November 13, 2019–CHICAGO — North Park University President Mary K. Surridge opened the conversation about how to prepare students for in-demand careers at a roundtable sponsored by the Associated Colleges of Illinois (ACI) last Friday at the University Club of Chicago.
North Park is leading the way in a new initiative, the Alliance of Businesses and Colleges in Illinois. The initiative is inspired by Capital CoLAB in the Greater Washington, D.C area, which pairs colleges with the tech industry to equip graduates with skills matching employer needs.
“We are gaining a closer understanding of what employers want and how we as institutions can better prepare our students,” said Gregor Thuswaldner, North Park’s Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences.
The roundtable included local business representatives, who agreed students should develop a career plan prior to graduation, and to think of how they can apply their major to an actual job.
Recruiter Kate Rinnan with Starcom Worldwide offered, “invite industry to co-develop a curriculum.”
“Our mission is very sound: we leverage every aspect of the city and prepare our students to be innovators as they study, live and work in an intercultural environment,” said Surridge, referring to North Park’s city-centered mission.
Integrating in-the-classroom with off-campus experiential learning opportunities shows students first-hand how to apply their skills to meet real business needs.
“As a Christian, city-centered, intercultural university, our faculty and staff are committed to graduating students to be ethically sound, while balancing both independent and collaborative decisions,” Surridge said.
Equipping students with resources like resume writing, internships, and interview preparedness is important.
“Graduates emerge strong and inspired with skills to make an immediate contribution,” Surridge said.
Darrell Radson, Dean of the Goodwin College of Business at Benedictine University, encouraged students to create a career roadmap.
“More talk about careers and less on majors can match skill development with career development,” Radson said.
To address these needs, North Park has instituted a hands-on experiential learning curriculum.
“With the pressure of justifying the value of a degree, we make it a priority to offer students in-the-field learning experiences to take back to their current and future employers,” Surridge said.