Wooster receives two grants from the Council of Independent Colleges to support vocation and work-based learning programs

A general chemistry course this spring included lab activities geared toward students interested in art and art conservation; pictured in Shuri Mauser ’26.

The College of Wooster has received two grants from the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) that support vocational discernment and work-based learning programs in the curriculum. The Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education (NetVUE) Program Development Grant funds a two-year award of up to $50,000, and the Work-Based Learning (WBL) Consortium includes a multi-year program with an estimated value of over $65,000.

“Guiding students in connecting their coursework to their vocation while educating them to articulate fully the durable skills developed through their experiences inside and outside the classroom is a critical part of our mission at Wooster,” said President Anne E. McCall. “The grants from CIC will help us take this work to the next level.”

Wooster is one of 18 institutions to receive funding from this spring’s NetVUE Program Development Grant. The CIC program, supported in part by the Lilly Endowment Inc., was formed to support and enrich vocational exploration and discernment among undergraduate students. Wooster has been a proud member of NetVUE since its inception and in fact, this type of learning is already embedded in Wooster’s curriculum.

Experiential learning programs at Wooster provide real-world work in the fields students are interested in, and they allow students to make meaningful connections as a next step to their future careers. Whether interning with an organization, consulting and providing research for a local business, or participating in coursework supporting community partners, students are guided by faculty and staff mentors through reflection exercises to think critically about what they learn. Mentors across campus partner with the Experiential Learning and Community Engagement team in the Center for Advising, Planning, and Experiential Learning (APEX) to strengthen classes and programs that leverage real-world experiences outside the classroom and make them a gateway to future experiential learning opportunities through credentialing and training.

NetVUE will help the College take this existing work to the next level and spread it across disciplines. Grant funding will support infrastructure, training, and program development for initiatives that intentionally connect student curricular and co-curricular experiences to career development and vocational discernment. APEX will facilitate the grant work which is intended to advance initiatives in and out of the classroom that allow students to connect their current experiences to their longer-term vocational journey and career goals.

The program development grant will facilitate the launch of a faculty and staff Career Champions program at the College and will include a range of engagement options from low-barrier/high-impact activities to commitment to incorporating best practices into curriculum and departmental programs.  The initiative provides faculty and staff with support, information, and tools to leverage the work that is already being done outside the classroom to make clear connections between the skills students develop within the curriculum and the acquisition of transferable skills.

The second grant—the WBL Consortium—will provide a national community to help ease student barriers to internship access and job market preparation, particularly for students from under-represented groups. It’s a multi-year program that’s expected to reach more than 11,000 students nationwide with an inaugural cohort that includes Wooster and 23 other CIC member institutions.

In partnership with experiential learning platform Riipen, the Consortium will integrate real-world projects with real employers into existing courses beginning spring 2024. A team of Wooster faculty will integrate a WBL component hosted on the Riipen platform into five courses each year through the 2025-2026 academic year. The approach equips students with valuable skills as well as important professional connections they can use to support their future careers.

This won’t be the first time Wooster students experience Riipen, however. A Spring 2023 Data Visualization class taught by Moses Luri, assistant professor of economics and statistical and data sciences, integrated a Riipen project into the coursework and gave students with a variety of majors transferable skills like teamwork, presentation, and communication. Before the grant was awarded,  Peter Abramo, director of entrepreneurship already planned to pursue a Riipen project within one of his fall semester business-consulting classes and Jillian Morrison, assistant professor of statistical and data sciences will also being using the program in one of her classes this fall. The College plans to sustain lessons learned during these campus pilot projects and the Consortium to provide WBL components on campus past the grant-funded period.

The Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) is an association of more than 700 nonprofit independent colleges and universities, state-based councils of independent colleges, and other higher education affiliates, that works to support college and university leadership, advance institutional excellence, and enhance public understanding of independent higher education’s contributions to society. CIC offers conferences, seminars, publications, and other programs and services that help independent institutions improve educational quality, administrative and financial performance, student outcomes, and institutional visibility.

Image: A general chemistry course in spring 2023 included lab activities geared toward students interested in art and art conservation; pictured is Shui Mauser ’26.

Posted in News, Sponsored Research on August 23, 2023.