Why A College is Using PR Terminology for Student Success

There's a new term that's being bandied about college and university career services offices. The term is often used in project management and is familiar to industries like marketing and public relations. The term, 'deliverables', which means a tangible or intangible object to be delivered to a client based an outcome in a project, is foreign to college students as well.

Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, PA, has developed the Experiential Learning Initiative (ELI), which requires students to not only complete experiential learning but also to reflect and translate their experience into transferable skills.

At Messiah, experiential learning can take the form of internships, service learning, off-campus programs, leadership experiences or undergraduate research, but all of the options ask students to reflect about the experience in a way that directly relates to a future career. From their reflection, students then produce a "deliverable" that will help communicate their skills to potential employers after graduation, such as a resume, portfolio or website.

"Experiential learning is a great thing, and employers recognize it as a good preparation for a career," says Director of Career and Professional Development Center Christy Hanson. "But a gap is that students are having a hard time taking the value of these experiences beyond the experience itself. We felt that in order to help students do that well, we needed to design a framework that specifically educates students in those ways."

In order to teach students how to talk about these experiences and draw real-world skills from them, the program asks students to design learning objectives with an advisor before the experience. Students then use a set of questions to help them reflect upon how they met their goals. For example, the reflection asks about what students learned about themselves personally, professionally and intellectually during the experience. It also asks them to identify at least two transferrable skills they've learned and to provide an example of something they learned in class they could directly apply to their experience.

"I think what makes the way that we designed this at Messiah distinctive is that we have this common thread of reflection toward these specific outcomes," says Hanson. "Students are learning to talk about this experience in light of a professional connection."

Student matriculating in the Fall 2015 semester will be the first class required to participate in an ELI activity before graduation, but the impact of this change will not likely be felt until 2016, since students need a minimum of 24 credits before participating.