Rethinking Careers and Higher Ed

I’ve been pondering a paradox with college students and careers lately.  Much of this falls into a “thinking outloud” category, with no real intent or outcome in mind.  So, bear with me.

Gerald Bracey once wrote that the debates on the purpose of higher education have been “overwhelmed by a recent shift to a single-minded view about education: Education is about jobs.”  Although somewhat fatalistic, there is at minimum a kernel of truth behind it — People speak about college in ROI terms and nearly universally that return is defined as employment.

I don’t think that’s an entirely-positive thing, and if you catch me at the right time, I will become a higher education traditionalist who spouts platitudes about an educated democracy, knowledge creation and so forth.

But, if jobs are even among the top three reasons a student comes to college, does it not stand to reason that said student would go to great lengths to participate in career-related activities?  If so, why is low student attendance at career events (like fairs, networking nights, workshops, panels, etc.) an issue at so many universities?

Here on a campus of 25,000+ students, why should our office have to worry about how many students are going to show up for a networking night focused on a particular industry.   Even if one captures only one-tenth of one percent of the student population, it’s a sizable turnout.  So, why do we struggle sometimes to capture .002%?

Is it the wrong programming?  Is it a student engagement issue?  A marketing issue? Are students given too options for events on college campuses? Are students not career-centered in the way that Bracey posits?

Interesting questions all around.

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