University weighs the costs and benefits of mandating “Enriched Career Experiences”

By Hailey Hensley

A proposal was put forward to enhance students engaged learning experience as well as increasing the value of their degree.

Rider’s University Academic Policy Committee (UAPC) recently had a proposal before it to restructure engaged learning requirements that has since been withdrawn.

This proposal would have required students to complete an “Enriched Career Experience” that covers a multitude of career-focused learning opportunities. However, the proposal was pulled due to concerns about mandating such extensive experience for students.

According to Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs DonnaJean Fredeen, who supported this proposal, the proposal passing would have greatly benefited Rider students as a whole and make them more desirable to employers.

“There is a great deal of research that indicates that employers seek individuals with both the disciplinary knowledge for the needed work and work experience that provides examples of an individual’s ability to communicate effectively, think critically and work collaboratively,” Fredeen said. “The Enriched Career Experience provides opportunities for all Rider students to exercise the application of the knowledge they are learning in the classroom along with the other skills that employers desire.” 

Fredeen clarified that some universities have a co-op requirement for graduation. A co-op is generally a full-time paid position that alternates on a term schedule with a student’s regular classroom activities.

Courtesy of Drexel University

“Some institutions, such as Northeastern and Drexel, have a co-op requirement for all of their students. This proposal was a modification of that requirement,” she said.

Student Government Association (SGA) President Dylan Erdelyi stated that the requirement would not simply require students to complete an internship, but instead a much more in-depth experience meant to improve students’ career prospects. 

“It’s not quite an ‘internship requirement,’ but rather, it is a requirement that students complete an Enriched Career Experience — that is a ‘one semester, 100+ hour (three points) intentional, discipline-focused, career-based learning opportunity that includes, internships, co-ops, fieldwork, guided research, scholarship, student teaching/fieldwork, on-campus/student employment internships and those activities/courses that fulfill the Arts, Media and Creativity Engaged Learning category,’” he said. “Basically, this proposal is just a restructuring of existing Engaged Learning requirements with the intention of helping students with more focused career readiness.”

UAPC Chairperson Diane Campbell revealed that the original requestor had since withdrawn the proposal and it would not be looked at again until at least the fall semester.

“The original proposal that was presented at the last UAPC meeting has been withdrawn at this time. If it comes back at all, it will be next fall. The only part that will be still discussed is making it easier on transfer students who have more than 31 credits to get the necessary points to graduate,” Campbell said. 

Fredeen also discussed the origination of the proposal, stating that some of the ideas for the proposal came from faculty who were already working with students seeking internships.

“Kimberly Barberich, executive director for the Center for Career Development and Success, was speaking to faculty members who work closely with students to find internship opportunities to determine how to encourage more students to seek such opportunities to meet their Engaged Learning requirements,” Fredeen said. “Barberich pulled together all of the information gained from these conversations along with research from across the country to create the Enriched Career Experience proposal.”

Erdelyi said that the proposal was intended to be more inclusive for the student body.

“I sit on the Engaged Learning Committee, and we endorsed this proposal. As you can see above, there are many more options to fulfill the requirement than an internship and I believe most students already complete some version of those above requirements,” he said. “The proposal was structured to cater to a wide variety of students, some who… are not able to complete an internship.”

Fredeen highlighted the reasons for the proposal being withdrawn and stressed the fact that even without the proposal in place, the goal of the administration was still to have the vast majority of students engaging in an enriched career experience. 

“Having considered the many questions raised and the logistics surrounding a mandatory requirement for the Enriched Career Experience umbrella, we decided to withdraw the proposal at this time,” she said. “We will continue to market the value of the three Engaged Learning Categories that define the Enriched Career Experience to work towards a goal of 95% of all students completing one of these three categories.”

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