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Higher Education Must Develop the Whole Person for Success

Higher Education Must Develop the Whole Person for Success

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By Dr. Marie Gould Harper
Program Director, Management at American Public University

As members of the higher education community, we should be responsible for developing the whole person and preparing our students to succeed in the workplace.

To accomplish this goal, we have to place equal value on academics and on support areas such as career counseling and advising. Students should also have internships and other opportunities to gain practical job experience.

Why? Because in employers’ eyes, we are responsible for providing more than just a degree.

Companies can train employees on the specifics of the business. They want us to produce graduates who are capable of taking an academic foundation and applying that knowledge to the specifics of the job when they join an organization. They want graduates who are creative, innovative and adaptable, while also being team players and individual contributors. How can we make this happen?

Lessons Learned from Monitoring Alumni after Their Graduation

At my previous place of employment, I was responsible for overseeing our specialty accreditation and how well our students did after graduation. I reviewed our annual alumni surveys to see what our former students were doing one year after graduation. Did they continue their education? Did they get a first or new job? Did they receive a promotion?

Those were the traditional questions we asked when we wanted to see if our program made an impact on our students’ lives. Was there a measurable change as a result of their enrollment in our program?

Some Students Experience Noteworthy Job Changes before Graduation

As I checked the survey results, a secondary question caught my attention: When did that change occur?

I saw that some of our alumni had received a promotion or a new position even before graduating. Getting the degree was the reward of a dream come true.

But for others, there was a change even before those students reached their final academic destination. Their experiences allowed them to build up their confidence that they could succeed at work. Instead of waiting to earn their degree as personal validation, they stepped out and sought change while they went through the academic process.

One young man, who had been a shy accounting major, wanted to be an advocate for our program because he was grateful for how it had changed his life. Higher education had not been a part of his career plan, but now he wanted to serve as a role model to his children by showing them the importance of education.

This student won two or three promotions or new positions as he earned his bachelor’s degree in accounting. Upon graduation, he was considered an expert in his field and was sought after by organizations to help them develop forensic accounting programs.

In addition, this student gave presentations. He came back to school and was a mentor to accounting students. He served on an industry advisory council and was a champion of what education could do. He became the poster child for why and how the Business Administration program worked.

Monitoring Our Own University Students

In the two program reviews that I have participated in at APUS, I have seen traces of the same trend. I have spoken with students to see how they are benefitting from each course.

Our industry advisory council has provided sound advice over the years. We try to ensure that our classes take a holistic approach and provide the foundation for integrating various sub-disciplines within a course, so our students experience the big picture.

About the Author

Dr. Marie Gould Harper is the Program Director of Management at American Public University. She holds an undergraduate degree in psychology from Wellesley College, a master’s degree in instructional systems from Pennsylvania State University and a doctorate in business from Capella University. She is a progressive coach, facilitator, writer, strategist and human resources/organizational development professional with more than 30 years of leadership, project management, and administrative experience. Dr. Gould Harper has worked in both corporate and academic environments.

Dr. Gould Harper is an innovative thinker and strong leader, manifesting people skills, a methodical approach to problems, organizational vision and ability to inspire followers. She is committed to continuous improvement in organizational effectiveness and human capital development, customer service and the development of future leaders.

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