SJR Column: Career Development Center, January 2019

As the new year begins, college students across the country will soon return to their studies following the winter break. More than 20,000 of those students will begin their final semester at the University of Illinois, including about 1,500 whose hands I’ll proudly shake on the UIS commencement stage in May.

According to the Pew Research Center, a college degree is worth more today than ever before in terms of employment prospects, higher salaries and job satisfaction; but managing the transition from college to career can be intimidating. Fortunately for UIS students, that’s exactly where Kathyy Battee-Freeman, Director of the UIS Career Development Center, can help.

With a background including degrees in Human Resources, Career Counseling and Applied Psychology and with more than 18 years of Career Development experience, Kathyy and her team provide essential resources for students, faculty and employers to ensure the college-to-career transition has a positive outcome for all.

“Our first goal is to serve as a partner with students to develop tailored, realistic career strategies and obtainable goals,” says Kathyy.

“Starting with Freshman Orientation, we work with students throughout their educational experience – providing individualized counseling to help clarify goals and aspirations, connecting students to resources both on and off campus, and helping them develop skills such as resume writing, using digital job search tools like LinkedIn, interviewing and presenting themselves professionally – all so important for a successful transition from college to career.”

Jodi Weiss, CEO of EverythingSmart (a career strategy organization), advises students to plot their career roadmap throughout the college experience. For this reason, Kathyy and Career Center staff also partner with UIS faculty to integrate career readiness components across the curriculum – elements tailored to specific programs and majors.

Professor Hilary Anne Frost, Director of the Global Studies program at UIS, is one such faculty partner. Dr. Frost begins her Freshman Seminar by engaging students in a self-assessment to determine what kinds of careers might be a good match for their interests. She then takes her students on a “field trip” to the Career Development Center where they learn about services offered, interpret results of their assessment, and explore opportunities and networks that will lead toward career goals during their college experience.

“The UIS Career Development Center is key to a successful college experience,” says Dr. Frost. “It provides a strategic bridge between the theoretical ideas of the classroom and the working world.”

“Over many years collaborating with the Center, I’ve learned what employers in my field are seeking from new college graduates (e.g., language skills, international experience and intercultural communication skills),” she adds. “I’ve developed my courses accordingly to ensure students build those skills. This ultimately enables students to truly put their education to work.”

A third strategic partner is the employer and the Center maintains relationships with employers, large and small, throughout Springfield and beyond. Organizations such as the State of Illinois, Horace Mann, State Farm, ADM, Springfield District #186, Memorial Health Systems, Sikich and many others depend upon UIS for a steady pipeline of qualified employees.

“Employers are looking for great employees and the Career Development Center serves as a liaison between talented students and those employers,” says Kathyy.

“It’s important we have ongoing relationships with them so that we can not only respond to a specific need, but also provide a continuous source of qualified interns and employees.”

The CDC offers a variety of services for employers including the online “CareerConnect” (where internships and career opportunities can be advertised), scheduling and on-campus interviewing, and consultation services for developing internship programs and other career services.

A special opportunity will occur next month when the UIS Career Connections Expo is held in The Recreation and Athletic Center (TRAC). This annual event, scheduled for February 14th, draws more than a hundred employers and several hundred job-seekers.

Co-sponsored by UIS and Lincoln Land Community College, this year’s Expo will start with a “Coffee and Conversation” for participating employers and UIS faculty and staff. Employers can find more information and register for the Expo.

I’m looking forward to stopping by to welcome participants …. and maybe snag a Valentine cookie!

Susan J. Koch, Chancellor of University of Illinois at Springfield

Chancellor Susan J. Koch