In May 2014, Gallup Education released the findings of its inaugural Gallup-Purdue Index. The study of more than 30,000 graduates revealed that students who felt supported by their professors during college and had experiential learning opportunities such as long term class projects and internships more than doubled their odds of being engaged at work and were more likely to be thriving in all areas of well-being than graduates who did not have such experiences.
These findings validate the model for The Collaboratory program at Ringling College of Art and Design in partnership with The Patterson Foundation. We knew after years of observing students and graduates at the College that those who landed great jobs and built rewarding careers had experiences described in the Gallup-Purdue Index findings.
The Gallup Purdue Index is the first survey of its kind. Rather than focusing on short-term gains such as immediate placement after graduation or average starting salaries for graduates, researchers focused on identifying the experiences that helped shape a college graduate’s success in work and life over time. It did not matter if the graduate attended an Ivy League school, a large public university, or a small private college. In an article summarizing the findings, Gallup Education executive director Brandon Busteed cites caring professors, instructors who excite their students about learning, and mentors as key people who determine whether or not a graduate will thrive in work and life. Graduates who engaged in professional experiences such as long-term projects and internships and were very active participants in extracurricular activities and organizations fared far better in work engagement and general well-being than those who did not.
What students develop through these experiences are soft skills. These skills – communication, collaboration, creative problem solving, and a client service orientation – are essential in today’s information-driven, experience-centric economy. Employers no longer have the patience to help young people develop them along with the self-motivation, time management, and organizational capabilities they expect from people on their teams.
We believe that it is our responsibility to give Ringling College students as many options to gain the professional experiences and soft skills that employers demand, so they can become more competitive in the job market or as entrepreneurs when they graduate. They are treated as emerging professionals when they arrive on campus, with the expectation that they will be practice-ready when they depart.
On November 1, Ringling College of Art and Design president Dr. Larry R. Thompson made a promise to the crowd of prospective students and their parents visiting the College for Preview Day. The Collaboratory Commitment, as the promise is called, guarantees that every student enrolling in Ringling College beginning in Fall 2015 will have the opportunity to participate in a “real-world” client-based professional experience before graduation.
The commitment is named for the recently established Collaboratory funded by The Patterson Foundation. The Collaboratory serves as the central hub for students seeking professional project experience, connecting with the businesses, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies that want to tap into the talent at Ringling College to help solve their business challenges.
“Students embarking on a job search without the benefit of professional experience are at a real disadvantage in today’s competitive job market,” said Dr. Thompson. “Employers are looking to hire graduates who have professional work experience, references, and a proven ability to communicate, collaborate, and use creativity to solve organizational challenges. These attributes help an employer determine if a prospective new hire will fit into the company culture, adapt well to change, and offer value to his or her team from day one on the job. The Collaboratory Commitment guaranteeing this experience to every student entering Ringling College in 2015 helps solve that problem and the issue of how does a potential new hire get professional experience to demonstrate their competencies to potential employers.”
As the Gallup Purdue Index shows, an excellent baccalaureate education and demonstrated competence in a chosen field of study is no longer enough to secure a graduate a successful future. With the Collaboratory Commitment, Ringling College of Art and Design is taking its students one giant step further in helping them succeed in work and life.
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