Program to reduce student occupational social class barriers wins award


IUPUI has been winning many awards lately, especially for programs that help students firsthand. A program won an award recently for its astounding efforts to support underserved students—the Welcoming Campus Initiative,”Reducing Social Class Barriers to Career Development Success.” It won the NASPA 2019 Socioeconomic and Class Issues in Higher Education Knowledge Community (SCIHE KC) Outstanding Campus Program Award.

Brandi Gilbert, director of the Life-Health Sciences Internship Program, helped create the program that provides career development opportunities to first-generation and low-income students. She said, "We saw this project as an opportunity to educate and develop ourselves on the career preparation challenges students may face and how social class can affect student experiences in education and career."

The project team consisted of campus professionals across 12 units from programs for underserved students, including academic and career services, student affairs, programs for faculty in first-year experience, high-enrollment general education courses, high-impact practices connected to a course, and the Office for Intergroup Dialogue Activities. The majority of these activities focused on educating local employers and the campus community about the barriers students may face and strategies for reducing them, though some activities directly impact the students.

To increase the chance of sustainability, the team sought out existing professional development programming structures and used the project year to fund topical opportunities and to determine what was feasible to secure agreements for continued inclusion of these topics in the existing activities. The final report, topics and questions to consider, and plans for moving ahead were submitted to the Welcoming Campus Initiative in August 2018.

The program also provided students with opportunities to practice networking and communication skills with campus career services, academic advisors, and Indiana employers. In addition, the CSC employer engagement committee is reviewing the content for the Recruit IUPUI event that reaches 150 employers annually. The purpose being to educate them on the strengths and needs of IUPUI’s students as employers seek to engage and to recruit them for jobs and experiential learning opportunities outside of campus.

Gilbert said, "We know that the professional world of work relies a lot on networks and hidden knowledge of just how the workplace works. And a lot of our students are coming from backgrounds where they might not automatically know these things through their families or their existing networks."

In addition, in spring 2018, the team conducted a needs assessment and began planning for Paw’s Closet, a free campus resource for students to access professional and everyday attire. A survey received 259 responses, with 68% of students saying they would use the closet for interview attire, and 35% would use it for everyday attire. Through a partnership with the Office of Student Advocacy and Support, a space became available, and the closet opened in October 2018. The needs assessment and final report are currently being used to advocate for more space with room for storage and dressing rooms. This year, the team has started implementing plans to continue offering professional development and other activities related to working with underserved students.


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