What comes after college graduation? To find that first full-time job, students need to know what career options exist, start building a resume with skills and experiences and have access to professional networks that can help uncover the next step. While many students have access to these opportunities through family and friends, these avenues are often unavailable to students from low-income backgrounds and those who are the first in their families to go to college. For this reason, colleges like St. Catherine University (St. Kate’s) and programs like College Possible are making career readiness a priority.
“Often when people think about their career, getting their degree means immediately landing a dream job. I see it differently,” says May Thao-Schuck, the new Teresa Rolling Radzinski vice president of career and professional development at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota. According to Thao-Schuck, for students to make a successful transition from college to the workforce, career development must be a priority from the first moment a student steps foot on campus until their graduation day.
Before coming to St. Kate’s, Thao-Schuck specialized in workforce development at the Department of Employment and Economic Development for the state of Minnesota, so this new role is a natural fit for her. As the vice president of career and professional development, her focus is on creating opportunities for students to discover their own strengths and understand different career options very early on in their college experience.
“I’m excited to be at St. Kate’s because students are the future leaders of our world,” says Thao-Schuck. “If our students don’t do well, our communities don’t do well. And if our communities don’t do well, our society doesn’t do well.”
Under Thao-Schuck’s leadership, St. Kate’s faculty are engaging students in career development by helping them reflect on their own skills and experience as a regular part of classes. As students recognize the skills they are learning, they are also discovering how to transfer those skills to their work experience and resumes.
“We are incredibly excited about the focus that St. Kate’s is putting on career development,” says Geoff Wilson, executive director of College Possible Minnesota. “Here at College Possible, we are also doing more to equip students with the skills and networks they need to succeed after graduation, so I see a lot of great connections and opportunities for collaboration in this work with St. Kate’s.”
Some other pieces of this work at St. Kate’s involves highlighting internships and engaging students’ families in career development. A priority for the university is building relationships with employers for students to continue having good internship experiences, and a future where internships are 100% paid. They are also putting on a speaker series for families to introduce them to the importance of internships and workforce readiness.
“I’m passionate about this topic. Being a first generation student and seeing the impact education has had on my life, it’s not only meaningful but significant,” says Thao-Schuck. ”That’s why I’m excited about career development and its impact on our students.”