ASU students and staff immerse themselves in a new way of learning and working with purpose and identity at the heart
Almost two years ago, the pandemic unquestionably changed our lives in countless ways. One of those notable changes was when, where, and how we work and learn. But an academic unit at Arizona State University aimed to transform the future of work for employed students and professional staff even before COVID-19 pushed the world to work and learn remotely.
In the fall of 2020, university collegea hub for learner success ASU, launched Work+ in collaboration with ASU Career and professional development services and the Student Employment Office.
The goal of the program is to provide a meaningful and engaging way for learners and staff to experience their work at ASU, and in January 2022, Work+ was awarded a national grant of $250,000 per Strada Education Network as part of its Beyond the Challenge of Completion for “developing strategies to expand career support”. Grant funds will support technology and digital asset development, stipends, and administrative costs.
Piloted with just under 500 students, Work+ has continued to grow, with both students and staff members. The ultimate goal will be to develop, expand and share this model with other universities across the country, so that learners working across the country are ready to not only land careers they are passionate about, but also to be in careers where they can grow as individuals and professionals. .
Soukhwant Jhaj, dean of University College and vice provost for academic innovation and student success, said that with nearly 14 million students working in America, it’s time to change the old paradigm, the perception and experiences of modern college students. Instead of doing a job just to cover rent, tuition, and the ever-increasing cost of living, Work+ provides students with meaningful experiences that develop their sense of identity, agency, and purpose. of their ASU jobs.
“What’s interesting is that the non-traditional student is the new traditional student,” he said. “As the nature of work changes, so does learning. Our model (of Work+) supports how we deliver this learning,” he said.
Jhaj also said that with the rising cost of living, emerging technologies and competition for high-paying roles, it is now more important than ever for students to articulate their academic and career paths.
“The problem we are working on is very important: how can we help students make the connection between work and learning? For the past 30 years, a high school diploma was enough for the majority of the job that existed in America. Now you need some form of post-secondary education for the majority of the work,” he said.
Over a one-year period, ASU employs approximately more than 12,000 student learners across four campuses, remote work, and at SkySong.
Brandee Popaden-Smith, director of Work + Learn at University College, said the program allows working students to meaningfully engage with their work at ASU.
“We felt it was really timely to rethink this relationship between work and learning and launch new types of models where students’ work experience gives them the tools to articulate their stories,” he said. she declared.
Work+ is modeled with the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) Career Readiness Competencies, including professional and personal development, communication, critical thinking, equity and inclusion, leadership, professionalism, teamwork and technology. By using these eight skills, Work+ goes beyond internship or field of study experiences.
It also encourages students to reflect and ask themselves questions of trust such as: Who am I? What am I trying to do? What kind of problems do I want to solve in this world? How should I, through my agency, act at this precise moment?
Video of Work+ student testimonials
While purpose and identity are at the heart of the program, Work+ also teaches practical skills to grow in any role, negotiating pay and responsibilities.
Aliya Kubala, Operations Specialist and active learner at Work+, had the opportunity to put this negotiation into practice when an opportunity for a new position as an active learner presented itself within the Work+ team.
Kubala, who has worked in various units at the university including professional development and career services, as well as in several customer service-based roles, said she now knows how to tell her career story. .
“Observing what we do at Work+ as a program participant and as a learner gave me the confidence to speak to my supervisors and clearly describe what I brought to the table. I was able to get the pay rise I was asking for,” she said.
Popaden-Smith envisions the Work+ model being widely used for learners who work in the nonprofit, government, and corporate sectors.
“We help students really make sense of every work experience they have. We want them to know that all of their work experiences are broadly transferable to whatever interests them after they graduate from ASU,” she said.
Currently, the curriculum is designed in Canvas, but the Work+ model will continue to move beyond a Canvas course modality with access that engages students on multiple levels.
To make Work+ a more rewarding experience, the team designed a badge system such that as students progress through the program, they receive badges that they can add to their professional profiles.
Work+ Director Video & Supervisor Testimonials
From the female students’ perspective, Kubala said she appreciated the Work+ mentoring tenant the most.
“It (the program) takes supervisors into a different mindset where they help students learn all of these skills,” she said. “He guides you and shows you how you can turn all your experiences into a story. And it’s not just something like ‘now I have communication skills’. Now in interviews I can show how I communicated and collaborated as an individual and as a group.
Work+ is also designed to invigorate and engage professional staff, which ultimately enhances the overall experience.
“We seek to create an experience that is broadly usable and accessible to any working learner,” Popaden-Smith said. “We want to make sure students really know how to do effective thinking on their own.”
Top photo courtesy of iStock/Getty Images