IU Northwest Helps Students Jumpstart College, Careers

2012-12-09T00:00:00Z IU Northwest Helps Students Jumpstart College, Careers nwitimes.com
December 09, 2012 12:00 am

In Indiana, 33 percent of the state’s nearly 3.4 million working-age adults (25-64 years old) hold at least a two-year degree, according to 2008 Census data. This compares to a national average of around 38 percent.

A recent analysis by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce demonstrates how the demand for more college graduates is growing in Indiana.

According to the center’s analysis of occupation data and workforce trends, 55 percent of Indiana’s jobs will require postsecondary education by 2018. Between now and 2018, Indiana will need to fill about 930,000 vacancies resulting from job creation, worker retirements and other factors. Of these job vacancies, 506,000 will require postsecondary credentials, with just 424,000 expected to employ high school graduates or dropouts.

Expanding the opportunities for more students to take college-level coursework while in high school is a statewide effort that starts with every high school in Indiana being required by law to offer a minimum of two dual-credit courses.

Dual credit means students take college courses at their high school taught by either a high school or college instructor, while concurrent enrollment allows high school students to take college courses taught by college faculty on the college campus or online, according to Cynthia O’Dell, Ph.D., Indiana University Northwest Associate Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs.

“Early College is a broader umbrella for both dual credit and concurrent enrollment that allows us to offer a wider variety of opportunities when it comes to helping students prepare for college,” she explained. “All of this comes out of the national conversation of looking at education, and the recognition that we need to have more college-educated workers throughout the country, and here in Indiana.”

Geared toward high school juniors and seniors who are the most prepared to be successful at the college-level, dual credit courses not only help keep the cost of a college education down by decreasing the time to graduation, they have also been shown to increase the likelihood of degree completion.

“Dual credit courses help make the transition from high school to college more seamless,” Dr. O’Dell added. “They play an important and significant role in college readiness. As a result, we’re seeing continued growing interest from students and school systems. Every school district has different needs, and we work closely with all our partners.”

When it comes to preparing tomorrow’s business leaders for the challenges and opportunities of today’s marketplace and the emerging world economy, the IU Northwest Assessment Center gives students a unique opportunity to identify and develop the skills necessary for success in the workplace.

“Once you begin the interview process, you’re competing with hundreds of people for a job,” Jana Szostek, Assessment Center Director, said. “Employers are looking for someone who can communicate with coworkers, manage others and create solutions that are not always obvious. They need well-rounded individuals who can delegate responsibilities, resolve conflict and satisfy client needs.”

Through the Assessment Center, IU Northwest students have the benefit of receiving feedback on their strengths, as well as areas that require additional development, from local business people who serve as Assessment Center raters, not once but twice as part of the School of Business and Economics curriculum.

“We first see students who are just getting started in the program, freshman and sophomores,” Szostek, who first became interested in research while working with a business professor while earning her undergraduate degree in psychology at IU Northwest (she further studied Industrial-Organizational Psychology in graduate school and also earned a law degree while working as a training and development consultant), said. “With the feedback, students learn what skills they need to develop more fully to become better prepared for their studies and future employment. Then, they return to the Assessment Center in their senior year.”

All total, 160 to170 students each semester take part in six different scenarios (four live role plays that are video-recorded and two computer-based) that put them in a variety of real-world business situations (the scenarios are confidential and the role-play actors are well-prepared).

To begin, they are seated in a boardroom and given roles to play in a group meeting. Then, they are whisked off to separate offices where they continue to get a feel for what it will be like to work in their chosen career. Finally, they head to the computer lab to finish the scenarios, enter their feedback and take a paper and pencil test.

While a recent group of business administration students found the experience a bit nerve-racking in the beginning, they quickly warmed up to the task.

“What a great experience,” freshman Alyssa Soto said. “I know I’m definitely in the right place. I liked it a lot.”

Sophomores Alex Dedelow and Amanda Akinczyk agreed it was a great way to get a feel for what it’s like to deal with different issues in the business world.

“There are really no right or wrong ways to respond,” Szostek explained. “It’s all about how they deal with the issues, the processes they use. There are definitely a lot of little nuances and subtleties built into each scenario. We’ve been tweaking them over the last four to five years with feedback from our business raters.”

“It’s a great opportunity for the students to get some feedback from people in the local business community,” Dave Wilkinson, president of Strack & Van Til, an IU Northwest MBA alumnus who has been an Assessment Center rater since the first group of undergraduate students got started in 2006, said. “Now that everything is Internet-based, it’s really much easier for the raters. You watch the video and provide feedback right there on the website. IU Northwest offers employers quite a few networking opportunities, but this is a particularly good opener to go in and talk with students about how they have progressed over the years.”

“They do an excellent job with the scenarios which give the students an opportunity to get some experience handling a variety of day-to-day business issues,” Terry Quinn, senior vice president and chief wealth management officer of Peoples Bank who has been a rater for almost four years, said. “As far as I know it’s a unique program, and one of many different tools we take advantage of in recruiting. IU Northwest is very proactive in making these opportunities available for its students.”

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