Career and management department seeks to increase student engagement

Students gather on Monday in the Paul L. Foster Campus for Innovation to study together. The career management department in the business school has experienced an 87 percent overall increase in undergraduate placement in the last four years. Photo credit: Penelope Shirey

By Megan Rule | Staff Writer

The Baylor business career management department is making some serious strides as the program expands but is still working toward increasing student engagement.

“The fear of making the wrong choice is, to me, the biggest detriment in what causes such a weak amount of student engagement, whether you think you’re too busy or it’s a fear of the unknown,” said Kenneth Buckley, assistant dean of career management in the Hankamer School of Business. “If we could find a way to help students see the value, we could do so much more than what we’re doing now.”

Student engagement is the number one struggle for the department, Buckley said. However, with all the noise in their lives, career management should be a topic that is at the forefront of students’ minds because of the growth and opportunities it can provide. Buckley said the biggest element that determines success for the department is student engagement, and there is so much more that can be done with that.

“The thing that we do is offer students a clear vision on their careers,” Buckley said. “It’s one thing to sort of put your career on the back burner because of the unknowns or the fear, but what we try to do is bring that career right into the forefront of what you’re thinking about and put it to a student in such a way that they own it, they become accountable for it, it becomes theirs and then watch them go through that process when they start doing it alone.”

One of the most notable growth factors of the career management department in the business school is the 87 percent overall increase in undergraduate placement in the last four years. Looking at graduate placement, there has been 100 percent internship placement in the past 10 years. This led to the business school ranking No. 10 in the country in the Bloomberg Best Business Schools, and U.S. News ranked the business school No. 3 in the country for employment at graduation.

“College is a lot of fun, but the point is to get a job, which a lot of people don’t think about until senior year,” said Chesterfield, Va., senior Melanie Wyman. “I got to enjoy my senior year because I started this process when I was young, which is why I have a job. Definitely start early because if you think you’re going to start as a senior, you’re going to be really stressed out because employers enjoy proactive students.”

Recently, students have taken increased advantage of the 4,500-square-foot Jay and Jenny Allison Career Management Suite in the business school. This suite offers 10 technology-based interview rooms, a recruiter’s lounge and staff offices and hosts various events such as information sessions, interviews and one-on-one career coaching. Buckley said that with the help and support of the business school, deans and the alumni, career management is no longer scattered throughout the old Cashion building but in a comfortable building with amenities and privacy.

“For me, the biggest thing is that they were just huge motivators and they really pushed me to get out of my comfort zone, go to career fairs and be prepared so I was the best I could possibly be,” said Cedar Park senior Haylee Honeycutt. “With the prep they gave me, I was able to find an internship that led to a job offer.”

Wyman said what helped her most were the practice interviews and the skills she learned to stand out online and build her resume. The career management department has now added required classes, BUS 2101 and BUS 3101 for undergraduates and BUS 5111 and BUS 5112 for graduates, that allow students to discover career opportunities, asses their skills, mold their resumes and negotiate various job opportunities. Since making these classes mandatory, Buckley said there has been a significant change as more students are walking away with successful.

“I took the pilot classes that they were offering before they were mandatory,” Wyman said. “It definitely served as a confidence booster to me in my professional development. Having that tactical knowledge helped me gain confidence in who I am as a professional, which goes a long way in an interview, helping me land my internship and job before senior year.”

Buckley said the department is just now beginning to capture the attention of younger students but is trying to be even more engaging. Honeycutt encourages younger students to get to know everyone in the career office because the sooner the process starts, the better. The career management department works on equipping students for the real world, so it is definitely something that should be utilized, Buckley said.

“They guided me to be more professional in the way that I carried myself in the application process and interviews,” said Waco senior Austin Mozingo. “That was a big part of it.”

Overall, Buckley is proud with the growth in numbers of both placement rates and involvement by students, but there is room to grow. Comparatively speaking, even though more students are utilizing the career management resources, there is still a large population to be reached, Buckley said. He encourages young students to come in and get involved and be proactive about their careers, as everything done by career management is genuine. Buckley said the main aspect that sets the department apart is that the staff is composed of seasoned industry professionals and that they truly care.

“It is so much more than just an 8 to 5 job for people that are here in this suite, they’re here much longer and do whatever it is, whether it’s after hours or weekends, to do the things they need to do to help connect students to their successes,” Buckley said.