New center fosters personal and professional growth

Annie Deitz, Campus Carrier news editor

This semester, Berry is implementing a cross-departmental transition, combining Student Work and the Career Center into the Center for Personal and Professional Development. Those involved in the transition hope it will allow for a more holistic approach to student growth and, as the name of the new program now suggests, their personal and professional development.

According to Sue Tarpley, director of the Career Center, staff working in the Career Center and in Student Work have always been a team, and for years have reported to the same dean, the recently retired Rufus Massey. This change is just creating a more clear and unified goal.

“We’ve been a team together for the past eight years,” Tarpley said. “We have all reported to the same dean and we have integrated some of our work together. We’ve obviously worked as an entity, but in the last couple of years, nationwide as well as at Berry College, there’s much more talk about student success and personal and professional development across the board. There have been task forces and pilots and conversations about how we can better assist students through their four years at Berry College. The renaming and the realignment of staff are really the outcome of all of those conversations about professional development.”

This transition is the result of years worth of testing and research. As Debbie Heida, Chief of Staff, explained, the Center for Personal and Professional Development has been under development for a while. Two years ago, Heida and Provost Mary Boyd began a task force aimed at examining how to encourage personal and professional development.

“It is an area that we thought needed some attention and some discussion about how we do personal and professional development in an integrated way with students,” Heida said. “Part of what we did was look at all the ways that personal and professional development happens at Berry and where were the gaps. We identified the pieces we had, but decided to figure out how to reorganize it for the future.”

The major goal of the new program is to create advisory teams that can help students plan out their academic and professional goals throughout their time at Berry. The Center for Personal and Professional Development wants to create teams of advisors, including faculty, work supervisors, personal and professional development mentors, and anyone else on campus that may contribute to a student’s growth.

“We determined that we needed to make some teams of advising for students, that would include a students’ faculty advisor, their work supervisor, and their career advisor,” Heida said. “We wanted to create that support team to help a student plan all the way along the way. What am I learning, and how am I applying that to my major, as well as my life and career goals.”

According to Mark Kozera, director of employer development, the Center will be working to expand students’ opportunities by giving them practical assistance. The Center will work to prepare students and organize their plans for their four years at Berry from the beginning.

“We’ll be meeting with more students earlier in their life at Berry,” Kozera said. “Working with assessments and preparation rather than just straight outcome areas, like internships and jobs.”

As an email sent out to students on Aug. 21 explained, the initial step with the new Center is the implementation of school-specific career advisors. This is aimed at allowing mentors to become more involved in students’ professional development from their first few weeks on campus. Sue Tarpley is the career advisor for Math and Natural Sciences, Mark Kozera is the advisor Campbell School of Business and the Charter School of Education and Human Services, and Julie Bumpus will be the advisor for the Evans School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences for the remainder of the fall semester.

Under this new Center, there will be some slight modifications to the Student Work program, now known as the LifeWorks program, as well. As the director of LifeWorks Mike Burnes explained, Berry wants to separate its work program from other common work-study programs. While some colleges and universities provide students jobs to make extra money, Berry’s work program provides students jobs to enhance their professional experience. Currently, the work program changes have been just nominal, but Burnes noted that this could change with the new dean.

“For now we continue our operations as we always have, but there could be some more change,” Burnes said.

The Center for Personal and Professional Development is also expanding students’ opportunities for reflection within their work program experience. As Heida explained, levels 4 and 5 student workers will now be asked to complete semesterly reflections, looking back at the last few months and tracking their own development, as well as setting goals for the future.

“One of the things we started in a pilot project for last year and are continuing this year is including reflection as part of work,” Heida said. “We have about fifteen supervisors that included that with their level 4 and level 5 students. At the end of each semester you’re asked to reflect on what you have learned in your student work assignment, how does that relate to your major and your career, how has that changed your thinking about your major and career, and then setting some goals for the next semester.”

The hiring search for a new dean of the Center for Personal and Professional Development is in its final stages. According to Heida, the field has been narrowed to two candidates, both of whom will be visiting campus this week. They hope to make a decision by October or November. Once the new dean is chosen and brought to campus, they will have a major role in determining the next steps for the Center and Berry’s work with professional development.

“A new dean will be coming and with that new person there will be lots more conversations,” Tarpley said. “And so, the dust won’t settle for a while in terms of how things will look. I suspect things will look different two years from now, four years from now, than what they look like now.”

While the Center will continue to grow and develop, especially after a new dean is hired, staff hopes that it will provide students help in their journeys on personal and professional development.

“The whole goal is to make your whole student experience better at pulling all of the pieces of your Berry experience together, and hopefully to help you plan for it,” Heida said.

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