New survey to offer insight on post-grad plans

Janeal Downs
Staff Writer

Beginning with the Spring 2014 graduates, VCU will survey alumni on their post-graduation activity in order to collect data which can provide incoming and future students knowledge of what to expect from their majors.

VCU is currently the largest of 15 pilot universities planning to administer the “Outcome Survey” created by the Texas based company, CSO Research Incorporated. Director of the University Career Center Joe Testani said they expect to receive initial results from the survey within the month of June. The university will continue to administer the survey with CSO Research for at least the next three years.

“The benefit is that we get a more complete picture of our graduates’ pursuits during their first year after leaving VCU than we ever have before,” Testani said.

Along with the University Career Center, the Office of Planning and Decision Support and the Provost’s Office are also involved with the survey.

“One of the best measures of VCU’s success is its graduates’ success,” Testani said. “Understanding your post-graduation plans and your satisfaction with your education allows VCU to improve its academic programs and student services.”

CSO Research Inc. provides career center automation software to about 800 campuses around the world, said VCU university Career Center’s communications coordinator Brian Nicholas.

“The goal of this study is to find out what are students’ first destination career outcomes, that doesn’t necessarily mean their first job but what do they do after graduation within their first year,” Nicholas said. “Where do they go, where do they travel to, what kind of positions do they hold what kind of graduate degrees do they pursue, do they volunteer, do they work part-time, do they work full-time, all of those things.”

Graduating students will get an email prior to graduation to participate in the survey and then again 3 months, 6 months and 12 months later for follow ups. Academic departments are expected to begin informing students of the survey in the next couple of weeks Nicholas said.

The survey will not only provide information allowing the career center to better assist students but will also allow VCU to maintain new legislation, Nicholas said.

For example, Senate Bill 915, the “right to know before you go” bill, was introduced recently by Ron Wyden, Marco Rubio and Mark Warner as well a similar proposal, President Obama’s “College Scorecard.”

“What it does is, college and universities are responsible for reporting the outcomes of their students, so how much their tuition costs, how much students in a particular program make after they graduate on average how long it takes them to find a job so really that students before they enter college are informed,” Nicholas said.

Answers provided on the survey will not be sold or given to outside sources, Nicholas said.

The survey will also include questions regarding what students did as undergraduates in relation to internships and volunteer work, their satisfaction with the university, how they searched for jobs and their salaries.

“Our goal is not to upset, embarrass or make anyone feel slighted in anyway, we’re really just interested in the big picture,” Nicholas said. “We plan to use the data pretty heavily on our new website.”

Nicholas said because many jobs are found with the help of alumni and networking the survey will also help narrow down businesses which frequently hire VCU students. Other than alumni checking their emails after graduation, Nicholas said he didn’t foresee                   many challenges.

Senior vocal performance major Colby Mullen is one graduating student who plans on participating in the survey. He is currently applying for jobs in arts management but said he doesn’t know how well people in his major do after graduating.

Mullen said the survey can show incoming students what type of jobs and salaries to expect from their majors after graduation. He said he expects the survey to show many graduates doing better six months after graduation in comparison to three months after

“I think they do well because we are a really big arts school a lot of times you have to think outside of the box for your career when you’re any type of performing or visual arts major,” Mullen said.

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