If you’re starting a new role that has previously existed on a campus, you’re likely inheriting established programming from your predecessor. Some of these programs may have become traditions to the campus community which leaves little room for creative, new approaches without a major shakeup.
However, my first professional role was a blank slate – a brand new position without any previous expectations in terms of programming. With no precedent for how my role would manage programming, I was free to create my own programming agenda from scratch. But it had me wondering: how do you go about intentionally creating a programming schedule that will address the needs of your students?
Step 1: Understanding the Landscape
One of the first things I did when entering my role was to meet with someone from each department within the College of Engineering. This allowed me to:
- Meet key faculty across the college
- Understand each of the majors better
- Get an understanding of students’ needs from those who see them most–their professors
Looking back, I probably should have put together a focus group to talk directly to students about their career needs, too. Although that is in the works for next semester, I would recommend talking to the students in the beginning.
I made sure to ask questions about what makes XYZ department at my institution stand out from others, how I can best reach out to their students, and what specific areas of career readiness they think their students need help with most (ie: resumes, networking, etc.).
Step 2: Synthesizing the Needs Across Departments
Once I had spoken with a faculty member from each of the departments within the college, it was time to see how I could make this jumbled mess of information into a cohesive, intentional, helpful programming schedule. I went through my notes from each conversation and summarized the major needs from each department. Then, I looked to see the major themes across disciplines. Were there topics that every department saw as crucial for their students? Were there certain topics that students already seemed to have a grasp on?
Essentially, I was looking to understand what the needs were across the college so that I could program towards the largest number of students. From there I was able to identify the major trends and brainstorm programming ideas. I came up with about 10 programming ideas, and chose NOT to overwork myself by implementing only three at one time.
Step 3: Create!
Now that I had insight into what students needed, it was time to make my program ideas come to life! Just like my undergrad (and grad) days when writing essays, I got my ideas down on paper by outlining the major pieces of each program. From there, I filled in my outline with more details about exactly how I would make these programs work. I tried to strategically time these programs, come up with names that would resonate with the students, and ensure that students would come away from each program with an action plan.
Step 4: Assess, Improve, and Repeat
Although I have yet to implement any of these programs, I know that a crucial piece of providing programming is to assess it, make improvements, and constantly work towards providing the best quality programs that meet expressed needs. No program is perfect upon conception, and even if it was, students’ needs will constantly change, so programming will need to change with it! Build in ways to determine if and how your program is meeting its intended outcomes.
Providing engaging programming is something almost every student affairs professional does, whether or not you have the opportunity to create a program from scratch. These are the steps I’ve taken in an effort to ensure that my programs meet my students’ needs. How do you start your process for creating new programming? What would you add?
This post is part of our #SACareer series, addressing careers in student affairs, careers outside of student affairs, and the work of career services professionals. Read more about the series in Jake Nelko’s intro post. Each post is a contribution by a member or friend of the Commission for Career Services from ACPA. Our organization exists to benefit the careers of career services professionals, student affairs professionals, and anyone supporting students in the career endeavors. For more information about how to get involved with the Commission for Career Services or the #SACareer blog series, contact Paige Erhart at firstname.lastname@example.org.