 
Paulbeck said universities should be responsible in part for preparing students for their lives after school.
 
“To ask a student to take on tens of thousands of dollars of debt and to not think about the ramifications after becomes an issue of how the college prepares students,” Paulbeck said.
 
According to the University’s Office of Institutional Research, the average loan debt for bachelor’s degree recipients excluding parent loan debts was about $26,000 in 2014.
 
Oehlert said CLA is planning to speak with advisors and career counselors inside the college. He also said officials are planning to meet with companies to better understand what employers are looking for in liberal arts grads.
 
“We think we know reasonably well the kinds of things employers are looking for, but we do want to have a check-in with our Minnesota employers to make sure there isn’t anything location-specific,” Oehlert said.