This is the first post in a three-part series by Southern New Hampshire University's Assistant Vice President of Career Services, Eric Hall.
With classes, activities, and a host of other commitments competing for their attention, students’ time is a precious commodity.
At Southern New Hampshire University’s Global Campus, a significant number of our students are balancing their academic pursuits while working and/or taking care of families. The question our team finds ourselves constantly exploring is: how do we ensure our learners receive relevant career support and resources when they need it most? Amidst a global pandemic, the challenge is even mightier as students and alumni prioritize the health and safety of their families and themselves, as they rightly should.
In this three-part series, I’ll discuss how the SNHU team has leveraged its experience working on a distributed campus to help students and mobilize employers in this unprecedented time.
Proactive, Agile Strategies for Reaching Vulnerable Students
With remote student engagement, having a proactive strategy is paramount. Our SNHU team is structured in such a way that our career advisors actively reach out to learners in the final year of their academic program, whatever shape it might take. Agility is key; by working to collect as much career and employment data as possible in advance of our communication efforts we’re able to prioritize and pivot based on those students who are most vulnerable.
Keeping the essential data simple has worked well. The three areas we focus on are employment status, career goal (new career, career changer, or career advancer) and whether or not they’re in need of support. Those who have indicated they are unemployed and actively seeking assistance take top priority for us.
Simple Acts of Engagement
SNHU advisors seek to contact all the students in their caseload, updating information as it becomes available, which allows us to shift our efforts as needed. Engagement rates fluctuate, but even the simple act of leaving a voice message can make all the difference—it reminds our learners that we are there for them, focused on their well-being and ready to lend an ear.
As Farouk Dey has recently said, “simply slapping “virtual” in front of resources/services is a disservice to our students and employers.” Saying you’re virtual isn’t enough; setting aside the necessary time to be thoughtful and intentional in outreach has proven to be tremendously impactful in our learners’ engagement with and awareness of our department.
Effective Scaling your Team—Across Campus
With 140,000 plus online learners, it is critical for our career team to be able to scale our services effectively. Employing dynamic technology such as Handshake has been invaluable (more on that in a minute), but just as important has been the ability to leverage key institutional partners in the work that we do.
Academic advisors, faculty, financial services, alumni engagement, and other areas have significantly more engagement opportunities with students and graduates. Enlisting colleagues to assist in the collection of employment data, refer students to the appropriate resources, and provide access to their social capital—the breadth and depth of relationships people have access to—has allowed us to drastically expand our sphere of influence.
We know the majority of our students come to SNHU for a career-related goal and this insight is shared broadly across the institution, creating a rallying cry around career success, mobility, and readiness.