Ramapo College’s New Pathways Program

Ramapo College’s mission is to provide every student with an excellent education and personal experience that will shape their lives and lead them on the road to success. Thanks to the tremendous support of a very generous gift, there is a program in place that will help students develop a rich understanding of the career development process, foster self-awareness and promote experiential learning as they venture into life beyond Ramapo.

Nick and Susan Vallario have enthusiastically endowed five separate and unique Pathways Programs for each of the College’s schools to help every Ramapo student prepare for their post-graduation experience. Beyond the classroom, the students will be able to demonstrate that they can lead, work well on a team and take on real-world experience. Ms. Vallario joined the College’s Board of Trustees in 2014.

“We are so grateful for Nick and Susan’s very generous gift, which will touch the life of every student at Ramapo. The program’s unique design, which is tailored specifically to a student’s major, will provide a tremendous opportunity for our undergraduates to explore their career options and ultimately become better prepared to successfully navigate the labor market before entering the workforce,” said Dr. Peter P. Mercer, President of Ramapo College.

The Career Pathways Program of the Anisfield School of Business, established in 2013, has helped business majors through hands-on activity and direct interaction with advisors in the Cahill Career Development Center. The Pathways Program is designed to help students secure internships while in school and has been met with outstanding success.

Sixty-nine percent of graduating seniors in 2015 participated in one or more co-ops and/or internships versus 55 percent in 2012. Professional full-time employment upon graduation also has increased, with 71 percent of graduating seniors securing professional employment before graduation, the highest level in the past five years.

Effective Fall 2015, completion of the Career Pathways Program has become a graduation requirement for every business major to help ensure all ASB graduates will “hit the ground running” as they launch their careers.

“Researchers Liu, Xu and Weitz found in 2011 that internships and other hands-on experiences serve as invaluable opportunities to socialize students into the norms of the workplace and technical competencies, as well as foster individual emotional sharing and growth,” said President Mercer.

“The inclusion of the Pathways Program into the curriculum signals Ramapo’s commitment to our students’ academic success as well as the College’s approach to engaging students in meaningful experiences that foster a continuum of personal and professional learning. Through internships, study abroad programs, volunteer service, student leadership positions, valuable mentoring experiences and having the opportunity to complete undergraduate student-faculty research, our students gain the competitive edge.”

The Anisfield School of Business (ASB) program is delivered in three sequential modules, tailored to the specific needs of the business student.

Module 1 (“Career Assessment/Advising”) encourages students to engage in self-reflection using Focus2, a web-based career self-assessment tool that is invaluable in obtaining knowledge of various career opportunities relating to a student’s personal proficiencies, beliefs and interests. Upon completion of the Focus2, students meet in small group sessions with fellow business majors and an ASB career advisor to discuss ways to connect classroom learning with industry expectations.

Module 2 provides students with guided practice and feedback in communicating their attributes, skills and experiences relative to job requirements. In this module, students spend a significant amount of time writing a professional resume, creating a robust LinkedIn profile and developing a cover letter tailored to a specific job description.

Module 3 (“Interview Practice”) focuses on transitioning from written to verbal communication and prepares students to speak about their goals, education, skills, work interests and values with industry professionals. Specific activities in this module include researching a prospective employer, developing an introductory “elevator pitch” and conducting a practice interview using the Cahill Center’s video interviewing software, InterviewStream. Through these activities, students realize the value of being prepared and having an opportunity to practice interviewing in a safe environment.

Pathways was introduced in the Salameno School of Humanities and Global Studies (SSHGS) for the 2014-15 academic year—but with a different approach that is tailored more to the goals of its students.

“Our students have different post-graduation goals from ASB students so Pathways has been designed to best suit their needs,” said SSHGS Dean Stephen Rice. “Quite often, they have more in mind than taking a straight career path.”

The SSHGS Pathways Program focuses on assisting students on four main fronts, Dean Rice said.

  1. Career: Geared for students who are aiming for a teaching or publishing career, for instance. “We help them focus on what they need to do while they’re here at Ramapo to best achieve that goal,” Dean Rice said.
  2. Graduate and professional school: “We show the students how to look at their options if they wish to pursue an advanced degree, such as an MFA or law degree,” Dean Rice said.
  3. Service organization: Students receive assistance in how to enlist in the Peace Corps, Americorps and other domestic and international service-organizations.
  4. Transition time: “Not all students are necessarily ready to finish their studies and get right to work, and many of them leave college with a sense of uncertainty,” said Dean Rice. “We let them know that it’s okay to feel that way, but we provide services and resources that they can explore during that transitional year. This gets to the heart of what college should be and supports a broader vision of the educational experience.”

The true testament of Pathways’ success has been the growing interest in our students from the employment community. The Cahill Career Development Center has reported a surge in recruitment this year. There has been a substantial increase in career fair participation, subsequent internship and full-time employment opportunities offered by local businesses and service organizations.

The most exciting outcome of the established Pathways Programs is that they serve as a model for Ramapo’s three other schools: The School of Theoretical and Applied Science (TAS), the School of Contemporary Arts (CA) and the School of Social Science and Human Services (SSHS).

The Deans of TAS, CA and SSHS have begun mapping out preliminary goals and objectives for students. The program is designed to meet the needs of majors whose disciplines are distinctive to their respective academic programs, such as acting, pre-law and nursing.

For example, workshops, guest speakers and campus visits by professionals in the arts will help inspire students and provide motivation for their own job searches. Students in SSHS majors may need assistance to prepare for graduate school requirements such as the LSAT or GRE. The TAS Pathways Program will help students preparing for careers in the science or health-related industries.

“Through their professional careers, Nick and Susan have witnessed first-hand the need for students to be better prepared as they compete to enter the workforce,” said President Mercer. “We thank them for their vision and belief that each and every student should be guided through that process of securing a great job or being accepted in their dream graduate program with a fellowship. Ramapo’s program is unique because our students are invited to be part of a four-year career plan that is designed by their dean and faculty to meet the needs of students from various disciplines and with various post-graduation goals.”

Angela Daidone is a public relations specialist at Ramapo College of New Jersey.

More information about the Pathways Program can be found at: www.ramapo.edu/cahill/exploration/

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