- Building Bridges:College to Career for Underrepresented College Students
Students with financial need, students with no family history of college, and students of color are underrepresented in higher education (Aud, Fox, & KewalRamani, 2010; Engle & Tinto, 2008). Colleges and universities have increased institutional outreach to diversify their campuses (Fischer, 2008). However, campus leaders, faculty, and staff, particularly at predominantly White institutions (PWIs), must provide more and different support services as their institutional demographics shift to include more underrepresented students (Barratt, 2011; Davis, 2010; Falconer & Hays, 2006; Flores & Heppner, 2002; Ortiz & Hernandez, 2011).
One important area where this change must happen is in career services and development. Students from underrepresented populations bring many strengths with them to educational settings, including college and university campuses (e.g., Pyne & Means, 2013; Yosso, 2005), and some underrepresented students may need support in developing and enhancing their career capital to secure internships, pursue a career, research graduate schools, and finance an advanced degree. Some students from underrepresented populations are reluctant to utilize support and counseling services, such as career services, on their college and university campus, or they are just unaware of such services (Falconer & Hays, 2006). The shift in demographics on college and university campuses requires career service and development offices to take into account the diverse identities of each student and to develop culturally relevant interventions and counseling that is imbedded in the context of identities, family, and community (Flores & Heppner, 2002; Niles & Harris-Bowlsbey, 2005). In this article, we present one such intervention, the Life after College Retreat, which was developed and implemented at a private, midsize PWI. We summarize the planning process, the retreat, goals, and results. We then offer a perspective from one student participant.
UNDERREPRESENTED STUDENTS AND THE PREPARATION FOR LIFE AFTER COLLEGE
The Life after College Retreat was developed when staff members in two offices—multicultural programs and services and the [End Page 95] university-based college access and success program—recognized that underrepresented students who they advised were not being adequately prepared for graduate school or developing critical professional skills. The staff members in these two offices reached out to the university’s career services office to discuss the needs and challenges facing their students, who were significantly firstgeneration college students, students of color, and students with a financial need, which was not reflected in the student body comprising a majority of White and affluent students. A work group was formed to consider the needs of underrepresented students and a potential intervention. The work group included representatives from multicultural programs and services, the university-based college access and success program, career services, and two undergraduate students who were low-income, first-generation college students. The work group read literature about career services and underrepresented college students, and they also spoke with students about their experiences.
The work group decided to design a 4-day retreat that aimed to support underrepresented students as they began to consider their transition from college to life after college. The program targeted rising college juniors who received support services through multicultural services and programs or the university-based college access and success program. The program was intentionally designed for a small group of students, and 13 students participated in the program in 2012. There were three overarching goals for the retreat participants: (a) to gain a greater awareness of graduate school and career preparation, (b) to develop a strategic and detailed short- and long-term plan, and (c) to develop skills that would help them in their personal and professional life. These goals were set in the context of addressing challenges and opportunities around identity, family, and community. The retreat addressed future career paths, graduate school, internships, résumés, cover letters, networking, social media, budgeting, and successfully integrating multiple identities (racial, gender, sexual orientation, family, etc.) with a developing professional identity. Workshops were facilitated to educate students on these professional topics and intentionally formatted in three sections: learn, practice, and critique. For example, a career advisor facilitated a résumé workshop (the learn section). The practice section then provided students the opportunity to update their...