Career Connect is UNT's Quality Enhancement Plan that enhances, assesses, and showcases UNT students' marketable skills by engaging them in high-impact, experiential learning, reflection, and ePortfolio activities that are provided through UNT courses and activities. Career Connect is a campus-wide initiative that works with every UNT department and community partners to improve UNT students' marketable skills such as written and oral communication, teamwork, leadership, personal and social responsibility, empirical and quantitative skills, and critical thinking skills by providing real-world experiences and asking students to document their learnings through ePortfolio and reflection activities.
Connect provides students with opportunities to “connect”, showcase, and transform their in and out of classroom learning experiences into marketable skills. We work with UNT faculty, staff and community partners to identify high-impact, experiential learning activities such as internships, service-learning, or study abroad.
These Connect activities:
encourage UNT faculty, staff, community partners, and students to think intentionally about the marketable skills students learn within each UNT course or activity and within the context of UNT curricular and co-curricular activities;
provide students opportunities to work in “real-life” settings and document and display what they have learned and produced in their ePorfolios;
allow students to reflect on and make connections between what they have learned and the marketable skills they will need to showcase to start their careers;
and help students to become integrative learners who can make connections across their previous learning experiences and synthesize and apply that knowledge to address novel and complex challenges within and beyond campus.
High-impact practices (HIPs) are associated with many positive outcomes among students from diverse backgrounds and majors (Kuh and O’Donnell, 2013). Such outcomes include higher college retention rates , grade point average , graduation rates , post-college plans , creativity , intercultural effectiveness , and  sense of self.
HIPs are also associated with increased critical thinking and writing abilities, greater appreciation for diversity, and enhanced student engagement (Brownell & Swaner, 2010; Kuh, 2008; Kinzie, 2012). These positive outcomes are found for the average student and are even greater for underserved students (Kuh, 2008; McCormick, Kinzie, and Gonyea, 2017). For example, Kuh (2008) reported that historically underserved students experience "compensatory effects," or a "boost" in grades and retention during the first year of college, as a result of these practices.
Career Connect capitalizes on HIPs by using them as Connect Activities that:
- provide an opportunity for students to engage in experiential learning within a “real-world” setting with a diversity of stakeholders;
- target the development of at least one of the following employer-valued (NACE, 2017), marketable skills: communication (oral/written), critical thinking, responsibility (personal/social), leadership, empirical and quantitative skills, and teamwork;
- have outcomes that can be evaluated and showcased as products of experiential or service-learning activities;
- and include ePortfolio pedagogy or students’ development and use of the Connect ePortfolio to track student-level outcomes.
Examples of HIPs that are commonly included in Career Connect Activities are:
- Collaborative Assignments and Projects
- First-Year Seminars and Experiences
- Common Intellectual Experiences (UNT Core)
- Service-Learning, Community-Based Learning
- Learning Communities
- Writing-Intensive Courses
- Diversity/Global Learning
- Capstone Courses/Projects
- Undergraduate Research
HIPs engage today's college students to a greater extent than traditional classroom-based instruction alone. They require considerable time, effort, and interaction with faculty and people from diverse backgrounds; facilitate student learning outside of the classroom; promote collaboration with people from diverse backgrounds; and provide frequent and substantive feedback (Kuh, 2008).
 (Goodman and Pascarella, 2006; Huber 2010),  (Vincent-Ruiz, Grabowski, and Schunn, 2018),  (Huber, 2010), (National Survey of Student Engagement, 2015),  (Maddux, Adam, and Galinsky, 2010),  (Kilgo, Sheets, and Pascarella, 2014),  (Adam, Obodaru, Lu, Maddux, and Galinsky, 2018)
Career Connect offers multiple participation options for UNT faculty, staff, and students through the integration of Career Connect program components into existing UNT course and activities. The bullets below list the range of integration options from students’ ePortfolio use to full integration of students’ use of the ePortfolio, Connect’s rubric assessments for experiential learning activities, and community partner activities.
Integrate students’ ePortfolio use into a student experience
Require students to develop a product or activity that can be observed, rated, and reflected upon
Require students to reflect on their learning activities and products by providing answers to Career Connect reflection statements and documenting their learning experiences in their ePortfolios
Develop an assignment or program that involves real-life experiences (experiential learning) that focuses on the development of marketable skills such as written communication, oral communication, teamwork, critical thinking, personal responsibility, social responsibility, leadership, or quantitative and empirical skills and may include a community partnership
Career Connect can talk with you one-on-one or simply examine your syllabus or UNT activity description to get you started. Or you can propose ideas by completing and submitting the project idea form through Career Connect’s website, or by contacting Meena Naik, Career Connect’s Program Director, at Meena.Naik@unt.edu or (940) 369-6176.
We will identify which program components can be easily integrated into your UNT class or activity, which components are difficult to integrate, and consult on a plan for adding more program components in future semesters. At a minimum, offering students an opportunity to work within the ePortfolio is a straightforward way to start the process of connecting. The ideal, however, arises when faculty and staff participate by developing a Connect Activity that incorporates all of the program components, including a mutually beneficial community partnership.
