Is there a better way to help liberal arts students prepare for the world after college?
The University of Minnesota thinks it may have found one in a concept called "career bundles."
The idea is to create a road map for liberal arts majors who may be interested, say, in a career in health care or publishing or the arts, said Gary Oehlert, an associate dean in the College of Liberal Arts.
The bundles will point students toward certain courses, internships and practical skills (such as resumé-writing) that, at least in theory, will make them more marketable in the real world.
"Much of what students need to be prepared for careers is there," said Oehlert. "But it's not always easy to find." In a university with thousands of course options, he explained, this is meant as a guide to point the way, as well as help students connect with alumni who can serve as mentors.
This month, the U announced plans to spend $500,000 to develop the career bundles, which it will debut in 2016.
To some extent, Oehlert admits, the bundles are a bit of a marketing tool. They're designed to reassure your average English and philosophy majors — and their nervous parents — that they're gaining the kinds of skills that employers and graduate schools truly value.
"Things like communication skills, creative thinking," Oehlert said. "We're firmly convinced that the kinds of things that we can provide in a liberal arts education prepare students for the world after graduation."
At the same time, there's a recognition that students need other skills and experiences to round out their portfolios. And while there's nothing new about that, he said, this is part of an effort to make "career readiness" a priority.
Just recently, he noted, his college — which houses nearly half the U's undergraduates — doubled its career-counseling staff, from five to 10.
"We'd like to think that if people see this and it's a great success, that more people will want to come to College of Liberal Arts," he said.