VCU introduces new career readiness minor, aims to prepare students for workforce

Students walk through Monroe Park on VCU's campus. Photo by Jay Stonefield

Davina Efetie, Contributing Writer

Mae Oetjens, Contributing Writer

VCU’s interdisciplinary studies program, I.D.S., introduced a new minor this fall called Interdisciplinary Career Readiness Skills that is designed to help students navigate the workplace when they leave the university. 

A GPA of 2.0 is required for the minor’s courses. There are 18 credit hours needed, nine of those being upper-level credits. 

The minor requires three credits in critical thinking and problem solving classes, digital technology, global and intercultural fluency, oral and written communications, and teamwork and collaboration and leadership. Two credits are needed in professionalism, work ethic and career management and one credit in UNIV 450: Career Readiness Synthesis is required, according to the I.D.S. program website. 

Zach Hilpert, an assistant professor in the department of focused inquiry, is the current director of the I.D.S. program and oversees the new minor. Hilpert said students may have already taken classes in the required subjects that can count toward the minor after it’s been declared.

“You don’t have to take the classes after you declare the minor,” Hilpert said. “We did a survey of credits at VCU, a survey of completed credits among students this past spring, and found that well over 2,000 students on campus have already completed at least 50% of the requirements of this minor.”

The minor was initially developed by Dean of University College Constance Relihan, and Hilpert has said he “fully endorsed” the minor when he saw how it was being developed.

Junior political science student Jackie Taube works with the university to assist undergraduate students. Photo by Davina Efetie

Hilpert worked with Relihan to develop the minor based on data from the National Association of Colleges and Employers. NACE is an association that provides information for college graduates on entering the workforce. 

“Our goal with this minor is to help students to develop skills that are necessary for successful entry into the workforce,” Hilpert said. “They’ve [NACE] identified eight career readiness competencies that employers across industries value in new hires.”

The eight career readiness competencies are career and self-development, communication, critical thinking, equity and inclusion, leadership, professionalism, teamwork and technology, according to NACE.

Junior political science student Jackie Taube works with VCU administration to provide resources to students such as working with the UNIV classes to figure out how the courses could be beneficial to undergraduate students.

“A resource like this would be super beneficial. It’s a broad idea of helping students entering into adulthood and trying to figure out what they want to pursue in life,” Taube said.

The only new course that will be offered with the minor is UNIV 450: Career Readiness Synthesis. This course will act as the capstone for the minor program, according to the VCU course bulletin

Freshman political science student Laila Leak said she sees the importance of the career readiness minor for students looking to make professional connections. Photo by Davina Efetie

According to Hilpert, the minor program will help students prepare for a “constantly changing work world.” Hilpert will be teaching UNIV 450 in spring 2022. 

“The one new course that we’ve developed as part of this minor is a one-credit kind of capstone for the minor, it’s called UNIV 450: Career Readiness Synthesis, and that class then we talk really specifically about all of these different skills that students develop across these courses,” Hilpert said.

Enrollment in the course is restricted to those who are registered in the minor program, according to VCU’s course bulletin. During the course, students will create an e-portfolio that demonstrates skills learned throughout the minor program.

Freshman political science student Laila Leak has taken one of the required courses, English 250: Reading Film. Reading Film is a three-credit English course taught at VCU to help develop students’ visual literacy by exploring and analyzing various elements of film, according to VCU’s course bulletin

Leak said she might not need the minor as VCU already has resources provided for her to explore, such as the VCU Career Services. The program supports students and recent alumni exploring their interests and gaining experience to reach their career goals, according to their website. She already has plans to pick up a minor in African American studies, as her concentration in political science is in civil rights.

“I want to go into law school and the prelaw society already has a ton of resources, like an alumni night I attended where I got a lot of connections and advice on how to approach my career,” Leak said. “But for careers who might not have resources like that, then I would understand why the minor would be important for students.”

More information on the Interdisciplinary Career Readiness Skills minor can be found on the I.D.S. program’s bulletin. 

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