College career development centers are regularly faced with the challenges of increasing their visibility to students, establishing more collaborative relationships with faculty members, and developing more employer contacts. Recently, the Starr Career Development Center (SCDC) at Baruch College (City University of New York), under the guidance of its Director Dr. Patricia Imbimbo, has developed a critical tool to assist in meeting all these challenges, the Starr Sub Program.
The Starr Sub Program offers two primary faculty services, Starr Subs and Invited Presentations. Faculty members faced with canceling a class to attend a conference or other faculty-related event can contact the Starr Career Development Center to request a Starr Sub, an SCDC staff member who will conduct a career-related workshop in the absence of the faculty member. The SCDC offers a wide array of workshop options, including Career Planning 101, Resume Writing, Impression Management: From Job Offer to Workplace Success, and Interviewing Techniques. Given sufficient advance notice, the SCDC can create a workshop tailored to the needs of the specific class. For example, the Center has conducted a Green Marketing Careers presentation for a Marketing course and a Leadership & the MBTI workshop for a Management class. Faculty members can alternatively request an Invited Presentation, wherein an SCDC staff member provides a workshop with the faculty member in attendance.
Since the inception of the program in Fall 2007, the Starr Sub program has fulfilled an average of 10 faculty member requests a semester, providing workshops to an average of 350 students. Each year the program has grown, with more faculty members from a variety of disciplines (e.g., Psychology, Finance, Marketing, Management, Law, etc.) requesting services. During 2009-10, an 18% increase in faculty participation was reported, as compared to the previous academic year. Faculty members have referred colleagues to me as well, and recently I have worked with some faculty to incorporate the presentations into their syllabi every semester. The Starr Sub program has also been instrumental in raising the profile of the Starr Career Development Center with students. A survey I conducted found that 48% of student participants in Starr Sub presentations had never visited the Center. By truly meeting students where they are, we have been able to increase new student traffic to the Starr Career Development Center and to our website. Through establishing closer ties to faculty members, we have also been able to receive referrals from faculty about possible employer partners.
Although the Starr Sub program has been successful, it can be time intensive to launch and maintain. Therefore, if you are interested in developing such a program at your campus, I would make the following recommendations:
Institutionalize the Program – we have added the Starr Sub program to the Faculty page on the SCDC website. Faculty members can download a Starr Sub Request Form from the website or they can contact me directly. The SCDC Director, Dr. Patricia Imbimbo, also attends our college-wide faculty meetings and usually makes an announcement about the program. Although in the past staff members fulfilled faculty presentation requests on an ad hoc basis, establishing the Starr Sub program has streamlined the process, which facilitates tracking and reporting of statistics and avoids duplication of effort.
Offer Services Based on Capacity – we usually ask for two weeks advance notice to be able to schedule a presentation. While I typically fulfill most requests personally, I occasionally ask colleagues for assistance in conducting a workshop. I have also worked with faculty members to negotiate presentation dates which are feasible for all parties involved. We indicate that not all requests may be fulfilled due to scheduling limitations. It is important to understand your capacity to offer such services, because once the offer is made, many faculty members may be eager to utilize it.
Develop a Reliable Tracking System – a tracking system has enabled the SCDC to obtain critical data such as the most popular topics requested (e.g., Resume Writing) and the departments who have made the most frequent requests. Our Starr Sub database includes faculty names, contact information, course name, date request was made, topic requested, date and time of requested workshop, length of workshop, and location of class. I also record the number of students, their majors, and their class status (e.g., sophomore, junior, etc.). Requests are entered into the database as soon as received. While you may not be the person responsible for entering the data, it is critical that this database is regularly updated in order to maintain accurate statistics for reporting and to assist in goal setting for the next academic year.
Confirm Every Request – sometimes during the midst of a busy semester, a faculty member may get behind in his or her syllabus and overlook the request which was made two months ago. Therefore, I confirm a presentation request about a week in advance. Such a practice has been useful, since sometimes faculty members may request a postponement for a more convenient date. Since the Starr Sub program is aimed at improving faculty relations, we work very diligently to ensure faculty member satisfaction.
Launching a new program while attempting to fulfill the everyday responsibilities of a career center can be daunting. However, the Starr Sub program has proven to be a fruitful endeavor for the Starr Career Development Center in increasing collaboration with faculty and is one we intend to continue to grow for years to come.
Richard Orbé-Austin, Ph.D., is a psychologist and the Associate Director of Special Programs at the Starr Career Development Center of Baruch College (City University of New York). He earned his doctorate in Counseling Psychology from Fordham University. His research interests include multicultural career counseling competence, racial/ethnic identity and career development, diversity issues in the workplace and the career challenges of college students. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.