A $25 million anonymous gift to Gustavus Adolphus College, announced last week, will go toward supporting career and vocation development for the college’s graduates, school officials say.
College officials describe the effort as a way for an education to lead to a “purposeful life.” But it is also an acknowledgment that students, parents, and potential employers expect a four-year degree to lead to something: “to equip them for the challenging, competitive, and dynamic world of work.”
The move is part of a larger trend among liberal arts colleges across the country.
Carleton College in Northfield, for example, identified career development among six key priorities during a recent 18-month strategic planning, and has added career counselors to its staff.
In Iowa, Grinnell College has also taken steps to promote career development, including hiring more career advisers and adding more experiential learning opportunities, according to EAB, a best practice business serving the education industry.
As the Wall Street Journal recently put it: “With their students facing rising debt and pressure to land a job after graduation, colleges and universities are focusing less on the meaning of life and more on how to earn a living.”
Gustavus Adolphus President Rebecca Bergman is less glib. “We are definitely focused on outcomes, which means that from the time our students arrive on campus until the time they graduate, we’re preparing them for the next step,” she said.
Gustavus’s plan includes leveraging some of the school’s 27,000 alumni to match a mentor to all juniors and seniors, internships, summer jobs, study abroad programs and experiential learning.
“The package is what’s important,” Bergman said. “To help our students get very deliberate over the course of their four years here.”
With an enrollment of 2,300 undergraduate students, the private liberal arts college in St. Peter, Minn., is in the midst of a 10-year campaign to build mentorship, internship, and career experiences for all students.
By 2025, the college intends for all students to engage in an in-depth four-year career development process, participate in at least one career-related learning experience, and develop a working relationship with a career specialist in one of what it calls seven career interest clusters.
The new grant will include $10 million to endow the Gustavus Center for Career Development in support of student vocation and career readiness, a $10 million endowment for scholarships and financial aid, and $5 million for capital projects on campus.
The $5 million designation for capital improvements will go toward renovation of the college’s Nobel Hall of Science and toward athletic facilities updates.
“This transformational grant will make possible the college’s goal for career staff to work one-on-one with all Gustavus students over the course of their four-year experience,” said JoNes VanHecke, vice president for student life and dean of students.
Gustavus announced a $40 million gift in July, described as the largest gift ever to the college. About a third of those funds will be earmarked for scholarships, the college said. The donation, which is a multiyear commitment, also will help fund a $70 million renovation and expansion of the Nobel Hall of Science and provide a “significant boost” to the school’s $165 million endowment, the college said at the time.
Founded in 1862, Gustavus is known internationally for its annual Nobel Conference each fall.