Coaching science students to be career-ready

The College of Science has launched a hybrid approach to career development, combining both traditional and innovative approaches to ensure science graduates are well prepared to find their dream job, land on the best career path for them or get into top graduate schools. We are committed to evolving the career training and development students receive to stay on pace with the ever-changing workplace.

Chris Larson, Director of Integrated Professional Development and Industry Programs

The College’s Integrated Professional Development (IPD) and Industry Programs are a suite of innovative career preparation programs based on a one-of-a-kind platform that helps students develop professional development skills with content embedded in first-year experience science courses and prepares them for experiential learning to stand out in the job or graduate school market. Chris Larson, who created and now directs the IPD program, has spent two years conceptualizing and building this program that is paramount to student success beyond the classroom.

Students are invited to special networking events with industry and coached on how to secure internships that transform their classroom learning. Larson builds bridges between students and working professionals so graduates can meet market demand for employees with the requisite skill set needed for career and life success in the 21st century.

“Leading the College’s efforts to ensure that our science graduates excel in the job market, get into top graduate schools and other competitive programs is a dream come true,” says Larson.

“It’s such a privilege to observe the impact that the IPD platform has on students, through both the curriculum and programs like the Science Professional Pursuits Program. As we begin to scale IPD across the College of Science, I look forward to what I expect will be very positive outcomes for our graduates as they continue their professional journeys.”

The range of platforms, programs and curriculum for science students helps them build a solid foundation for lifelong success, not just in their first job but for that fifth or tenth job.

Integrated Professional Development (IPD) is a novel platform which integrates professional development skills into the curriculum, starting with freshman first-year experience courses. Our holistic approach ensures that students explore and imagine different career paths and life goals early in their studies, hone job-seeking skills such as resume writing and interviewing and build the interpersonal “soft” skills so highly valued by employers. The College has integrated IPD into biology and zoology classes, with plans to expand it across all science majors. Currently, the College is developing stand-alone online modules for all of these components so that students and faculty have the flexibility to add or review them at any stage. The online modules will also be used by students across the university.

Advising at the College goes far beyond class selection. Advisors are trained to help students understand the breadth of career options in their major, plot out possible post-graduation pathways and gain the leadership, hands-on research or study abroad experiences that can give their undergraduate work a unique edge, shape and focus.

Career development programs span all four years, from professional training bootcamps, networking events with premier industries and research labs, to expert advice on presenting yourself successfully in resumes, correspondence and interviews. Career development advisor Tzu-Chin (Claire) Wu specializes in coaching and working with any student who needs one-on-one guidance.

Science Professional Pursuits Program (SP3) is a three-term, three-credit professional program for all science undergraduates that helps students identify, assess and compete successfully for an internship or lab research position. Why is this critical? Students who participate in these hands-on, pre-professional experiences add real-world context and depth to their academic studies, gain confidence and learn extremely valuable transferable skills, from teamwork to creative problem-solving.

Secondly, SP3 helps students to translate their experiences, whether within the classroom or outside it, into an engaging and confident manner of presenting themselves, whether in a resume, interview or elevator pitch. One-on-one coaching, group exercises and mock interviews allow students to rehearse and gain fluency and confidence in a number of potential settings.

Currently in its first year of operation, SP3 has already received extremely positive reviews from students:

“I gained confidence about my standing in the science world and within a week was accepted into a lab on campus. As a person who was feeling hopeless and downtrodden…this program helped me.” ~ Jacob

“It has really allowed me to become a lot more confident about my background, my skills, and my prospects. I think I came in with a bit of “imposter syndrome” where I felt like I was very unprepared and insecure about my current standing and what held for my future, and really the meetings allowed me to put things into perspective and shift the focus from worry to constructive work.” ~ Vilhelm

“It forced me to step out of my bubble and start applying for internships, attend career expos, and to just stop and think about where I wanted my life to lead.” ~ Ryan

“SP3 has completely changed the way I think about myself as a professional. Coming into SP3, I had zero confidence in myself when it came to jobs/internships – which is absolutely ridiculous given my high school background. I was valedictorian, president of FBLA, (blah blah blah), yet I was my biggest enemy. No, I was the kryptonite to my success. Thanks to SP3, I have surpassed that hurdle and can only improve from now on.” ~ Taylor

“I am a first-generation college student who grew up without an inherent professional network (my parents couldn’t advise me). SP3 connected me with people who are now part of my network. [I now see] myself as a professional.” ~ Thao

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