Connect activities are experiential and service learning activities that drives students to grasp higher-level abstract concepts and marketable skills through concrete activities, guided reflection, and outcome assessment of marketable skills. Wurdinger and Carlson (2010) identified five important characteristics of experiential learning and these drive Career Connect Activities:
Student interaction with each other and the content
Connect uses rubrics or measures that target written communication, oral communication, teamwork and critical thinking:
- Written Communication. The expression of ideas in writing that develop through iterative experiences across curricula and can involve learning to work in different genres, styles, writing technologies, and mixing texts, data, and images.
- Oral Communication. A prepared, purposeful presentation designed to increase knowledge, to foster understanding, or to promote change in the listeners' attitudes, values, beliefs, or behaviors.
- Teamwork. Behaviors that represent the collective of individual contributions towards team tasks and discussions and the manner of interactions among team members. Contributions are measured in both quantity and quality.
- Critical Thinking. A habit of the mind characterized by the comprehensive exploration of issues, ideas, artifacts, and events before accepting or formulating an opinion or conclusions.
- Personal Responsibility. Ability to connect choices, actions, and consequences to ethical decision making.
- Social Responsibility. Intercultural competence, knowledge and application of civic responsibility, and the ability to engage effectively in regional, national, and global communities.
- Leadership. Ability to manage and accomplish project plans, goals, and work; foster trust, listen to, inspire, support, and treat team equitably; evaluate and make proactive corrections to project work, team behaviors, or challenges.
- Empirical and Quantitative Skills. A habit of mind and competency in (1) manipulating and analyzing numerical data/observable facts and (2) reasoning/solving quantitative problems from diverse and authentic contexts that result in valid conclusions.
UNT faculty and staff members will assess one or more of the Career Connect skills using rubrics adapted from AAC&U for use by UNT and Career Connect. UNT faculty or staff will log into their ePortfolio communities via Canvas to access the rubrics or receive an email with a hyperlink to the rubrics. Each rubric contains four to five questions and provides a rating for each question on a scale of 1 (beginning) to 4 (distinguished). For step-by-step instructions (with screen shots) on how to assess the skills in the ePortfolio, please click here.
Career Connect hosts multiple trainings each semester for UNT faculty and staff to help them complete the rubrics and use appropriate evidence to assess the Career Connect skills. UNT faculty and staff can assign the training to a teaching assistant or community partner who is also involved in the Connect Activity. Each semester, Connect staff invite UNT faculty and staff, who are participating Career Connect, to attend a training and we offer online trainings for those who cannot attend in-person trainings.
Career Connect chose these skills because they:
represent the key student learning outcomes that educators, employers, and policy makers agree are essential for student success in the workplace and in life (AAC&U, 2013a, 2013b, 2017; Burger & Starbird, 2012; Nunez, 2013);
are aligned with UNT’s core rubrics;
were developed by the Association of American Colleges and Universities with the help of multiple faculty and experts from many different disciplines and colleges around the country;
and will provide UNT with standardized measures that can be compared across all departments.
An ePortfolio is an electronic collection of evidence that students assemble to demonstrate their knowledge and skills that are derived from their college experiences.College students' use of ePortfolios has been declared a high-impact practice by the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) on the basis of research findings that suggest students who have developed a well-structured ePortfolio receive many of the same benefits associated with engaging in other established high-impact practices. For example, students’ ePortfolio use, compared to student non-use, has been found to be associated with increases in class grades, four-year graduation rate, and persistence rates (Watson, Kuh, Rhodes, Light, and Chen, 2016).
An ePortfolio is ideal mechanism for connecting student learning experiences across their academic careers because it allows students to collect work from multiple, different experiences in a single location. Career Connect chose ePortfolio as a key component because ePortfolios can help catalyze students’ integrative learning and holistic development, and can be used as a tool for marketing their skills and professional development. See http://guides.library.unt.edu/eportfolio to help you find resources on how to use your ePortfolio.
Reflection is an integral component of experiential learning because it promotes the connection between students’ learning and their coursework, career interests, and community. Reflection requires students to document—in their ePortfolios—what skills they learned, what product they created, how their Connect Activity is connected to their coursework, career interests, or community, and how they felt about their experience. Reflective ePortfolios help students connect and make meaning from otherwise isolated learning experiences. By requiring reflection for all Connect activities, students will have multiple opportunities across their academic careers to consider why their learning is relevant and how they can connect or apply their learnings to coursework, career interests, or communities.
Career Connect developed a reflection rubric based on King’s (2003) reflective judgement model that posits seven stages of pre-reflective thinking, quasi-reflective thinking, and reflective thinking. The rubric provides a guide to review students’ reflections according to four criteria: (1) presentation, (2) perspective-taking, (3) connection, and (4) understanding. Our staff have been trained on how to use the rubric reliably and have obtained high agreement rates. In addition, Career Connect psychometrically validated this rubric and published a manuscript with findings. You can find the published manuscript here. Faculty and staff interested in using the Connect reflection prompts and corresponding rubric can contact UNTcareerconnect@unt.edu for more information regarding implementation.
Career Connect Reflective Prompts
- Describe your experience while engaging in the Connect activity. (Who, What, Where, When)
- Explain how this experience connected you to the community.
- Describe how your experience is connected to your coursework, skills, and career interests/goals.
- Discuss what you learned about yourself through this experience.
- Describe how you felt about the experience.
If a faculty or staff member is interested in developing reflection prompts that correspond with their specific learning experience, you can contact UNTcareerconnect@unt.edu for consultation.